I Was a Little Kid
I used to say that my big brother — he’s 8.5 years older — should have been an entertainer. He was particularly adept at entertaining me. Before I could walk, he had me trained to look (and then answer) to his whistle. Yeah, he had my attention from the second he saw me.
Now I realize he was a natural-born permission marketer. He got buy in like this. Notice the upsell at the end.
My big brother: [He’d whistle. I come running from another room. He’d make me laugh with something he’d say. Then he’d give the call to action — it might be an errand or one of his chores.] I’d sure like a glass of milk but I don’t want to miss this movie on TV. Tell you what. I’ll trade you a toy in my junk drawer, if you’ll get it for me. Are you up for that? . . . unless you’re too busy.
I was a kid. How busy could I be? [My brother’s infamous junk drawer had every trinket, dead pen, and carnival toy that he’d ever collected.]
Me: Do I get to look go look first?
My big brother: You’re a smart dealer. Sure kid, have at it. Let me know, if you see something you want.
Something?!! From his broken chop sticks to his scratched-up, plastic magnifying glass, that drawer was a treasure chest of the unforeseen and unexpressed needs of the small child I was. Inevitably, I’d choose something I couldn’t live without.
My big brother: Whoa, kid! Where’d you find that?!! That doesn’t belong in my junk drawer . . . Oh well, fair is fair. Get me a glass of milk, and I’ll part with that valuable object. Still, I’d hurry if I were you, because I’ll change my mind if I think about parting with what you’ve got there.
He’d have his milk in seconds. Then, I’d disappear to my room with my prize.
Minutes later, my brother would whistle again.
My big brother: How’s my favorite thing?
Me: [glowing, grinning with achievement] It’s my favorite thing now.
My big brother: This milk sure would taste good with some of mom’s cookies. . . .
By the time I was 10, I had an outstanding junk drawer of my own.
My big brother had my opt-in with the whistle and got my permission at every step. The chores and prizes got larger as I grew up, but he never asked for too much. I didn’t opt-out until I was nearly 12.
That whistle still makes me look.
Have you ever known a natural-born permission marketer?
Disclaimer: As in all stories about my brothers, every word of this story is true except for the ones I made up.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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