Prospective customers can be a fickle bunch. One day, there is absolutely no way to get their attention – no matter how much real value you can provide. While on another day – they want to engage with you faster than the speed of light.
This seemingly bipolar characteristic of a prospect’s behavior can’t help but conjure images of the infamous Mr. Market – the fictional character created by Benjamin Graham and often referenced by Warren Buffet. For anyone who has dabbled in the stock market, they know one thing for sure – it is rather difficult to predict the behavior of the stock market on any given day. Yet still, there has to be some mental framework that one adopts to cope with it. Enter – Mr Market. From Warren Buffet’s 1987 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letter:
“…you should imagine market quotations as coming from a remarkably accommodating fellow named Mr. Market who is your partner in a private business. Without fail, Mr. Market appears daily and names a price at which he will either buy your interest or sell you his.
Even though the business that the two of you own may have economic characteristics that are stable, Mr. Market’s quotations will be anything but. For, sad to say, the poor fellow has incurable emotional problems. At times he feels euphoric and can see only the favorable factors affecting the business. When in that mood, he names a very high buy-sell price because he fears that you will snap up his interest and rob him of imminent gains. At other times he is depressed and can see nothing but trouble ahead for both the business and the world. On these occasions he will name a very low price, since he is terrified that you will unload your interest on him.
Mr. Market has another endearing characteristic: He doesn’t mind being ignored. If his quotation is uninteresting to you today, he will be back with a new one tomorrow. Transactions are strictly at your option. Under these conditions, the more manic-depressive his behavior, the better for you.
But, like Cinderella at the ball, you must heed one warning or everything will turn into pumpkins and mice: Mr. Market is there to serve you, not to guide you. It is his pocketbook, not his wisdom, that you will find useful. If he shows up some day in a particularly foolish mood, you are free to ignore him or to take advantage of him, but it will be disastrous if you fall under his influence. Indeed, if you aren’t certain that you understand and can value your business far better than Mr. Market, you don’t belong in the game….”
The analogy is that Mr. Market behaves like Mr. Customer, and the rational partner behaves like Mr. Solution. The only reversal is that Mr. Solution shows up daily in front of Mr. Customer, to present a rational view of things and solutions that will make things better for Mr. Customer. But the reality is that Mr. Customer is constantly being bombarded by external stimuli. He can love what you say, or hate what you say on any given day.
With marketing, characterizing and modeling behavior is a key component of developing effective communications. But at the same time, it is important to be wary of the nature of Mr. Customer – i.e. Mr. Customer is not good at being rationale all the time. As Buffet states “it will be disastrous if you fall under his influence”. So stay rationale and don’t go down the rabbit hole.
It may seem like rather a bold statement – to guard yourself from falling under the influence of Mr. Customer. After all, the customer always knows best and this is where you learn most about the solutions you are developing. This may be true in specific instances – such as with prospective customers who are experiencing maximum pain points, and hence are the ones that provide the true data points that guide and shape the solutions that you offer. But once you have a solution and are marketing it – you will in fact encounter the full spectrum of customers – and not just those early adopters.
Once you have a market-ready solution, you are at a stage where your understanding of problem and the solution must be better than Mr. Customer. With some word substitution to fit my analogy, Buffet’s thoughts apply whole-heartedly, i.e.:
“…if you aren’t certain that you understand your value proposition far better than Mr. Customer, you don’t belong in the game”
So how does it all translate to action for your marketing efforts?
1.You must develop a very high IQ when it comes to the problem that you are solving. When comparing to the average customer, your IQ of the value-add which you provide must be higher.
2.You must create messaging in different ways so that somehow it can line-up with a rational mindset that the customer takes on, from time to time.
3.You have to get used to being annoying because your communication will not always be received in a rational manner. Hence, you have no choice but to ignore irrational responses to your message – and just come back another day and try again.