5 Marketing Lessons from a Perfect Stranger

By Ken Mueller | Small Business

5 Marketing Lessons from a Perfect Stranger image shadow5 Marketing Lessons from a Perfect StrangerIt was a dark and snowy morning.

Don’t you just love a blog post that starts off that way? Well, it was a dark and snowy morning. Yesterday morning, to be exact. I was out walking Shadow as the flurries fell from the sky. A car stopped in the middle of the road, the window was rolled down, and I heard a woman say,

“I have a question: Does your dog eat canned dog food?”

Slightly taken aback, I still had the presence of mind to give my well thought out answer,


She replied that she had something for me, and that she was helping out some sort of pet business by promoting them and getting the word out. If Shadow had eaten canned dog food, she would have given me a plastic can lid, but instead I got a refrigerator magnet promoting the business which happened to be a pet sitting and dog walking service, with some other services thrown in for good measure.

But the fact that the woman stopped in the middle of the road on a snowy morning to tell me about this service impressed me, and made me think about some of the things we need to be doing when it comes to marketing, both online and offline.

Know your audience

You can’t market your business unless you know to whom you are marketing. In this case, the target market is people with dogs. BOOM! She saw me walking a dog and knew I was in her audience. Pretty simple. She identified me as a potential customer by knowing what type of audience she needed.

Do your research

Not content to just find a dog owner, this woman asked if we used canned dog food. This was to help her determine which item she was going to give me: the can lid or the magnet. Pretty simple. In fact, a lot of research that small businesses can do with their customers doesn’t have to involve surveys, spreadsheets, and a lot of time and money. Every time you have contact with a customer or potential customer, you have the ability to ask questions and gather intelligence. We generally do this without thinking, and often don’t remember what we have learned. Be a bit more intentional with the informal research and data that you have at your disposal.

Take action

The next step is to make your move. Take action. In this case, it was as simple as giving me a free item promoting a specific business. Use your research and data to find the best ways to deal with your potential customers.

Be social

Pet peeve: businesses and organizations that don’t use their offline presence to promote their online presence, and vice versa. In this case, the free items being handed out not only had their phone number, but their website and mentions of their Facebook and Twitter accounts. And when I checked them out, they seemed to be doing a pretty good job at their social media. They were using it, and using it well.

Get it right

And now, here’s the rub. When it comes to all of the above items, make sure you get it right. And sadly, this is where my perfect stranger fell down on the job. She did all of the above things, but she didn’t get it right. Despite what she did right, there were some flaws in the first two points: she didn’t get her audience and research completely right.


Well, when I went online to check out the business in question, I discovered something interesting. The business doesn’t serve my area. In fact, on the website, the business lists a very specific service area, which is in another county, at least an hour away.

While I appeared to be a potential customer, I didn’t meet all of the criteria. While everything seemed to be in order, I failed on one big point: location.

Sometimes you need to do a little more research and get a better handle on your audience. I’m sure she meant well and was trying to help out a friend, but in her haste, she didn’t think clearly about what she was doing.

Just make sure you get it right.

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