Dear CMO:

I’m going to get this story slightly wrong because I forgot exactly where I heard it or read it, but hopefully the meaning will be clear enough. I’m sharing this with you for one big reason: if you squint at it and think of ways to apply it to what you’re doing, it might blow open some big ideas for you. It just did for me. Here’s the story:

A woman walks into a bank. Well dressed, clearly affluent. She sits down at a loan officer’s desk and requests a $1,000 loan. The loan officer doesn’t think this person needs a loan, by the look of her, but he’s happy to oblige. He asks what collateral she has. She offers up her Rolls Royce and suggests the bank take possession of the car until she repays the loan, which she promises to do in one month. The loan officer hands her $1,000 in hundred dollar bills, hands her the money in a bank envelope, and takes possession of the Rolls, which is then placed in a secured indoor parking facility. One month later, the woman reappears and hands the officer the same envelope he handed her a month ago, plus the interest on the loan, a total of $12. The loan officer finally asks why she took the loan out when she drives a Rolls Royce and appears never to have used the money in the first place.

“Where else could I safely park my Rolls for a month while I was out of town for only $12?”

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Key Takeaways:

. An expense to you is an opportunity to them. Whoever “them” is. The thinking tool we need to apply here is figuring out which “them” is going to look at what you want to do and pay you for it.

. The law of the rare applies to your priorities, too. What is scarce, or rare, or exclusive is perceived to be of higher value.

. Move to different ground and shift your perspective. We always benefit from stepping back and seeing what is not always apparent at first glance.

. The law of three. Which I just made up, to be honest. We can define my self-generated “law of three” as the positive effect of adding an additional player to the mix. There’s our lady, her car and now the bank: the bank gives her an angle that wasn’t apparent a moment ago, when she was comparing prices for low cost but high security parking facilities near the airport. Add a third player to the problem and see how it changes the dynamics of your problem.

*  *  *

My business partner at Decision Triggers, Dr. Steven Feinberg, would call this the art of “Strategic Shifting” – of viewing the field from a higher perspective so that you see what others can’t.

Our lady in the bank story above saw that her car – which was an expense at first – is now a valuable collateral commodity for the bank.

Your product placement might not cost a fat envelope full of cash – it might solve a distribution problem for the movie studio.

Your accessory’s ad campaign might not be an expense you can’t afford – it might be the additional functionality the other guy’s expensive and well-funded host device needs to break through the advertising clutter.

How you perceive the playing field just depends on where you’re standing.



PS: Image courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons.