had never thought of learning the piano as my USP for marketing myself.  The day after I completed my 12th grade exams, a potential arranged marriage groom arrived at my gate. I had not expressed the slightest interest in marriage and was all set to join any computer science engineering course that would have me. My parents swore that they had no clue about this too. Apparently the boy’s parents wanted him to marry a good “village” girl – at the time we lived in a tiny town called Nazareth in rural Tamil Nadu. Yet able to fit in their urban setting. What ‘pulled’ them to our gate was that one summer holiday I had decided to do piano classes and there was a photo of me playing (or rather learning to play) a piano that was shown around in the family circles! I had none of the core skills expected of a village bride at the time – cooking, cleaning, tailoring, a sweet temperament – but what made me stand out was that they thought I could play the piano. I had a unique selling proposition (that’s the definition of USP, in case you’re curious).

It is usually more efficient to have people show up to buy your stuff, than chase them to do so. Peter Claridge of StreamAlive is super happy that we have nearly 150 registrations for a webinar on this topic – just as a result of the online post about the event. That’s efficient, and it leverages the power of both our brands. If we had to do telecalling to build awareness, it would be a whole different cost structure. Taylor Swift doesn’t rely on calling her fans individually to sell tickets to her shows – no, the fans are checking when and where she will perform. I am not comparing myself with her of course. Oh, wait, I am. Oops! Taylor is a gargantuan money-spinner because she has a product the audience likes, AND she has figured out how to attract her audience to it.

Pull vs Push

Many product companies are so focused on building the better mousetrap that they have no time, inclination or bandwidth left to invest in the cheese. Chasing mice with your mousetrap sort of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? Yet that is what a lot of sales and performance marketing is. Chasing potential customers. Not attracting them.  Your ideal USP for marketing would also be the best cheese. 

Brand magnets – customer forums, communities, recognitions, patents, unique experiences, brand rituals require more bandwidth – though not necessarily more money – but can become a recurring benefit for the brand. A common theme running across all successful brand magnets is that they involve human interaction. Even the tiniest of brands on a shoestring budget can deliver serendipity – that element of surprise that cheers up humans, and brings them back looking for more delight.

Time vs Money

What is the key to saving money? Spending more time. You might say that if I have to be in charge of innovation AND marketing – the only 2 productive parts of a business as per Peter Drucker – I can’t manage. My advice there is that hire people to do the function that you have the MOST competency in and learn the other bit.

I love Perplexity and ChatGPT! I recently used it to generate a recipe for tofu noodles based on what was easily available at home. I then handed the recipe over to our helper and the result was super bland….Reason? She followed the recipe exactly. Whereas I would have tasted it and then deviated from the recipe a bit. Similarly an amateur marketer or product designer follows a playbook and is usually neither skilled nor empowered to deviate from the script. They usually also lack the confidence to tell the boss that he or she is stupid. And if you are not an expert either, you won’t know when to step in and offer them autonomy.

So what’s your piano?

Back to where we started. Pull works when the USP for marketing the product or service is easy to spot and understandable. And of course makes sense to the customer. Piano was a great brand magnet – cued many things -persistence, class, musical taste without having to say a word.

Every brand needs a piano. What’s your USP for marketing?

Marketing efficiently and effectively is a great puzzle to work on. Here’s some tips for frugal marketing for tech brands.

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