The Battle of Perception

Al Ries and Jack Trout once wrote that “Marketing is not a battle of products; it’s a battle of perceptions.”

A client or prospect’s perception is your reality. Thus, you must sometimes find creative ways to alter their view of the world in order to help them realize their desired goals (and your own). To demonstrate how effective this technique can prove to be, I offer the following:

During his march through the near east, Alexander the Great came upon a mountain stronghold known as the Soghdian Rock.

The rock itself was sheer-faced and – so its defenders believed – impregnable.

At a prelim parley, Alexander offered the occupants safe conduct if they would surrender their fortress.

The negotiators laughed rudely, and asked whether Alexander’s men could fly, adding that they would surrender to winged soldiers, “as no other sort of person could cause us the least anxiety.”

Alexander at once combed through his entire army for experienced mountaineers and found some 300. He called for volunteers to scale the sheer rock face (the defenders only guarded the one direct route to the fortress). He offered vast rewards for the first 12 men up.

Every man volunteered for the perilous operation. They made the ascent by night, an extra hazard, and 30 of them plummeted to their deaths.

At dawn, a flutter of white flags broke out from the summit above the fortress. Alexander sent a herald to tell the defenders that if they looked up, they would see that he had found his winged men.

The Soghdians were so taken aback by this theatrical rearrangement of reality that they surrendered instantly, even though they outnumbered the mountaineers by 30,000 to less than 300 and the rest of Alexander’s men still had no path to the summit.

What’s this story have to do with marketing? Plenty. It is not about a battle of products (Army vs. Army); it is about a battle of perceptions (My Army is better than your Army). Alexander sealed the deal because he was able to create the perception that his men could accomplish the impossible (fly to the mountaintop), and not the reality (no one saw them do it) that led to victory.

Listen to your customers and prospects. Understand what it will take from their point of view to win them over. It may mean altering your own path, but in some cases, they are simply waiting for you to show them your winged men to convince them that it’s time to close the deal.

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