Attack of the digital crickets: a lesson in life and business

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It was about 11:30 at night. I was sitting on my couch, notebook computer melting my lap when my six-year old daughter wanders out leary-eyed, fuzzy-blanket in tow and burrows in next to me.

“It’s late, sweety,” I say, “what’s the matter?” “I’m scared, daddy,” comes the reply. “What’s scaring you?” “The crickets.” [we live on the 9th floor in the city, ain’t no crickets, here] “I’m scared they’re gonna jump out and get me,” she continues.

Oh man, I made a big mistake…

The crickets my daughter was talking about weren’t real, at least not to me. You see, her bedroom abuts our neighbor’s bedroom. My neighbor travels quite a bit and leaves her answering machine, which is just on the other side of the wall that’s next to my daughter’s bed, turned on with a loud message-alert beep.

When you’re lying in my daughter’s bed, the beep pierces the wall and it’s the digital equivalent of water torture. So, thinking I’d do something nice to try to lessen the effect of the beep, I picked up a noise machine that had a number of different nature sounds on it. Might as well try to drown out the beep, I figured. And, one of those sounds was…crickets.

Now, to me, the sound of crickets takes me immediately back to when I was kid.

I am transported to our house in the burbs, sleeping with my window open on a cool summer night. Problem is, for my daughter, the sound of crickets at night took her back to an imaginary movie that began to play in her head and, in that movie, crickets were jumping out of the sound-machine and attacking her in bed. Oy vey!

So, I shared with my daughter the fact that it was only fake sounds of crickets and their were no real crickets in the box, plus even real crickets are friendly critters who would never attack a person (still not 100% sold on that, though, I also remember a movie about tanker-sized killer ants). I then carried her back into bed and promptly turned the sound machine off, letting her drift off the to far less offensive sounds of my neighbor’s digital beep.

As I returned to the couch, the experience sent my mind spiraling back to one of the fundamental lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, a marketer and a human being.

“I am not my customer.”

From a marketing and entrepreneurship perspective, this lesson is mission-critical. Because it’s so easy to fall in love with a service or product, feel you need it desperately on a personal-level and then automatically assume that there is a massive market of people who feel that exact same way.

Sometimes there is, but very often, when you assume your market is just like you, you end up with a big fat mess and a business that’s in trouble. You miss out on any number of critical factors that weren’t important to you, but were critical in the minds of your target customers’ decisions to buy.

When you assume your customers are just like you, you don’t address their preferences, you don’t fill their needs or sell their desires and you end up leaving sales and money, sometimes massive quantities, on the table.

The problem is easily avoidable, though. From a business and marketing standpoint, you address it by simply researching your markets and uncovering what’s important to them. But, this lesson also flows through in a powerful way, to you personal life.

I am not my spouse, mother, father, daughter, son or friend.

The very same principle extends beyond business into every relationship we hold dear. And, it leads to so many missed opportunities. But, here, it’s not the opportunity to make a sale that is missed, but rather the chance to connect, to do something nice, to honor or thank someone we care about.

The rule most of us were raised on was, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Problem is, this is just like trying to market something to others as you would want them to market it to you.

Just like in business, you are not them.

So, if you truly want to connect with those people, to give them what they truly want, the way you go about “doing unto them” isn’t how you’d want them to do unto you. You’ve got to “do unto them as they’d want to be done unto.”

Put another way, find out what they feel is meaningful, how they feel loved, thanked, appreciated or honored. Forget about what makes you feel good and learn what makes them glow and then do unto them on their terms, not yours.

When I was dating my wife, I would show up with a letter sharing how I felt or spend time telling her how much I cared about her and she was always appreciative, but the gestures never really hit a home run.

Over the years, I learned that, as a kid, for a variety of reasons, she came to value gifts as an important show caring or love. I valued words. So, by treating her how I would’ve wanted to be treated, I thought I was doing something really nice, but, it turns out, I was totally missing the boat. And, as her values and preferences change, it’s important for me to keeping checking back to understand how to honor her in a way that’s meaningful not to me, but to her.

So, whether your trying to sell the most product or offer gratitude in the most effective way…

Take the time to do a bit of “market-research.”

Find out what’s meaningful to whoever you’re trying to sell to or connect with and them craft your message and actions around their criteria, not yours.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts, stories and experiences. Please share them in the comment section below…

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10 responses

10 responses to “Attack of the digital crickets: a lesson in life and business”

  1. I don’t know how you happened on my scene. Somehow, I found your blog.

    It is extraordinary – unique – compelling – thoughtful – and sometimes mind blowing in it’s simplicity.

    In the personal growth sector, you are a gift.

    I am following you closely as a leader in this blog field which is dominated by bloggers trying to sell other bloggers programs about blogging.

    Hopefully, if we support each other, it will have an impact on the peacefulness and hope in our world.

  2. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Corinne – Thanks so much for your kind words, especially as I work to really define the focus and voice of this blog!

  3. I have to agree with Corinne. It drives me absolutely nutso that everyone and their mother tries to blog.

    It’s a bunch of not ubersuccessful people telling others how to be successfulfor $9.95 in their e-book, how to on ‘personal branding’, and how much money they made each month complete with little graphs.

    Personal branding = be specific about your company’s focus and be genuine.

    [end rant]

    I do appreciate your articles, as well as the fact that you do not have 1 million ads plastered all over your site. Two sponsors, shazaam!

    Props.

  4. Mark Riffey says:

    Jonathan,

    I cannot tell you how many times I have to remind people of the critical thought you brought up, eg: I am not my customer.

    Its one of the easiest mistakes to make, but it’s also one of the most valuable lessons to learn.

    Best of all, it works in marriages, with kids, and in other personal relationships too:)

    Mark

  5. i am a strong believer in making relationships before business. when i was in sales i would really connect with my clients and because of that i was able to provide them with service that they needed and not what i wanted to sell. i believe this is why i was such a good salesguy.

    side note: i try to be a good dad, but i am also a big kid, with that being said, my 2 year old son anthony woke up one night screaming. when i checked on him, he told me that the wolf was going to bite him. wolf? wtf? so i told him not to worry about the wolf, what he really had to worry about was terrorists. he calmed down and fell asleep, he doesn’t believe in terrorists.

    PEACE!

  6. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Hayden – I think people just get so excited with the perceived opportunity implied by the online world, it sometimes overtakes them. I am always careful to try not to overstep my expertise, though, I have to tell you, one of the benefits of blogging is that it can create a sense of authority with remarkable speed. But, I still stick to the old adage, “I want to learn from people who’ve already accomplished what I’m looking to do, not who’ve read about it.” That’s why, when I write about blogging, I either only write about my experience or I draw upon and share the advice of any number of far more accomplished friends than I.

    @ Mark – yes, the concept is so powerful that it truly does extend to every “relationship,” whether personal of professional. It’s made a huge different in my approach to marketing and sales.

    @ Michael – it’s all about relationships, they pretty much make or break life!

  7. shane says:

    Johnathan,

    You blog is stupendously, amazingly, spectacularly, dynamically, ginormously …

    sorry got caught up in every one else’s enthusiasm.

    =) (I like this article)

    The interesting thing is that as entrepreneurs, most of the solutions we come up with are focused upon solving our own problems. Which they should – whose problem would you understand better? The next question is primarily one of market research to examine scope.

  8. […] Get to know your customer. Best use of the word “cricket” in a blog […]

  9. Helen South says:

    This is so true! When I started writing my website, I wasted an awful lot of time writing what I thought people wanted to hear, in part based on what I saw other writers doing. It wasn’t until I did a very serious SEO brainstorm with Overture that I discovered what people were actually looking for – in my case, lessons on the basics, how-to’s, and realism – not namby-pamby waffle about ideas.

    Reading character-driven fiction (rather than plot-driven thrillers) is a great way to spend some time in somebody else’s head.