Road Runner Syndrome

Road Runner Syndrome

Have you ever seen a promotion, marketing piece or heard a pitch that only focuses on how amazing the company behind these are, and heard a loud ‘Me, Me!’ in your head?

Do it in a high enough pitch and you’ve got Road Runner.

Or maybe it’s just me…

Whether you now think I’m weird or not doesn’t matter, as long as you get the message behind it.

It’s like your business is Wiley Coyote. You’re trying to set up all kinds of insane traps to chase and catch your customer, Road Runner.

But Road Runner isn’t stupid. He knows what you’re doing, smells the danger and runs away. No matter how hard Wiley chases, the further away Road Runner gets.

That’s how your customers react to self-focused sales and marketing tactics!

They’re not stupid either.

Focus on what stays the same, rather on what might change

As I covered in my previous post on my issues with buzzwords, when we’re constantly looking for new and improved ways to “catch” a customer, it distracts us from timeless principles.

‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ describes our tendency to lose our focus and offers an excuse to not get things done or finished.

So how do we do that then, smart arse?

Learn how to integrate this understanding of human behaviour with modern technology and communication tools.

That is the real challenge.

It’s not easy, especially with the pressures of doing more, and doing it quicker, that is placed on us all.

But take a little look back in time and you’ll see that every new technology ever invented brought with it a new challenge, new opportunity and fast movers after a quick ‘Buck’. Only then the masses blindly following behind.

Consider the telephone.

Originally it was used a way of being able to speak to someone over a longer distance, to communicate or send warnings. Then more and more people got a phone in their home.

Then opportunistic businesses realised they could sell their stuff to people further away than they could before, opening up a huge new customer pool.

So cold calling was born.

Those who used it sold the same way to everyone. Same method, same pitch. This was because the people receiving the calls had no point of reference on how to deal with strangers selling to us down the phone.

They sounded credible, were no obvious physical threat, they told us they had something valuable to talk to us about, we let them, it sounded good, so we bought stuff.

It worked like magic. For a while…

Then, like Road Runner, we got wise.

We never wanted the stuff being sold, never asked for it, felt swindled. So we put gatekeepers in the way or call ID so we could avoid them.

Unfortunately by this point the masses had blindly taken to following the practice. But they did so without understanding the underlying reasons why it worked, and subsequently lost effectiveness, most cold call based sales companies doggedly pursued the same approach.

Even in the face of mounting cost and inefficiency, this one size fits all approach continued. It worked before didn’t it? Everyone else is still doing it so it must still work.

Instead of trying to understand the behaviour behind this change of reaction to the telephone ‘tool’, companies persisted. Instead of adapting, doing the hard work of analysis and thinking, they just continued shouting the battle cry, ‘just call more people’, or ‘it’s a numbers game’, or other such lunacy.

Yeah, it does still work, it’s just not very smart. Do anything enough times or throw enough at it and you’ll get what you want.

As my Grandad would say, “even a broken clock is right twice a day…”

What’s difficult for these companies to understand is that it never worked brilliantly in the first place. People just hadn’t got used to the phone yet.

Yet they hung their hat on the ‘tool’ without really knowing why it worked, greed in their eyes at the prospect of ever increasing profit.

History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme

Email is a similar story.

We used to be overjoyed when we got an email. It was exciting!

There was even a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie made called ‘You’ve Got Mail’.

Can you imagine that being successful today? Many of us turn that annoying beep or voice off, it just reminds us of what we’ve not yet done!

Now more people complain about their inbox than almost anything else at work. A lot of that is because the cold calling, ‘numbers game’, blanket message methodology was applied to email promotions during its infancy.

That’s where spam comes from.

Add on top the demands and requests from colleagues, clients and suppliers thrown at us with rude, ‘fat fingers’, and today our inbox is a stressful place to be a lot of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, email is still an incredibly effective way to market your business, for many it’s their number one channel.

Throw in a well planned and executed automation strategy and it can almost feel magic! That’s because it is done with a thorough understanding of the underlying psychology we have when we’re in our inbox.

Just like the phone where we’ll answer a call from a friend instantly, we’ll open an email that either looks personal, or is from someone we like to hear from. As businesses we have to be invited into the inbox now, or introduced by someone else.

You also have to have a damn good reason to stay there, so you’d better offer something valuable. Every time.

Most of us in marketing know Seth Godin, who was one of the pioneers of this idea years ago when he wrote Permission Marketing.

But was he really a visionary?

Or just incredibly observant?

Did he just see through the bullshit hype around email et al, to the core of how people really behave?

I’ve never met Seth. I’d like to one day as I’d really like to know his answer, to this an many questions I’d have for him. Until then I’ll speculate that what he really saw was that nothing had changed except the tools.

Our behaviour remained the same.

Our behaviour hasn’t changed much

As humans, we’ve never liked being approached by strangers in unfamiliar situations.

We would put up walls and forts around ourselves to keep them out. The majority of the time that was because a group of strangers at your gate meant they wanted to sack your city and take everything you have.

The only way in was to be invited.

The only way to be invited was if you had something valuable to offer those inside.

The only way to have something valuable to offer was to know what those inside the city wanted.

Select the right tool for the job, not the right job for the tool

So before you decide to spend your days doggedly chasing Roadrunner, or shiny objects promising ‘new, unique, a paradigm shift in the way you’ll do business, like nothing you’ve ever seen before’.


Ask yourself:

  • What is this really about?
  • What is it about this that I’m already doing?
  • Do I know enough about my customers to implement this effectively?
  • Do I really need another ‘Shiny Object’ to distract me from serving my customers?
  • What would Road Runner do…?

Look beyond the ‘thing’ to the consumer psychology, problem or behaviour that it is tapping into that makes it work.

Will using this approach benefit your customers, community or audience?

If it doesn’t, avoid the temptation to jump on just because the masses are doing it.

In other words…

Don’t get seduced by a tool.

I expound on this concept in this post on How Ryan Deiss Broke My Heart and taught me a valuable lesson on “proposing” at the right time.

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Adam King

Adam King is Captain of Think Like a Fish, host of The Client Catching Podcast. Today, Adam’s passion is helping service businesses, Advisors & Experts to build their own “Client Catching Ecosystem” that removes you from up to 90% of your marketing and sales process, instantly boosts your authority, while at the same time increases the quality of leads, appointments and clients that you attract and catch… All without spending a penny on advertising or adding more hours to your week!