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Monday
Jul092012

Peter and the Teddy Bears

 Peter and the Teddy Bears 

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Andrei! 

 

Peter carefully threads his way through traffic on his way to work. Miss the bike messenger. Wait for the light. It's Monday morning and he's already running late.

He's running his mental checklist again when he has to slam on the brakes to keep from ramming the back end of the car in front of him.

"Calm down," he tells himself. "It will be OK. Everything will work out fine."

"Everything" is Peter's little project. At least that's what his family called it when he announced his intention to open a retail store last year.

"Peter! Don't you know this is about the worst time ever to open a small business?"

Peter is undeterred. He has an idea. He's going to open a toy store in a town with less than 100,000 people.

I don't have to tell you that most people think Peter is a little crazy.

And lately, eight months into it, Peter was thinking they might just be right.

His shop was going nowhere and his numbers were so bad, he'd decided not to look at them any longer. Statements were left unopened and invoices stacked high on his desk.

"No use getting upset," he told himself. "After all, that's what banker's are for, right? Let them worry about the numbers."

Yes, you heard that right. Peter has not only opened a toy store at the poorest possible time, he's also managed to snag the one remaining banker in the world willing to loan money to a small business.

Maybe they're both crazy. Something in the water, perhaps?

Surely things have to work out, don't they?

Hiding from the bad numbers actually worked for a while. Peter is again able to concentrate on important things - like his nightly television schedule.

Then of course, his banker does call and leaves a message for Peter to call him as soon as possible.

Something about inventory, sales, points, and payments. That's all Peter could remember. Well, that wasn't quite true. He remembered the tone of the banker's words.

The bottom line was that Peter's luck had run out. Either make some money or close the doors. The banker didn't care which.

So Peter spends the weekend worrying about his numbers, worrying about his bank payments, and worrying about his store.

What to do?

It would take something really radical to put Peter's place back on right track.

He remembers taking a business seminar from an ad guy sometime before he opened the store. The guy made some good points, but since Peter was opening a conventional store, he saw no need to do anything unconventional with his marketing.

Until now.

Digging through his old papers, he finds his notes from the advertising seminar. He reads them and then reads them again.

Then he begins to write.

He's never written anything like this before. And the newspaper is absolutely astonished when he brings in the copy for their Sunday paper. For one thing , it is long - as in, L-O-N-G.

But Peter pays his money to run the ad. The paper takes Peter's money to run the ad. And on Sunday - the ad actually runs.

Peter snaps back to the present.

"What was the problem now? A traffic jam - in this city? Today of all days?"

You have to be kidding.

Since Peter is also the person who opens the store each  morning, he needs to get there - fast. He makes a quick left turn, takes an alternate route and begins to make up some of the lost time.

Puling up to the back of the store, Peter allows himself a minute of calm before the workday begins. Then, he steps out and walks upfront to unlock the door. Throwing open the blinds, he is shocked to see a large crowd standing in the street.

He wonders what is going on.

Just outside his door is a uniformed policeman.

"Perhaps there was a burglary in the area or an escaped prisoner. That would explain the crowd and the traffic jam too."

Unlocking the door and stepping back, he isn't surprised to see the officer come through the door first.

"Are you the owner of this store, sir?" He asks.

"Yes, Yes, I am."

"Don't you think it would have been better had you warned us in advance?"

"What? I"m sorry, I don't understand."

"This" he said, brandishing the ad. Pointing at the coupon and then at the crowd he said, "They're all here for this!"

"Really. You're kidding."

But he was not. Over 300 people show up for that ad. - and that was only the start. Eventually, over 6,000 people in a town of almost 80,000 respond to Peter's ad campaign. Or, in other words, 6000 teddies find new homes.

His marketing strategy works so well, Peter can stay in business.

What exactly was in the ad, you ask?

Well, that ad began with the headline:

"The dollar at the bottom of the page will buy your child a friend, a friend they will have for life."

From there Peter went on to say (in only about 1358 words) just how much his bear meant to him as a boy and through his story, he took his reader's on their own journey back in time to their own childhood, their own bear.

He said that it was only right that they should be the one person who provided those same memories for their child.

He said a lot of things in those 1358 words and every one them allow people connect emotionally with those bears.

In simple terms, he asked himself the question: "What was the real appeal of his product?".

As business people, we're hear this advice all the time, but how many of us really make an effort to find out what our customer is really buying.

Peter's customers weren't just buying a fluffy stuffed toy. They were buying memories of the past and the promises of memories in the future.

When's the last time you asked what your customer's are buying? What emotional need is your product fulfilling?

They say if you'll learn to listen, you will hear what your customer wants. But, as Peter can tell you, if you pay attention, you will also begin to discover what they really need.

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