It’s 3:30 P.M. on a fall afternoon in West Michigan. The TV in the living room has the Detroit Lions game nearing the end as my wife and I sit on the edge of our seats and intently watch her beloved sports team. On our most comfortable piece of furniture, Barry (as in Sanders), our two-year-old Goldendoodle, also sits focused on the TV. The jobs in the room have been mapped out well ahead of time; mine is to remain calm. Barry, on the other hand, has been trained to bark out blitz packages for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
This is pivotal time for the Oswalt family and the three of us know it well. If the Lions win, mom is happy and the afternoon will go on to be glorious: dog park visits, fetch for hours, and new toys. If the Lions lose, momma bear will go into hiding in a sea of anger.
My “supportive” encouragement containing phrases such as “History told you that would happen” just add fuel to the fire. Disgusted with me, Barry will also leave my side to order overpriced dog treats via Alexa and comfort his mother.
It goes without saying that since it’s near the end of the fourth quarter, we are on shaky ground here. During a commercial break, I masterfully change the channel to The Presidents Cup in attempt to alleviate the tension (and honestly, who watches a TV commercials anymore?). Hoping to celebrate the U.S. Presidents Cup win, I am met with yet another commercial. Darn!
Wait for it….
The next moment, my wife says, “Hey, that’s kinda cool.” The split screen is allowing us to continue watching golf while also playing the commercial. I concur with my wife as Barry studies Justin Thomas’s birdie putt without advertisement interference. I switch back to the Lions game and think nothing of it.
The Lions win. My wife is happy, our dog is spoiled and my Sunday afternoon has been spared. On our victorious walk through the neighborhood, I realize a few lessons I’d like to share with you, beyond the amplified heroics and obvious exaggerations of this story.
1. Interrupt people at your own risk
We have not seen the last of commercial breaks, at least as long as there is still content on television. But the viewer is in complete control of their experience. People want to see what they want, when they want. While your commercial is running, they will find something else to capture their attention.
2. Mindset shift
We sit down to watch a TV show to watch the TV show. Period. For decades businesses have been programmed to offer their products and services creatively through various static and limited mediums. “How do I get my point across in 30 seconds of TV or a half page newspaper ad?” Here’s my advice: Punt the 30-second commercial idea (advertisement) and get into the 30-minute sitcom (brand) mindset. It’s hard to build true relationships with customers in a 30-second ad. But 30- minute sitcoms like “Cheers”? Twenty years later, people still go to the restaurant in Boston to identify with the brand.
So how do you build that kind of attention and loyalty? Your business doesn’t need the approval of ABC, CBS, or NBC, not even Ted Danson. Instead, your TV show can stream to anyone’s pocket via Facebook, YouTube or Instagram. Include the characters in your business who create your brand storyline every single day.
Social media is your new network television with zero barrier to entry and the vast majority of your market on the other side waiting to be entertained. I guarantee your business has created its own version of a successful sitcom already. After riding with 100+ sales people within the building industry, I assure you that no shortage of content exists, and especially entertaining moments. Grab a camera, have fun, help someone out and entertain them at the same time.
3. Start small, try anything
Here’s a simple example: Find any employee who’s a joke teller and let the camera (your smartphone) roll. Next, have him travel to your customer’s job sites (a deck builder for example) and tell his jokes. If the jokes aren’t good…that’s completely okay. Name the YouTube show “Jokes that Suck. Decks that Don’t.”
Silly? Yes. Crazy? Who knows. Will it work? If it makes one person laugh or one more person look at your customer’s deck…then heck yes it worked!
If it didn’t go well? Then try something else. Most sales calls don’t create sales but that doesn’t stop you, does it?
DISCLAIMER: My wife is a diehard Lions fan but far more reasonable than depicted in the story. In spite of my desire, my dog doesn’t digest sports or use Alexa, but the overpriced dog treats are 110% accurate.