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Strawberries

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Do you hear the silence? The post-election silence? Blissful, yes? According to Pew Research, 57% of Americans think our election season is too long, though it's unclear exactly why we think that.

Call me cynical, but I don't expect it's because we're so well-informed that we wouldn't benefit from additional insight. On the other hand, I suppose many of us would say we've heard enough. Maybe it's that the campaigns are so contentious.

Nah. We're Americans. We like bare-knuckle brawls. ;-)

You know what I think? I think we feel like we're being duped. It's like that uncomfortable moment when we're in the car dealership and we know we're at a disadvantage because the salesman has all the key information. After all, he's the pro with home-field advantage.

One of my first clients in marketing was doing public relations for the California Strawberry Commission.

Seriously.

I was proud to work in PR. I felt I was doing a good thing by informing the world when strawberries were ripe. It was a type of cosmic balance for all the negativity we typically found in the news.

But when I told people I was in PR, their noses would rise in disdain. They associated PR with spin. To them, PR was the art of misinformation and razzle-dazzle. I suppose they felt that strawberries didn't need representation. Their attitude clearly said that if strawberries needs a publicist, there must be something wrong with them.

I get that. I really do. It's easy for marketers to intimidate customers. For example, we could (inadvertently) make them feel that we're the keeper of secret information by using insider jargon. Or we could (unintentionally) disenfranchise a target audience just with our language choice. For example we could refer to "companies," a term which is not user-friendly when referring to many industries, such as financial or healthcare. By changing "companies" to "organizations," we avoid this very simple misstep.

I frequently hear that marketing is subordinate to sales. That makes me mental, because it's not true. In fact, in an ideal world we wouldn't need sales; we'd need marketing and a plethora of order takers.

But here in the real world, we need both sales and marketing. While sales is needed to close the deal, we marketers are the matchmakers. We introduce products to customers in hope that they will live happily ever after.

Do our prospects reel from our messages like they are from the din of an over-long political campaign? Do we taunt them with acronyms and product-specific terms? Or do we put ourselves in their shoes and help them get to know our products?

Strawberries, by the way, are a delightful fruit. To my knowledge, a strawberry has never hurt anyone (allergies notwithstanding), and they're chock full of good nutrition. They're members of the rose family. Their peak season is right around the vernal equinox, making them a harbinger of spring.

Everything should be as easy to market as a strawberry. Ginger Shimp is marketing director for SAP America (www.sap.com). The views and opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily those of SAP. She can be reached at gingershimp@gmail.com.

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