Think of all the marketing lessons we learned from our mothers. Naturally. Free. With no college tuition. All we had to pay was attention.
Here are a few lessons I learned from my marketing teacher (my mom):
- Incentives: “You better clean up your room before your father gets home.”
- Sampling: “OK, you can lick the frosting off the beaters, but don’t tell your brothers.”
- Surveys: “What flavor of Kool-Aid do you want on your birthday?”
- Loyalty: “I don’t care if it’s not ‘cool.’ Take your little brother with you to when you meet your friends at the park.”
- Repetition Works: “Gee, it only took 12 years, but you finally listened and put the toilet seat down.”
- Relationship Marketing: This is where my mother really shined. She stayed married to my dad for over 60 years. But she also could form an instant bond with people she just met, and a friendship not many could forget would follow.
In her last days, Mom had to move to an assisted living center. This once-active lady now found herself wheelchair-bound, battling severe Alzheimer’s Disease, a broken hip and other ailments.
My brothers and I visited her every single day. But I often would come in as an aide had just helped her transition from bed to wheelchair or back — a very painful process for her. She never failed to tell them, “Thank you, honey. You’re so nice. I love you.”
I’m not sure if she knew of the power of praise and compliments as an employee relationship technique. But no one handed out compliments more often or more sincerely. “I have the best kids in the world,” she would say. Or “You’re such a good son. I don’t deserve you.” She’d say that daily. Actually, she’d say it three or four times in the same ten-minute span, because she would forget she already said it.
To the nurses and aides who took care of her medical needs, Mom always said, “Look at you. You are so beautiful.” And she meant it. They knew it. It usually brought a smile to their faces, and sometimes a tear as well.
A big part of “content marketing” is offering useful advice. When I was struggling with business and home and kids and working late, my mom, at that time in her early 70s, would often slip into my office when I was out of town and leave inspirational notes, prayers and words of support.
One of them was the famous “Don’t Quit” poem. “When care is pressing you down a bit,” it read, “Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.” I kept it taped to my computer or wall for over 20 years. Then last year, I took it off and taped it to the memory book of family photos I made to help her remember everyone’s name.
Unfortunately, my marketing teacher had a stroke last Saturday and slipped into a coma. I’m not sure if she’ll be here when this column is published.
But she likes when I read to her, and I often do. Usually, it’s Bible stories or children’s books. So tonight, I’ll sit by her and read this column to her while we’re alone in her room.
Maybe she’ll be able to hear me. Maybe she won’t. But what I would give for just one more lesson.
Photo: Carmella Marie Farris
Postscript — This column was written July 11 and published July 16 in the The Business Journal. Carmella Farris passed away July 13, 2013. She was 83.