I had a conversation with an almost-client today. He needed to get some guidance on how to best speak to a group of decision-makers at a university about the necessary steps to take for sanitizing the classrooms and other public areas while the school was closed.

He had a document written with all the necessary steps, backed by CDC recommendations, and supported by his own expert credentials. It was dry as a bone. It had all the creative tension of an MSDS. If you don’t know what that is, Google it and read one – you’ll see what I mean. Actually, now they’re called just SDS, but I like the rhythm of the four letters: M.S.D.S.

Anyway, I had several questions for him:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What do you want them to do?
  3. Why do they care about you?
  4. What makes you better than alternatives?
  5. How will you make their lives better?

None of these questions have anything to do with viruses, universities, sanitation, or the CDC. They have everything to do with creating a compelling story for the intended audience by explaining how this particular solution was the best for them. It doesn’t have to be the best for everyone – just for them, just for now.

Unfortunately, I never got to ask my questions. I never got to explain anything about what I do, or how I do it. He had looked at my website (it has retail in the name), and decided I didn’t know anything about what he did. He told me in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t a store, and I couldn’t help him.

I will be the first to admit that having retail in my company name might be limiting. But I have two reasons for it.

  1. I know retail, inside out and upside down. It’s my passion, and has been my life.
  2. It gives me a chance to talk with prospective clients about what I do, and why the retail experience is relevant to all of it.

I have been on both sides of retail marketing. It’s challenging, fraught, and ever-changing. And it’s universal. Retail marketing skills transfer to anything, because if you have something to sell – anything – retail marketing is relevant.

Even if it’s disinfecting a university classroom.