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Dead Cat Marketing

Suppose your business sells something to a customer.  Following the sale, you gather no information about them.  Instead you send the customer out the door and off into the universe, hoping they will come back again someday.  In the time that follows, you make no direct or indirect attempt to determine if the customer is happy with the level of service provided, feels good about the purchase, would be inclined to come back or will tell others about good things about you.  In this scenario you have a customer that potentially exists in multiple states.  Happy? Angry? Loyal? Profitable? Vocal? Dissatisfied? Disgusted? Disengaged completely?  You can theorize about it, but you don’t really know until they come back again.  In this scenario, you are engaging in dead cat marketing.

“Dead cat?”  “What the heck are you talking about dead cats for?”  To answer that, we travel back to 1935, where Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger created a hypothetical experiment now known as Schroedinger’s Cat.  It used the following construct:

“A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against interference from the cat) : in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of one hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none [will decay]; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrochloric acid.  If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed.  The first atomic decay would have poisoned it”

In short if  the device triggered the hammer, the cat is dead.  If the device did not yet trigger the hammer, the cat is alive.  To the outside observer, the cat exists in multiple states.  The cat can be considered to both alive and dead.  You can not know until you open the box.  Schroedinger was using this experiment as a way to debate quantum physics.  Since I  know nothing about quantum physics, I will instead use analogy to share what I think this means to Marketing.   Here goes…

deadcatboxIn the box, the cat was either very alive or very dead.  The observer’s uncertainty did not truly dictate that outcome.  It simply prevented the observer from knowing.  The same holds true of your customers.  Whether you choose to ask them or not, they have an opinion.  They may hate you, they may love you.  You can speculate all you want, but until you listen you can not be certain.  Until you are certain, or at least have some probability of certainty, you can’t do much to improve.

Good marketing requires you to “open the box.”   Unlike the cat experiment, chances are that the outcome with customers is not an absolute.  Rather than dead cat or living cat, customers are likely on more of a continuum – from very happy to very unhappy customers.  You need to ask, observe, measure, and… then actually do something to alter the outcome where appropriate and able.   The beauty of the social web, search, rss, email, online surveys and other tools we now have, are they make the box very easy to open.  People are already out there talking, you just need to make the effort to listen.

While Schroedinger’s cat, if found dead, could not come back to life, opening the box and listening to your customers can bring new life to your business.