Friday, January 02, 2009

Better Living Through Sales and Marketing

What caught my eye was her name. Merydeth. Oh dear, I thought, for it was too late: I couldn't stop. I was on this particular site--an online publication for the NPR set--to read my very favorite advice column. But over to the right, a randomly-selected-and-placed personal ad had distracted me. Merydeth is her name, and she is interested in candles and dried roses and such.

Clearly, the thing to do was continue. I looked through a few other enticing snippets.

A fellow we'll call Tim would like for us to know that in his bedroom, one will find "Warmth and style, as I have recreated the ambience of a European Villa."

And one rather texture-focused lady, ostensibly hailing from North Carolina, judging by her handle, which I've shortened to Silky, says "I am lookin for a man not a boy. I am lookin for someone to treat me right."

As a happily married individual, it's perhaps unfair for me to nitpick the attempts of other people to find true love. After all, I've said more than my share of awkward (at best) things in my own attempts to find it. But I've always believed that when you're on the market, so to speak, advertising the buyer benefits (forgive me, I've been in marketing a long time now) is the most important thing you can do! What's in it for me? is always, always what it boils down to.

My hunch is that Merydeth will fare best out of these three; she is part of a very specific, easily-identifiable demographic. Like attracts like; voila. Tim and Silky, however, are a different story. And now I feel the need to address them directly.

Tim, no woman wants to hear that your bedroom looks like a European villa. Villas are really big, Tim. Is your bedroom that big? If your bedroom is that big, why isn't the rest of your apartment that big? Simply put, it's like an unattractive girl saying she's got the wardrobe of a model, do you see what I mean? If I say "model" to you, you immediately think "smoking hot," not "awesome clothes." You may feel somewhat misled when the girl shows up for a date with you. It's okay to live in an apartment. Apartments, for most of us, tend to be smallish. It's okay! And anyway, what kind of European villa did you have in mind when you recreated its ambiance? There are many different countries in Europe, Tim, and they do not all share the same architecture. Or decorating styles, for that matter.

But perhaps I am being too harsh. Let me try a different tack. (A slightly different tack.) The kind of woman you are hoping to attract with your advertisement does not want to visit a man whose apartment bedroom has the ambiance of a European villa. She wants to visit a man who owns a European villa, or inherited one, or can rent a room in one for a few days or so. Tim. Listen to me. Do you like European villas? Are they a special interest of yours? Then why not put that in your ad? If they're not an interest for you, what is? What's in it for me? Because right now, all that's in it for me is that you really wish you were someone else. And that's too bad, for a couple of reasons: a) there's undoubtedly a lot more to you than you're giving yourself credit for; and b) no one wants to be with someone who wishes they were someone else.

Now then, Ms. Silky. This will be quicker, as it's getting late and I am sticking by my resolution to go to bed earlier -- but also because your ad just irked me. Of COURSE you want a man, and not a boy. Of COURSE you want to be treated right. Straight up, sister: if you're that demanding in a personal ad, what incentive does a man have to even answer it? Are those wants really the most interesting things about you? I suspect not. What's in it for me?, they will ask, and when they see your ad they will think: Oh! Not a thing.

People, a personal ad is supposed to be the flash, sanitized, most awesome version of you that can exist in a brief paragraph and one artfully-Photoshopped picture! I know that as a society we've become incredibly sloppy relaxed, airing our dirty laundry all over the place and whatnot, but if this is your best, why should I even entertain the thought of sticking around for your worst? If you're anything like me, your worst is pretty stank anyway, and tends to require a lot of apologizing. So come on. What makes you unique? What about you will make it worth their while? It's not about bragging, you see: it's about knowing your strengths. If you don't know what those are, ask your friends. They'll tell you. The last person you dated? What did he or she best like about you? Ask yourself what would make you valuable to another person.

Maybe you're a terrible cook, you never pick up after yourself, and you routinely oversleep. But maybe you also make the other person feel like a million bucks because when they're talking to you, time stops and nobody else even exists. Maybe you are naturally funny, quick to make other people feel comfortable, always making sure everyone else is having a good time. Small things, maybe. But maybe they're big things. Think about it.

Okay, now. Go out and sell it like the rent's due.