The Worst Way to Start a New Year

What’s the absolute worst way you could imagine starting the new year?

I’ve never really formally thought it through, but you’d have to rank “getting food poisoning” among the top three, don’t you think?

Here’s what happened.

After going through years of crushing debt (most of you know our story – lost $2M that we didn’t have) Sharon and I finally have a few bucks to look after.  Not that we’re rich by any stretch of the imagination, just that we both felt it was time (in part at my bookkeeper’s urging!) to meet with a respected financial planner in the community.

Mary was someone Sharon knew for years through her professional network, and we both thought the Friday before New Years would be the best time to get started with her.  So we made a 4:30 pm appointment (her last of the year!) and were eagerly looking forward to our time with her…

Except life got in the way…

I decided to stop at the supermarket to have a little seafood salad after my workout that morning.  It didn’t taste just right, but I ate it anyway because (1) I was fricking hungry; (2) I tend to have an iron stomach; and (3) my vegan days are over… hand over the fricking meat and nobody gets hurt! (Actually I still eat mostly fruit and vegetables, but that’s a separate story)

Anyway, I had a few pangs in my stomach right afterwards but I just thought I ate too quickly.

By the time I was on my way to the financial planner’s (Mary’s) office I was feeling downright green.

And so when Sharon and I walked in, both dressed in our Sunday best (I was wearing my best white shirt and suit-tie to impress), I promptly shook Mary’s hand and asked where her bathroom was.

It was unfortunately right next to her office…

So I’m sure she heard every last LOUD groan and a myriad of other entirely disgusting noises as the “fun began” (Fun which eventually took four days and five pounds out of my life!)

And when I walked back into her office trying to compose myself I literally said this:

“Mary, tell me this, is it a good sign or a bad sign if a new client immediately starts projectile vomiting as soon as they meet you?”

Now here’s the thing…

She was incredibly sweet.

She dropped everything, called her friend the nurse, ran around the office looking for things I could take in the car for my drive home, got me water, and generally turned into a “Total Mom” instead of a sophisticated financial planner.

Truth is, she probably bonded me to her for life…

And I left there feeling MUCH more willing to risk my money with her.

Of course I’ll keep evaluating things intellectually because that’s what I do, but I can’t tell you how POWERFULLY PRIMITIVE THE FEELING OF TRUST that’s come over me since this event really is!

I actually think the meeting went BETTER for all concerned because of the “PV” (projectile vomiting) incident.

And now that I can actually stand up again (oh my god was this ever the certifiably most disgusting weekend of my life), I can’t shake the two marketing lessons inherent in the story…

First, this major new project (getting started with a financial planner) went about as far from my plans as it could possibly go, yet the direction it DID go in laid the groundwork for an even more successful relationship.

How many of us start projects only to see things go wrong… so very very wrong, and feel incredibly demoralized, ill, and almost unable to continue?   Yet precious few of us look at these wrong turns as opportunities.  Even fewer LEVERAGE those opportunities.

How many of you have projects you started on January 1st which are already turning out differently than you planned?  (Keep this in mind as the month progresses!)

The second marketing inspiration from this odd story is in observing the connection Mary made with her prospect (me) by “stepping out of the role”…

You see we all set up a defined set of rules, expectations, responsibilities and behaviors associated with our business dealings…

I was expecting Mary to intellectually analyze our finances, tell us where to put our money, and help us put more controls in place to monitor budgets, etc.  I thought we’d have a perfectly rational conversation as two mature, adult intellectuals solving an intriguing financial puzzle…

Instead I puked and made a friend.

And as I thought of this paradox, I recalled how many patients I could only finally connect with when I “stepped out of role”…

Everything from the 400 pound Hell’s Angel member who told me “I like to hurt people with my head” (as he pulled back his hair and showed me a ridiculous number of scars I rather quickly moved BEHIND my desk)

To the policeman who couldn’t stop obsessing about “going to hell” (he was very religious) until I told him in all seriousness that I’d be happy to be his doctor in hell if he’d have me…

To the executive who I finally told in exasperation to just go pee on his cigarettes if he really wanted to quit because all this talking wasn’t doing anyone any good…

To the 13 year old boy I earnestly told to do his best to get “D’s” in school because F’s were too easy and A’s were for nerdy losers (he got straight A’s after that)

And I thought of all the clients who, despite their respect for my intellectual-spreadsheet-ways, light up and remind me of all the crazy stories they read on my blog, ask me if my wife ever let me have a cat (she did!),  or ask me for a hug saying “cockroach” at a seminar (I’ll make you search my blog for that one)

And so how can we TEMPLATE these lessons so you can leverage them in your own marketing?…

1) Expect things to go wrong with your plans this year.  BIG things.  Count on it. Nothing’s easy any more… but the marketers who succeed are the ones who can shift on a dime and see the opportunity in the crises.

2) Ask yourself what the “rules” are in the way you do business. Then ask yourself where it might behoove you to BREAK your own rules with your more important clients.

Fair enough?

OK, so this is the part where if I was totally over my food poisoning I’d say “food for thought”…

But today I think I’d better just say

“Onwards and Upwards”

Dr. G 🙂

PS – Big things planned this year.  I’m sure some big mistakes too.

PPS – I have one coaching slot open if anyone wants it.  (Grab it today if you’re interested please as it’s usually taken within 24 hours when I open it.  Press refresh on the page after clicking the link to be sure you’re seeing the most current status)