I was at a party recently, when a total stranger walked up to me and asked, “How many marketing consultants does it take to change a light bulb?” I can’t actually remember how that joke ended, but his question made me think…
And as I sat down to write this blog entry, it hit me like a ton of unwanted research: Light bulbs can’t be changed. They can be turned on and off, they can be removed, they can be tightened, but they can’t actually be changed – at least not fundamentally. They’re light bulbs, and that’s all they’ll ever be. People are a lot like light bulbs. They can’t be changed either, though unlike light bulbs, people can change themselves. And the most effective way to cause (or promote) that change is through influence. Which takes us back to marketing.
But marketing is just one form of influence. People can be influenced by movies, by news articles, by social and religious icons… and by their friends (their real friends, not so much their Facebook friends or their tweet peeps). The secret to exercising influence effectively is planning. You have to identify and segment your potential markets, identify the market drivers, map needs-based messages to your decision makers, select appropriate delivery vehicles, and develop executable strategies for delivering your messages.
Of course, he didn’t really want to know that. And the more I think about it, I’m not even sure if that’s how he worded the question. Maybe what he asked was, “How many marketing consultants does it take to exchange a light bulb?” The answer to that question would be “one.” Light bulbs are as easy to exchange as social media friends, and they don’t even get upset when you unfriend them.
Or maybe he asked, “How many marketing consultants does it take to replace a light bulb?” That one would have been even easier: If you’re serious about replacing light bulbs with marketing consultants, you’d better make sure you pick bright ones.