A marketing lesson from 9/11

Amy and I attended a wedding recently.

We knew the parents of the bride but almost no one else there.

Given that I am not outgoing or terribly social, these situations
are always uncomfortable for me.

Anyway, to avoid awkward silence, I forced myself to make small
talk with RH, the guy sitting next to me at my assigned table.

RH and most of the other friends of the bride’s parents were a
tad older than me — early to mid-60s.

Anyway, I asked RH what he did, and he told me that even though
he had been in corporate IT, he was now working as a high school

I assumed he had been fired from his IT position.

He was sort of, but not quite.

The company didn’t outright fire him.

They said they were shutting down their NJ office, which was
about a 20-minute drive from his home. He had worked in this
nearby office for over a decade.

They gave him a choice: get downsized or keep your job but move
to our NYC office.

He told me: “I almost did, but at my age, I just didn’t want a 90-minute
commute to work.”

“And so even though I didn’t want to leave my job, I refused the
offer — and I was out on the street.

“No one wanted to hire a senior IT guy whose experience was
strictly on older platforms, so I could not get another corporate
job and ended up making a tiny fraction of my old salary doing
menial work.”

But that’s not the end of the story.

The company’s NYC office was in the World Trade Center.

A few weeks after he would have moved to that office, 9/11

Everyone in the office was killed, as RH would have almost surely
been had he taken the job at the WTC.

The lesson is something you already know.

A lot of what happens in life, good or bad, is timing, which is
just a subset of luck.

So don’t beat yourself up too much over the bad stuff — and
conversely, don’t pat yourself on the back too briskly for the
good stuff.

Much of what happens results from factors beyond our control.

If you want more proof that forces we have no control over
what determines much of our lives, read Adam Alter’s excellent
book on that subject, “Drunk Tank Pink” (Penguin).

But here’s the good news about timing as it applies to marketing
(Alter is a Marketing Professor).

To make the sale, you have to be in front of the prospect at the
right time — the time he is thinking about buying your product or
another like it.

And the way to be there at the right time is to be there ALL the

In the pre-Internet era, that was almost impossible, because
print and broadcast media were generally too expensive for that
kind of frequency.

But in the digital age, we CAN be there all the time … or at
least much of the time … in an affordable way with blogs,
e-newsletters, banner ads, and other online media.

So timing is everything. And the best way to make sure your
timing is right in marketing is to be there all of the time — or
as close to that as you can get.


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