Use Show and Tell to Sell Your Ideas

Your Grammar-School Teacher Was Right All Along

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Tom Martin Tom Martin
Do you remember show and tell? That great day when your grammar-school teacher gave you the stage and let you bring anything you cared about to show the class. It was an opportunity to share something that you thought was cool, important or interesting and maybe get the class to agree with you, that it was cool, important or interesting.

I loved show and tell -- both as presenter and viewer. My fellow classmates had weird interests, but I learned a lot about the world around me and a few interesting things about my classmates. Even today, I enjoy watching my own children pick out what they'll take for show and tell.

So what the heck does this have to do with advertising? As it turns out, a lot. You see, the average grammar-school teacher knows more about selling than you or me. She gets it. When you're trying to expose kids to new ideas, it's better to show them than to tell them about it. By showing them, you give them something tangible to look at, touch and maybe even smell. You give them something they can react to or form a bond with rather than a concept they have to visualize in their mind's eye. And, not that I'm saying your clients and your fellow staffers are children, but the same concept of understanding new ideas still holds true. Concepts are hard. Examples are easy. And, in today's stress-filled world, easy wins.

We at Zehnder are probably as guilty as the next agency of spending too much time telling and not enough time showing, especially where digital solutions are concerned. Showing digital solutions requires a good bit of investment (non-billable, I might add) to create proofs of concept or demonstration pieces. Given the current state of our business, it is no wonder we agencies don't jump at that non-billable ball. But of late, we've changed. We've started using show and tell as a way to introduce our clients to the wonders of new technology. Sure, it takes a bit more work, but in the end, we find the clients move through the awareness-understanding-adoption curve much faster. It also helps them sell the idea up the ladder internally, which is an oft-overlooked but important step in all new-technology sales.

For instance, we have a lot of local and regional clients that kept asking how they could use Twitter to reach locals. So we built (and gave away, I might add) a local Twitter search tool so they could find and follow local tweeters -- the first step in an effective Twitter strategy. Now we can show them how to find/follow nearby tweeters and open a dialog with them. You can actually see the light bulbs going off as you sit next to them.

We didn't tell our clients about Augmented Reality (AR). We created a simple demonstration video where they could see the technology in action. Sure it's crude, but that is the point. We didn't spend a lot of time making it pretty, we made it quickly and cheaply. The point is, when you see it, you get what AR is, and you start to see how it can be used.

Now we're trying to talk to our B2B and service clients about AR. And again, rather than tell them how they can use the technology, we're showing them. Specifically, we're showing them how AR can turn an ordinary business card into a full-motion video sales pitch. Guess what? After they see the video, we don't have to do a lot of telling. They immediately see the applications for trade shows, networking and direct mail video campaigns.

These are just a few examples of how we're showing vs. telling our clients about technology and the application of that technology. My advice to agencies (and client brand managers for that matter) is to stop telling and start showing. Sure it takes a bit more work, but believe me, you'll be happy you did it.

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Tom Martin is president of Zehnder Communications, with offices in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He can be reached at Tom.Martin@z-comm.com. Or follow him at @TomMartin.

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