Aesop on Marketing

You probably don’t know this, but Aesop, apart from making his mark as a fabulist, was one of history’s first online marketing gurus. As proof, I offer the following case study:

Once upon a time, a boy thrust his hand into a pitcher full of peanuts. He grasped as many as he could possibly hold, but when he tried to pull his hand out of the pitcher, he was prevented from doing so by its narrow neck. Unwilling to lose the nuts, and yet unable to withdraw his hand, the boy burst into tears and bitterly lamented his disappointment. A bystander said to him, “Be satisfied with half the quantity, and you will readily draw out your hand.”

The moral of the story: do not attempt too much at once.

How does this fable apply to online marketing? Well, let’s say you’re part of a large law practice. Imagine that your website is the jar, and your business is the boy.

Your firm specializes in corporate law, including Mergers & Acquisitions, Tax Law, Environmental Law, Labor Relations, SEC Compliance, Patent Law, and so forth. Like the boy, you want to grab as much business out of the jar as you possibly can. The jar’s narrow neck is the fact that your prospects don’t need your expertise in every area, but are seeking solutions to specific legal problems.

What should you do? Do not attempt too much at once.

  1. One story, one message. Aesop wrote dozens of fables, but sold them one at a time. If you offer lots of products or services do not attempt to sell them all at once in the same place. Devise a separate campaign for each offering and make sure that you’re relevant messaging gets to the right audience. Direct web visitors to those areas of your site that speak directly to their desires or needs. Traditional media sells to the lowest common denominator; online you cannot afford to.
  2. Don’t grab for too much all at once. Let’s say you’re advertising a weekend sale for women’s shoes. Aesop would never have publicized a URL directing his target audience to a Home Page featuring all manner of women’s clothing; the fabulous fabulist would have included a link directing interested parties right to a landing page featuring “funky, functional footwear for women.” Don’t overtly try to sell anything other than what has already got your audience’s attention (cross-selling and up selling are another topic). Think of it as the online version of “Would you like fries with that?”
  3. Tell a good story, and set yourself apart from the pack. Your unique story – or the manner in which you tell it – is a key differentiator. Lots of people wrote fables, and yet most of us can only name Aesop as the definitive master of this age-old craft. Tell a great story, and people will be drawn to your product or service. Best of all, they will remember you!

Focus on one initiative at a time and optimize it for success. Getting people to your website is hard work; driving them away is easy when you attempt to do too much.

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