Mutant Squirrels and Dan Pink

I grew up in the "country." (Sorry, Seth but it needed the quotation marks.) It wasn't a farm or a ranch but my home from the time I was four until I left at eighteen and it was considered out in the country. We had many acres of old woods around us which is where I spent many happy days hiking and exploring. But, in all those years, I never saw a totally black squirrel. Until today when I saw one playing around a tree near my home an hour north of Philadelphia.

I thought I was seeing things until I was able to get back home and do some research. It turns out that black squirrels are mutants. Biologists estimate that nationwide about one of every 10,000 gray squirrels is the black mutant.

I tweeted about my black squirrel today and my wife tweeted back that it may be time to move if I'm discovering mutated species. Actually, she should like the idea as she's a Fringe junkie and she even followed every Lost episode which very quickly drove me to read a good book.

My squirrel research very quickly got me to thinking about communication, sales and marketing. Let's say that in your business you have always sold to one particular demographic. For example, for many years in the retail auto business the man of the house made the purchasing decision. Sadly, it took many a sales rep to lose his (and it was almost always a male) sales commission because woman finally had enough of being ignored in the sales process and took the family business where they felt welcome and respected. (Not to mention being called the little lady. Yikes!)

The demographic and psychographic profiles of your customers and prospects are changing more rapidly than at any other time. The boomers are on their way out (although I like to think we've got a couple more decades in us). But, the fact is if you've been in business for at least ten years the odds are high that you have seen a big change in your buyer profile. It is very likely they look differently, act differently and, most importantly, have different values than your prior customer base.

How do you learn to communicate with them the way they want you to communicate? Because that's your job. They don't have to listen to your old ways of marketing and selling. You want them to say things like this:

Wow…. this email from you actually sounds like a human being wrote it, instead of a marketing department. How refreshing! I really appreciate your offer and doing that without putting me on a mailing list. That's very generous. Those two features, plus the warm human tone of your email really go a long way in today's ad-crowded world.

You've got to become more creative to communicate with people these days and achieve the kinds of things I know you want to do. One of my favorite (and creative authors) is Dan Pink. Here is a great (and short) interview he did with Lateral Action. He hits upon the fact that employees are no longer motivated by the carrot and stick which means you need to be doing something different to get them to help your company communicate differently.

I recommend you read the interview and then preorder his book, "Drive" which will be out in December. Full disclaimer if you buy it using that link, I might get a quarter or two from Amazon which I will donate to feeding the squirrels.

And, hey, let me know if you see any mutant squirrels in your neighborhood.

3 thoughts on “Mutant Squirrels and Dan Pink”

  1. I have a mutant squirrel in my neighborhood Bob but it is white! A couple of years ago my California friend came to visit and we named it “The summer of the white squirrel” which I keep thinking I should write about, like Jude Devereaux’s novel: Summerhouse.
    But I digress…you gleaned an excellent point from your experience – the ability to make people who are outside our familiar demographic feel welcome and respected in our business. May I add in our lives? This is the core value of civility that we must extend to everyone, regardless of their social, economic, political, religious,and ability/disability status.

  2. @Bob, great blog, as always….I enjoy that all your blogs are informative, and fun to read…there is always a great story, and I enjoy them all….keep on blogging, dude!
    @Suzanne – Great response, and a new view to it with adding “our lives”….wonderful!

  3. Thank you Suzanne and Giovanna! @Suzanne – apparently there are some white squirrels around here according to my research. I agree with you. It isn’t just business but our lives too. I don’t believe you have a business life and a family life and a personal life, etc. We all have one life and we need to live it consistent with our values.

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