Marketing in a Nutshell: The Parable of Bob

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Someone asked me to explain why I'm so interested in marketing, so I told him the Parable of Bob.

Bob was a great statistician. His boss liked him, and his coworkers thought he was a mathematical genius. One day he decided to quit his job and start his own company. It seemed like a no-brainer. He had a great product - a mastery of statistics.

Oddly, no one tried to hire him. In fact, he spent the first two weeks alone in his office.

Bob thought for a bit, and then it came to him. "A HA!". No one is going to hire him if they don't know about him. He's got to network and get his name out there.

That very evening, Bob attended a networking event at the local chamber of commerce. He passed out his business cards and told everyone that he's ready to consult on all of their statistical problems. Unfortunately for Bob, no one needed a statistician. He met a guy who owned a company that produced dentures, the president of the local bicycling coalition and a chef at a fancy restaurant. It wasn't exactly like they were his target market.

That event was a complete bust. Bob's friends, Bob's wife, even Bob himself was beginning to think that striking out on his own was a bad idea. There just wasn't a demand for statisticians.

A month later, there was another networking event at the chamber of commerce. Rumor had it that his old boss would be there. Fantastic! Bob had made up his mind. He'd go and talk to his old boss about getting his job back. Entrepreneurship clearly wasn't for him.

Bob got there a bit early, and all of the same people people were there from last time. He figured he'd just make some idle conversation with them, while he waited for his boss to arrive.

He ran into the man who made dentures. Today he was complaining about his quality control problems. Despite spending a lot of money ensuring that each denture was inspected before being shipped out, a lot of them were being returned as defective.

Bob listened intently and said, "That sounds terrible. I bet I could analyze your returned merchandise and show you exactly what you need to test for. You'll wind up spending less money on testing AND waste less money producing defective dentures". Before Bob could say anything more he was handed a check by a very interested owner of a denture manufacturing company.

That was odd. As Bob moved to the hors d'oeuvre table, he ran into the president of the local bicycle coalition. She was complaining about how dangerous bicycling was becoming and had setup an appointment to go speak to the mayor. Bob nodded intelligently and pointed out that her case would be much stronger if she could back it up with data. He could compile some information about how changing speed limits in cities like hers reduced bicycle deaths. Almost before he could finish speaking, he found himself holding a check for a small study on bicycling deaths.

Things were starting to look up! Then Bob ran into the chef. Bob smiled to himself. Why would a chef want to hire a statistician? But, he figured he would just talk to the guy - who knows, he might pickup some cooking tips. Before Bob could open his mouth, the chef began talking about truffles and cheeses and wines. Despite fantastic reviews and a devoted following, his restaurant was hemorrhaging cash. For every $1000 of ingredients they bought, $500 worth would be thrown out, because it would spoil before it could be used.

"That's terrible", Bob said. "You know, as it happens, I'm a statistician. I could look through your old orders and see if there are some patterns - maybe people don't like to eat shrimp on weekdays, so you could buy less during the week. Or maybe people only like to buy flan when you serve your special lasagna. Let me take a peek at your records, and I'm sure I could figure something out." Not only did he receive a hug from the troubled chef, but the chef setup a meeting the very next day to hand over his records.

Bob made a note in his calendar just as he saw his old boss come in. Bob decided to greet his old boss some other time. He had too much to do at the moment.

Need help with your marketing efforts? We can help you be more like Bob. Contact me!