4 Things My Cats Can Teach You About Marketing

4 Things My Cats Can Teach You About Marketing
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We get pretty intense on this blog. Sometimes there are long diatribes about customer service.

Sometimes there are heartfelt pleas for a better business world.

Occasionally there are long lessons in mitigating disaster or building a good website.

So once in a while I just want to have some fun. And that’s what this post is. A little fun, but some truths about marketing, too.

Hey, we can have both!

And it’s also a reminder that no matter what you’re doing or where you are, there is inspiration all around you. The kind that I got sitting on my couch one Sunday afternoon and watching my cat stalk a cricket…

But wait, we’re not there yet, so here are some lessons that really do matter, even if they’re taught by a cat.

Marketing cats focus

Whatever was on the other side of that window had no idea how lucky it was to be on the other side of that window.

1. Stay Focused

That cricket was doomed from the instant my cat spotted it. It tried scurrying under the woodwork. But my cat sat there and stared at that spot on the floor like she was made of evil, staring stone.

I’m not sure how long we all sat there, cricket hiding, cat staring, me alternately reading my book and glancing up to see if anything had changed in the slow-motion drama (not) happening in my living room.

I couldn’t sweet talk that cat away from the hole in the woodwork. I couldn’t entice her with a treat or the promise of going outside.

But when that cricket finally decided to hop to freedom, my cat was there. One pounce and done.

Cruelty to crickets aside (hey, it was either the cricket or my eyeball if I tried to get in my cat’s way) I found myself pondering that laser-like focus and how it ultimately led to my cat reaching her goal.

How cool would it be if we could beam onto something and do it until it was done?

I don’t know about you but I have a to-do list that’s been accumulating items like, well, cat hair on velour… (hey, it’s a theme, just go with it).

But the days I’m most productive and most successful are the days when I choose a task and do it – I don’t get distracted by the nice weather, the emails or anything else that taunts me.

Shutting out the world, everything from the usual suspects (Facebook) to the Pavlovian responses (no, you don’t get to answer the phone, either) means you can focus your energy on a single task, give it your full attention and do your best.

Be a cat today: choose one item on your task list. Maybe it’s something you’ve been putting off for a while or something that makes you feel as gross as eating a bug. Now remove all distractions – shut your email, turn off the phone, log off Facebook – and do your task with singular determination and focus! If you make time to do that every single day, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Marketing cats persist

There was an empty bag of food at the bottom of that pail, and surely some crumbs remained.

2. Be Persistent

My cat likes to eat two bites at a time. But she eats two bites about two hundred times a day. The problem is that my other cat eats anything and everything in his path all day long.

So if I leave food out for Cat A to eat at her leisure, then Cat B scarfs it up.

So I’ve developed the habit – the very bad, bad habit (for me) of keeping a small container of cat food on my bedside table so that when Cat A wants to eat two bites, I can give them to her without Cat B gaining 600 pounds.

The problem you might have noticed is that this happens at night. When I’m asleep. Which doesn’t seem to bother Cat A, who pokes my head whenever she wants to eat.

You might suggest that I ignore her. Push her off the bed. Stop feeding her so she gets out of the habit. Of course, you’d only suggest that if you don’t have a cat.

Sometimes I cover my head with the blankets. She just pokes the blankets instead.

There have been nights I’ve gotten out of bed and gone to sleep on the couch, but she’ll follow me there and poke my head from the cushion.

Sometimes I shut her out of the bedroom. Since she can’t reach my head, she pokes at the door. It’s a nails-on-chalkboard rattling that just doesn’t stop.

Until I feed her.

And so I do.

The lesson is clear: cats will train you to do their bidding. Oh wait, I mean: persistence pays off.

When obstacles get thrown in our way, we may get cranky. Frustrated. Maybe we give up and do something else. But if there’s one thing I know from personal experience with head poking, it’s that sticking with your plan can get results, even when the odds don’t seem to be in your favor.

It’s especially easy to get frustrated with marketing because despite promises of “easy money” and “six days to success”, growing a business can be a slow process beset with obstacles.

It takes a long time to build up our Facebook following and even longer to turn that following into customers and revenue. It can take forever to grow an email list and longer before our blog traffic makes us happy.

Sometimes we can feel like my cat… we just want a single bite! But no matter what we do, we don’t seem to get results.

No matter! Things don’t always happen instantly and they sure as heck don’t always happen on our schedule. But if we’re persistent, stick to our goals and pursue them wisely and creatively, then we can achieve them.

Be a cat today: take a page from the Slow Marketing manifesto and stop worrying about immediate results. Just focus on results. If you meet an obstacle or failure, find a way around it. Try a new tactic. Eye on the prize, patience and just keep going.

Marketing cats recognize crap

Unattended Ben & Jerry’s will be consumed.

3. Know When You’re Being Fed Crap

There’s the 33¢ can of cat food. And there’s the 89¢ can of cat food. Guess which one my cats want? Both of my cats have always been picky eaters. From the day we brought them home and the only thing they would eat was Gerber baby food turkey, we’ve been cajoling food into them.

My fat cat will eat all day long… unless you put the 33¢ can of cat food in front of him, in which case he’ll look into his bowl, look up at you, meow and stalk away.

(And in case you’re wondering if that could help with the head-poking… it can’t.)

Even though my cats have never seen a receipt, they still know when I’m giving them something good and when I’m trying to pass off the bottom-of-the-shelf-on-sale stuff.

Not to belabor the point, but they are particularly fond of my extra-special $8 a can super fresh-caught tuna, but they won’t even sniff a can of the supermarket stuff.

This is a lesson that we as business people and marketers can really take to heart because we are not always good at telling crap from cream.

In fact, we seem predisposed to gravitate toward crap – especially when it’s disguised as marketing advice and shiny revenue numbers.

Admit it (I do!): you’ve attended at least one webinar that promised a secret to success or bought at least one book that swore you’d become an expert at something in 21 days.

We’re really, really, really hungry for information and answers that will help us grow, succeed and make money, so we consume large and vast quantities of bottom-of-the-shelf crap.

We need to be more selective about what we consume. We need to be a little smarter about what’s put in front of us and look at it with a critical eye.

We need to be able to stalk away when we think someone is giving us nonsense and junk.

Be a cat today: decide right now that there’s no mystery to business and marketing. Set high standards and don’t buy into anything that doesn’t meet them, no matter how clever someone is with a headline or a sales pitch. Hone your BS-meter by trying something… testing it out for yourself… and believing what you see… not what you’re told to believe.

Marketing cats find sun

Come on, doesn’t that seriously look comfy?

4. Find The Sunny Spot

You can be pretty sure that wherever there’s a bit of sun, you’ll find my cat. I sometimes watch my cat move as the sun does. He starts out lying at one end of the room wherever the sun is shining on the carpet, then migrates his way to the other as the shadows move.

Always, he’s in the light.

Sometimes, when the curtains are closed, you’ll find my cat squinting in that little sliver of light that comes in between the crack in the panels.

Once, I watched my cat lounging out in a patch of sun on the living room floor. It was a crummy kind of day and for a moment I thought of how nice it would be to just hang out there where it was warm and comfortable. So I got down on the floor, lay down next to my cat and closed my eyes. Fortunately, nobody was watching. Unfortunately, I have now admitted to that publicly.

But it was nice just hanging out there, my cat all purring and soft, and the sun shining warm and bright. I felt better almost instantly.

It should remind us that being in the right place at the right time matters. As marketers, we have plenty of places we could be! There’s email, there’s social, there are our websites… there are networking events, conventions, speaking gigs.

We certainly have options… but where’s the sunny spot? Where will we get the results we want and need?

Even if you only consider social marketing, there are myriad places we could spend our time. But where are our customers? Where can we go to find the biggest, brightest spot in our day?

Take a lesson from my cat and remember that the best place to be isn’t always the same place. Sometimes you’ve got to get up and move. If you notice your customers losing interest in your Pinterest photos but hanging out with you on Facebook in droves, then that’s where you’ve got to be, too.

Be a cat today: think about where you can spend your time – or expend your efforts – to get the most out of it. Don’t settle on any old option. Consider where your customers are, where you’re most comfortable and where the attention is brightest and take advantage of the opportunity.

Cats are wonderful and unique just like your business! I could go on for another 3,000 words but then this would stop being fun anymore, except maybe for a few seriously fanatical cat people.

So I’ll leave you with this challenge: next time your cat, or dog, or bird… or some spider crawling on your wall catches your attention, I want you to think of a way you can apply their behavior to your business and walk away with a lesson.

Why?

Because it’s fun.

Because it’ll force you to think about your business at an odd moment when your guard is down.

Because it will force you to be a little creative in how you see things and that’s always good for you and good for your business.

Think a little differently today. Find inspiration in unexpected places. And never underestimate the power of a poking cat.

Come on, share your weird lessons with me in the comments! And if you come up with one sometime in the future, email me and share your story.

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Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn is a content creator and marketer who has been in the business of digital marketing since 1999. Along with her husband and business partner Ralph, she owns and operates both {Web.Search.Social}, a consulting and marketing services business, and Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio. On any given day Carol Lynn will wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. Her true passion is writing, whether it’s web content, a blog post, email campaign or social status update. When she's not writing for customers, {Web.Search.Social}, or her own blog, she's planning her early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • http://inspiretothrive.com/ Lisa Buben

    Love this one Carol. I’ll have to watch my cat more intensely too :) I really need to more of #1 – turning off all those distractions daily would sure help. I love finding ways around obstacles – there are always some everyday now it seems. Your cats are adorable!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I wanted to do something fun so there you have it! As for distractions, it’s hard to do because there are so many of them but it does help me get more done at the end of a day. Thanks for stopping by :)

  • http://www.writerightwords.com/ Erin Feldman

    I love this post! I sometimes use my cat to make a point, too. I have one post entitled “How to Train Your Cat (and Your Writing).”

  • Donna Merrill

    Carol, I so enjoyed this post!

    I love the way you used the analogy of your cat to business. I was laughing so hard when you talked about persistence and he behavior of your cat. It is so true!
    Also that sunny space: We can get stuck on the social media platforms, but we need to have that mindset of a marketer and stay in that sunny space where we can market well. I find that through stories, the message becomes so clear
    This post will really stick in my mind.
    Thanks and I love your cats!!!
    Donna

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks Donna, I had fun with this one. Sometimes you just gotta be a little goofy – but still there are things to learn! I agree on storytelling. It does stick in your head. Next time you’re working on a tough project you may just think about my cat poking me in the head :)

  • Adrienne

    OMG I love this post Carol and how funny! I was chuckling all the way through because although I don’t have any cats, we use to growing up. I know how persistent they can be when they want something. Man, they’ll have you training in nothing flat but then again, so will your dog.

    I love analogies and how we can relate one thing to another. You have pointed that out beautifully here and made it fun too!

    Thanks for always entertaining Carol and thanks your children too. Without them this post may not have been as fun.

    ~Adrienne

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Adrienne, they are definitely fun. Even when they make me want to pull my hair out. I enjoy these types of analogies too. Sometimes I worry they’re too silly but people seem to enjoy them too, so why not. We can still take a good lesson away and have some fun too, right?

  • http://necessityofchange.com Mary Stephenson

    Hi Carol Lynn

    Loved you bringing in your cats to your post. Yeah I am one of those “seriously fanatical cat people”. I brought in one of my cat stories on “Problem Solving: Did The Cat Eat Your Cake?”, just recently. Our pets can be a great inspiration for posts.

    Probably almost everyone has been taken in by the shiny new object BS. But unfortunately it can keep training good resources which would have been better used elsewhere. I now have become so cautious, that I actually go to Google and type in whatever it is someone is trying to sell me and put the word “scam” after it. And maybe there are somethings that I should buy, but now I can’t due to the “thieves in the night”.

    It definitely takes a long time to see progress, but persistence will pay off I am sure.

    Thanks for the fun post.

    Mary

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks Mary, I’m glad you enjoyed this and it’s nice to talk to another cat fanatic! I’ll tell you, there is a pretty good chance the cat did eat my cake… at least one of them is quite fond of frosting, especially if it’s cream cheese frosting. Hold onto your red velvet and carrot cake when she’s around. I have to check out your post, that sounds like fun to.

      Good tip on finding scams. i personally like to read all the negative reviews – not to be negative but to check out what KIND of negative reviews. not everyone likes the same product but if people are complaining about its validity that’s a whole other problem. Will have to keep your tip in mind!

  • http://www.theworld4realz.com/ Andi-Roo

    Carol Lynn, this post is one of my favorites by you! I love your kitties & think it’s great how much they obviously mean to you. You’re a great kitty-mommy! Also? I want that scratching post for my own baby.

    Here’s a lesson my cat has taught me, which seems applicable: My cat is poly-dactyl, which means she has thumbs, & which also means she’s among the smartest of the cat breeds. She has learned the various ways to open — yes, actually OPEN — different doors in our home. I instantly thought of that while reading your piece, because it made me think about the fact that there’s always going to be a different obstacle (door) blocking your path, but using your brain and whatever tools (thumbs) you have at your disposal, you can always manage work your way through to the other side.

    I know this kind of echoes your bit on persistence. I just really wanted to talk about my cat’s thumbs & how awesome it is that she can open doors.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I love it! A cat that opens doors… how much fun that must be. And also a great analogy! Use what you have at your disposal, a little ingenuity, and you’ll be opening doors, too. I have to admit though I’ve never actually heard of a cat with thumbs so now I’m a little jealous. Then again… seriously, do you need child locks??

      And yes I love my babies. They are spoiled to death but I wouldn’t share my Ben & Jerry’s with anyone else.

  • http://twitter.com/SylvianeNuccio Sylviane Nuccio

    Oh my God, just when I saw the title you know that I wanted to read this post as I am a cat fan as well as a fan of your posts :)

    Having and knowing cats I so agree with everything you said about cats and I had to laugh when you said… you’d only suggest that if you don’t have a cat. I concur, indeed. There is no not give the cat what he or she wants! Cats rule the house.

    When you talk about persistence what better example than a cat, there are persistence personified or “catified” :)

    Don’ t be ashamed, Carol, I’ve crawled on that sunny spot with my cats too, what a great place to be :) That was an excellent analogy between cat qualities and internet marketers and I really enjoyed every word!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thank you Sylvaine, I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was fun to write and I love my babies even though they are spoiled to death :) Currently my fat cat’s favorite place to be is sleeping on the skirt under the Christmas tree!

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Hi Carol Lynn, I loved your analogies and your images! You’re so right, cats can teach you a lot about how to behave in marketing, business and life. You’re right about staying focused and identifying crap to stay away from. Those two seem to go hand-in-hand. If you stay focused you will recognize crap. If you avoid crap, you will be able to focus on the important stuff.

    I will definitely start paying attention to these lessons. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      You’re right, Carolyn! More focus equals less crap. We tend to get distracted by shiny things and big promises but that isn’t always in our best interest.

  • http://twitter.com/write_clever Sue Neal

    I love this post, Carol Lynn – I have both dogs and cats, but I think your choice of cats is a good one, because they’re so independent, such individualists.

    Mind you, my labrador can teach a thing or two about the value of persistence, single-mindedness and keeping an eye on the prize (when it’s edible!) Sadly, he’s not very discriminating and will eat any old crap…

    Thanks for this – I especially like the little “be a cat today” prompts at the end of each section – great stuff,

    Sue

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks Sue! It takes a cat owner to understand… they do have a mind of their own. Dogs are their own unique species! My parents have a cocker spaniel and she has the same persistence you describe… when it comes to anything edible. We’ve lost more than one sandwich, cookie or meal to her! And yet… you’re right, she will also eat the gum off the bottom of a shoe if it’s there :)

      Glad you enjoyed this. I like finding inspiration in odd places.

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Dead on Carol Lynn! Being a cat lover I must say, you nailed it. We learn tremendous lessons from our little buddy…especially the one about being fed crap. Cats know it, right away! And they do not hide their disdain. We too should be aware of shoveling jobs.

    Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Funny how the cat people are the ones who got anything out of this :) if only we could all tell when we’re being fed junk (figuratively, of course)… there would be a lot less “get rich quick” blog posts, that’s for sure.