Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cardinal rules of attraction

The word cardinal has a couple meanings to me and the most obvious is the red bird we often see at our bird feeders. The other definition which usually preceeds the words rule or sin could mean "of foremost importance or paramount". We've all heard the phrase Cardinal Rules or Cardinal Sins and I am guessing it is often used rather loosely without giving it much thought.

Being an avid birdwatcher has given me a new perspective on many of life's situations and I think the thing that keeps me interested in birdwatching is how similar it is to people watching. I really like people watching - I do it wherever I go. There is something calming to me and peaceful about taking a seat on a busy boulevard and watching people live their own lives in public. It is kind of like a cross between public voyeurism and reality TV. When I camp out at my kitchen window to watch the birds congregate at the birdfeeder I just never know what will happen, what kind of birds will show up, and how aggressive the squirrels will be that day. Pecking order exists not only with birds, horses or cats, but everywhere in society. Seeing the birds argue, bicker and scaring the weaker ones off while some are very passive and content to just eat seed by themself off in the corner is so consistent with human society. I see it every day in the workforce, with my personal relationships and also my client/builder relationships. Who has ever worked at an office where there hasn't been one person who wants to dominate every conversation? How is this any different from a horse that needs to control every other hay pile besides her own in the paddock? If that horse just spent the same energy worrying about her own hay pile then all the other horses could eat their own hay and everyone would be happy.

It also seems like every kind of bird has its own little quirks. Some birds prefer to eat from a perch while others can only pick at loose seed from the ground. We switched the bird seed in our feeders this year with some unexpected results. Having used a small inexpensive blend of seed for years we decided to buy a bag of raw shelled nuts so there would be less waste to clean up in the spring. It was very expensive but after the sticker shock faded we realized that it also attracted a wider variety of birds. We kept a seperate feeder with the generic seed and although it gets its fair share of visitors, most birds (clients) seem to be attracted to the gourmet seed and the generic seed seems to outlast the gourmet seed by 2-1. My guess is that the gourmet seed tastes better, is less effort to eat and the work-to-calorie ratio must be lower. They can sit there stuffing their bellies while consuming more food in less time. And here I thought only humans were lazy. Maybe this frees up their time for more important bird activities.

I can't help but compare the quality of the food at the bird feeders to the way we need to market our companies in this current market. Wouldn't logic suggest by putting out the most appealing seed catering to the kind of birds (clients) we want to see at our feeder, that perhaps we might start to see more of those kind of birds.? If I want to see a red-bellied woodpecker feeding from my feeder then I would make doubly sure to hang a suet feeder and if I wanted to attract a specific type of clientele then I would surely make sure to install the correct kind of feeder with the most appealing seed. As I see it, the Cardinal Rule in marketing a business (or most other things in our lives) is to be specific about who you are trying to attract. Fill up your feeder with the right kind of food and you will likely see more of those birds. I am off to check on the birds...

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