When I was a little girl my family lived on the island of Puerto Rico, where my parents taught at a private school. Every year the hurricane season would come, and every year it would be a new adventure and chance to experience nature in a way that a little kid from New Jersey otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to. Along with the experiences and adventures came the calming voices of the teachers and other elders who told us stories to keep us from getting scared while the wind and beating rain tore against the metal ventanas of the classrooms. This was normal, and nature would have it’s way. We just had to wait it out.
One story became a staple. It was of a village not far from us that redirected it’s river to make more room for houses. They worked hard to dig out trenches and reinforce the original path with dams and ducts, but each year the river would break free from it’s course to return to it’s original path. The river, we were told, was stronger than man’s tools and technology. You couldn’t redirect it, because it always found what it was looking for. It’s path was there for a reason, and no matter how we tried to force it, it would always reclaim it’s power, and it’s way.
Aside from all the purposes that story served, to be in awe of nature, to understand our place in the world, to keep calm and see nature as an entity and not a nuisance, and of course to calm otherwise scared little gringo kids new to the island, it taught me something else. It taught me to look for the natural path, and how to work with it instead of changing it.
It takes a lot of work to redirect a river. And it usually doesn’t work.
I think of that story often, and yes, apply it to marketing all the time. What is the natural path? What is the power of the trajectory already in play? I am a marketer, and I need to answer to the customer. To do that, I need to understand where the customer is going, and what it he or she is seeking. What drives the river, when is it stronger, when it is higher, and when does it need help to protect it on it’s course? And yes, when can it be open to another direction IN ADDITION to it’s own? You see, a river can overflow, but a little help from technology can offset the damage it can do to itself.
You can’t redirect the river.
Work WITH the river and the river will work with you. The same goes for customers.