The Power of One trumps every other number in your marketing toolkit

I could hardly believe my ears. “So you’re telling me you had to make another appointment?” I asked incredulously. My friend stirred her skinny frappé, clinked her spoon onto the saucer and took a sip of the steaming brew. “Yes,” she replied. “One problem at a time – that’s what the doctor said. When I told him it might actually save time to kill two birds with one stone – not the best choice of words, I admit – he said it was a false economy.” She seemed unnaturally calm, so clearly her blood pressure was under control. Mine wouldn’t have been, faced with such bureaucratic pigheadedness, so I asked what her secret was. Meditation? Deep breathing? Prozac? “None of the above,” she said with a smile. “I just saw it made sense.” And then she explained why.

Medical manoeuvres

I must admit, I was sceptical at first. But then, I began to see her point. As one frappé led to another, she slowly brought me round to her way of thinking. Here’s the espresso version:
  • Appointment slots are limited (10 minutes).
  • It’s important not to rush things. Or rather, to rush them even more.
  • If you know that you have something else to attend to, you’re not giving the first thing your undivided attention. It applies to everybody, including doctors.
  • The two things may or may not be related, so you don’t want the first to influence the second, or vice versa.
  • Focusing on one thing is always more effective, and always leads to better results (medical and non-medical, she felt it necessary to add).
And you know what? I agree with her diagnosis. What on the face of it seems like a process-led, jobsworth, pettifogging  approach, actually makes sense when you think about it. And it’s exactly what I do every day, when I don my white coat, check my client charts and dissect a copywriting brief.

The marketing treatment

Giving one thing your complete attention is more satisfying, whether it’s a meal, a film, a book, or a conversation. And that especially applies in today’s always-on world, with its constant distractions and temptations. It works for you, and it works for your client, reader, prospect, contact, and just about anybody else you can think of. Yes, yes, I know, you have a lot to say. But they’re busy and assailed from all angles by marketing messages. You have a limited time – like the doctor, except it’s usually seconds, not minutes. So you need to know what you want to do with it. The doctor wants to cure one specific problem. You want to address one specific aim: sell, inform, persuade, get them to take action. So what’s your marketing medication? I’m not thinking a fistful of pills here, but a targeted approach that gets to the heart of the problem.
  • What’s the ONE main point of your piece of communication?
  • What’s the ONE action you want people to take?
  • Maybe you don’t have a typical reader – and I hear this over and over (“it appeals to all types of people”) – but if you absolutely had to describe your ONE ideal client, what would they look like? Write for that one person, and everything else will follow. Even the ones who aren’t like that are close enough to get the message.
Say everything, and you say nothing. Address everybody, and you address nobody. Try to get people to remember 10 things, and they remember none. So let me practice what I preach. What’s the one thing I want you to take away from this? Simple: remember the Power of One. One message, one client, one point, one action. And one result. Success.

Kill or cure

So did my friend make the second appointment? And did the one-problem-per-visit approach work? “It certainly did. The first problem is under control. As for the second – well, he told me to drink less coffee,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. She picked up her oversized mug and slurped her creamy concoction. “But you know what? I can only follow one course of treatment at a time.” I’ll drink to that.