Marketing Secrets from the Grave

Writers and speakers know that you only have a few seconds to get the reader’s or listener’s attention.

If your opening fails to grab her, she’ll quickly stop reading or listening.

One of the most attention-grabbing openings I ever heard was, unfortunately, that of the eulogy for my father, given at his funeral some 15 years ago.

“Everybody wants to be happy,” the speaker began. “Dave Bly knew the secret of happiness, and in a few minutes, I’m going to tell you what it is.”

Why was this lead so powerful? Three reasons …

First, it told the listener something she believed to be true: “everybody wants to be happy.” And because it was true, it resonated with the listener.

Second, it promised a benefit: if you listened, the secret of happiness would be revealed to you within a few minutes.

And third, it was unexpected: not your typical dull eulogy.

So why am I telling you this?

Because the secret revealed that day was not only the secret to happiness … but, I realized, it was also the secret to creating winning marketing campaigns.

The eulogist didn’t reveal the secret right up front, directly. He got to it through stories. I will do the same here, because it will make the secret clearer and teach it better.

The first story the speaker told was of a day when he and his wife, along with my father and my mother, went to a lake on a Sunday to enjoy the outdoors.

Three of them wanted to have brunch at a nice lakeside restaurant. But when they turned around, dad was out on the dock, talking to a couple of young boys who were fishing, but not having much luck.

Dad loved to fish, and he loved kids. Within a few minutes, he showed them his tricks for adjusting the bob, baiting the hook, and casting out … and they began catching fish after fish at a rapid rate.

The kids were delighted, smiling and laughing, thanking Dad for making their day. And he was smiling too.

The second story was about a little magic trick Dad would do to entertain when he went out to a dinner with a group of people.

When the wine was finished, he would ask one of the dinner guests to push the cork into the wine bottle, which they did.

Then he would challenge them to remove the cork – without breaking the bottle. Of course, they could not.

But Dad could – and did – to the entertainment and delight of the other diners.

(It’s a trick that would take too much space to describe here. You do it with a linen napkin or handkerchief.)

“The secret of happiness that Dave Bly knew,” the eulogist concluded, “is to put other people first. Make them happy, and you will be happy.”

The same principle works in marketing and sales: make the customer successful … and help him achieve his goals … and you will be successful – because the customer will buy what you are selling, making you richer in the process.

So that’s the simple secret of happiness … of marketing … of sales … and of success in virtually any aspect of life: put others first and you will reap the rewards.

And that’s the secret I shared with over a hundred mourners at my father’s funeral, when I gave his eulogy, so many years ago.

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Published: June 6, 2011

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