What I learned at summer camp
My friend Tim dropped me a note, asking me if I had any tips as to where he might go to improve his public speaking. I was flattered that he asked, and then took a minute to think about where I learned how to speak in public.
Answer? Camp Arowhon.
Wait, there’s more. I also learned marketing there.
My summer camp was a marketplace (a loud one). Everyone had to do something, but what you did was up to you. So the canoeing instructor (that was me) was always struggling with the sailing instructor (that was Mike) and the others to get people to come to our dock. If no one came, you were a failure and you didn’t get asked back.
I discovered that:
1. No one cared about me. They didn’t care about how hard I’d trained, how little I’d slept or how much effort I was putting into my job.
2. People were rarely willing to try something new. If they’d never done it, they didn’t want to start any time soon.
3. Word of mouth was electric.
4. You get more chances to screw up than you imagine.
The biggest and best discovery, though, was how willing people (even sullen teenagers, which if you think selling to cranky purchasing agents is hard…) are to suspend disbelief. One week, I persuaded 300 people that Paul McCartney was coming to visit, checking the place out for his daughter. It was only at the last minute, when a friend of mine, impersonating Sir Paul, fell out of the approaching motorboat and was (allegedly) mangled by the spinning rotor that people figured out that it wasn’t really him.
My point, and I do have one, is that marketing is a show, a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney entertainment designed to satisfy wants, not needs. We need to take it a lot less seriously (even if we’re marketing Social Security fixes or a world religion) at the same time that we take more risks. If you’re not growing now, playing it safe isn’t going to help you grow tomorrow.
My advice was Tim is the same advice I’ve got for you, whether you’re speaking or running ads. Be fearless. (but wear a lifejacket.)