Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2005, mostly because we don't think anyone is reading these things anyway.
One day this past spring, I was lying in my hammock, drinking a beer, and relaxing. I was just starting to nod off, when I heard a quiet "ahem."
I opened my eyes and spotted my young neighbor, Jeremy, who had nearly finished the 6th grade, and was considering the leap to 7th grade in the fall.
"Hey, Mr. Deckers," he said. "Taking a nap, huh?"
"What do you want?"
"I need some advice. Mrs. Deckers said you were pathetic with girls when you were my age."
"Oh she did, did she? Mrs. Deckers didn't even know me back then. How would she know about my past performance?"
"She said you were pretty hopeless until you met her. I figured that if you were that dorky, but you still got married, you must have done something right."
I couldn't fault the young man's logic, but I was going to have a word with Mrs. Deckers later.
"So what do you need?"
"I need some help with a love letter. I'm trying to get Caitlin Herrera to like me." He held out a neatly folded piece of paper. I looked it over and immediately identified his problem. It looked like something I would have written at his age: 'Dear Caitlin, I like you. Do you like me? Sincerely, Jeremy.'
I turned it over. "Where's the rest of it?"
"That's it. It's short and to the point."
"It needs serious help."
"What's wrong with it?"
"Well, it lacks finesse. And style. And grace. And a clear call to action."
"A call to action. It's what we marketers use to get a prospective client interested in buying our product."
"I don't want to sell her anything," said Jeremy, "I just want to get her to like me."
"Then you came to the right place. I've been a professional marketer for years."
"I don't think this is the kind of help Mrs. Deckers had in mind."
"Mrs. Deckers—!" I said, then I looked around quickly, and lowered my voice "—isn't here right now. You want my help in getting this girl to like you? This is going to help you."
I grabbed a pen from my pocket and started scribbling notes on his paper.
"First you need a USP."
"Universal Selling Proposition. It's what sets you apart from your competitors."
"The other boys. Now, your USP tells Caitlin why she should pick you over them." I scribbled a few more notes.
"What about an Attention Getter and Benefit Statement?"
Jeremy said he had no clue what that was.
"What's one positive thing Caitlin would get by choosing you?"
"I have my own ten speed bike."
"Good, but that's a feature. A benefit is what she gets. How does your bike help her?"
"I could give her a ride somewhere."
"Excellent." I scribbled more notes. "Now we need a call to action. Research shows that giving a respondent a call to action increases your chance of a positive response."
Jeremy could only nod silently. I scribbled some more. "What do you think of this?"
'Dearest Caitlin, You have captivated my soul with your sparkling eyes and ruby smile. Be my love and we can fly anywhere your heart desires. If it is in your heart to say yes, please ask Gretchen to tell Kevin. I yearn for you, Jeremy."
He eyed me suspiciously. "Are you sure about this?"
"Is this how you got Mrs. Deckers?"
"No, that's a whole other story. Now rewrite this in your own handwriting and give it to Caitlin."
Jeremy still looked unsure, so I started to lecture him about word-of-mouth marketing when he said he heard his mother calling and ran off.
A few days later, Jeremy interrupted another nap.
"What happened?" I asked. "Did it work?"
"Well, yes and no. Caitlin is already going with Tyler Marlowe and he nearly beat me up."
I offered my condolences, but he held up his hand.
"But," he continued, "she showed it to her friends, and now three girls like me."
"Wow, referral marketing. I'll bet you're pretty excited about that."
Jeremy put on a pair of sunglasses. "You bet. Now I need to do drop in some variable data so I can A/B test a few iterations. I can up my response rate 20 percent if I gear the copy toward specific buyer personas."
I've created a monster.
Photo credit: The Love Letter, Johannes Vermeer (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain in both the country of origin (The Netherlands) and the United States)
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