- Sun, January 25 2009
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
Last night at a dinner party, I met a lovely, lively, smart couple over great cassoulet, and they told us how they met. Picture this: It was New Year’s. They were at a party, they’d chatted, and as the evening grew late, he was having trouble collecting the nerve to ask her out. So he rapidly consumed a large amount of red wine for fortification and, as she was leaving the party, he went up to her and blurted, “If I were to call you sometime and ask you out, would you go on a date with me?”
She turned to him as she was putting on her coat, and with all the aplomb of Katharine Hepburn zinging Spencer Tracy, said, “If you call me, maybe you’ll find out.”
She later told her friends she thought the pre-ask was absurd. He later told his friends he thought he HAD asked her out, in his own way.
Thankfully, he found her work number on the Internet and asked her out with 100% clarity and conviction a few days later. She said yes. They’re now married.
We had a lot of laughs over the “pre-ask” which most of us agreed was not an ask at all. Which got me thinking.
The “pre-ask” is actually out there in all kinds of ways. Especially in marketing. We often pull the “pre-ask” with the assumption it will lead to a yes. We make a goal of generating awareness, with our assumption being, “if we show how great our cause is, someday when we ask the person will say yes.” Yep, that’s a pre-ask.
Here’s the problem: the pre-ask is wasted breath. As shown by the witty woman in my story here, most people treat the pre-ask as a non-ask. Any response to a pre-ask is not to be trusted. The real answer will only come when you do ask.
Bill Novelli, from whom I learned most of what I know about nonprofit marketing, once told me the following: If your goal is life is to raise awareness, you might as well be shoveling pamphlets out of airplanes. Be in the business of creating action, not awareness.
In this economy, with dwindling marketing budgets, don’t waste money on the pre-ask. Unlike the couple in my story, you may not get a happy ending. Make a great case for your cause, then make a very clear call to action. (Tips on calls to action here.)