Can I Show You Our Suit

Give people choice. When you're selling an idea, give people some selection. Don't just show them one idea. Nobody ever walked into a haberdashery that had only one suit. Nobody ever walked into an automobile showroom that had only one car. Nobody ever walked into a computer showroom that had only one computer. People want choice. Give it to them.

When I first started in the ad business, a senior writer told me that if you show people one idea, one of two things will happen. If they like you, they'll say they like it. If they don't like you, they'll say they don't like it. But if you show them three ideas and ask them which is best, they'll probably tell you the truth, and if they don't like you and tell you they like A, you'll know it's B or C that's best.

Of course, to give people choice forces you to have more than one idea. And, I'm not saying have one good idea and five bad ones; they all have to be good. But, heck, if you're using 100 MPH Thinking, you've got more ideas than you know what to present anyway. Offer them a choice. Many people are afraid of taking that leap. Because a lot of people don't believe they can have lots of good ideas. Well, I believe you can, and I've been around enough high-quality creative people who believe they can — and do. Besides that, an interesting thing happens when you present choice. A 180° experience, so to speak.

You see, most people in trying to sell an idea are really just trying to get someone else to buy the single idea they want them to take. Well, going back to the Tao of selling (i.e., force meets force and surrender meets surrender), when you try to force people, they forcibly say no, quite typically. When you offer them a choice, quite frequently after absorbing the many choices, the sellee will ask, "Well, what do you recommend?" And then you can make your recommendation. Easy.

You may go in with a favorite, but I will tell you that if you have an open mind, and this has happened to me on many occasions, after judging the reaction ofyour audience to your numerous ideas, your favorite might change. If you go in with a hard-and-fast recommendation, then change your stance when you hear a reaction, you could look like a fool or you could look like you're open-minded, depending on how you play it. But when you offer a choice, quite often people will ask what you recommend. And as a professional, isn't that what you want?

The great irony is that if you recommend only one idea, they look for a choice. I work with ad agencies that say, "We present only one concept per ad." And I'll ask how often they present only one. "Well, we present one five times in a row until we get it right." Well, then you're not presenting just one. You're having a very, very lengthy choice session (and very expensive, I might add). And how often do they come back and take choice number 2 after seeing numbers 3 and 4? It does happen, and it's a waste of time, effort, and money.

I like offering choice early on in the creative process. I don't like offering a choice of finished ideas. That's a lot of wasted effort. I like offering people a choice of ideas that are in earlier stages of development. But make sure they're all at similar stages of development,

Timeline of a great idea (continued)

Timeline of a lousy idea (continued)

"I should have gone to Tom Monahan's Creative Camp."

because sometimes the ones further along in development have an unfair advantage.

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