Do you know the story of Puss in Boots? Not the hilarious movie with Antonio Banderas that came out a few years ago, but the original fairy tale?
I recently read a version of it to my friend’s adorable little girl, who said it was her favorite story. As I read, I was struck with how many valuable lessons this particular fairy tale offers that can help people become better marketers and business people.
Here are five of the lessons I took from it:
1. Look for out-of-the-box solutions
When an old miller dies, he divides his estate between his two eldest sons, leaving his youngest nothing but a cat. The young man is bitterly disappointed and worries that without any money he’ll soon die of hunger. But the cat tells him to have faith and says that if the young man gives him a burlap sack and a pair of boots, he may find his fortune yet.
The young man decides to put his trust in the cat and spends his meager collection of coins on buying the sack and the boots for the cat. Why? Because the cat presented him with a completely unexpected, out-of-the-box opportunity. Yes, it was big gamble, but it had something huge going for it:
a FREAKIN’ TALKING CAT.
2. Be unforgettable
The cat puts on his fancy boots then uses the sack to catch rabbits, which he presents to the king as a gift from his master, “The Marquis of Carabas,” a name he’d just made up.
The king is enthralled by the talking cat in the fancy boots and is intrigued by the mysterious Marquis of Carabas, who owns such an unforgettable cat. He is predisposed to think very highly of the man before he even meets him.
3. Be generous and over-deliver
For months the cat continues to deliver presents of game to the king on behalf of his master, the Marquis of Carabas, never asking for anything in return. As a result, the king looks forward to his visits and thinks very highly of him.
And there you have the recipe for a successful content marketing plan: build a relationship by giving generously and asking for little in return, and only present them with an offer once they have gotten to know and like you.
4. Trust is everything
The cat goes to his master one day and says, “If you will only follow my advice, your fortune is made. Go to the river and bathe just where I show you.”
The young man is surprised. Those are his only clothes and he already gave the cat his last few coins for the burlap sack and the boots. But the cat has won his trust and so he does as he’s asked.
No sooner has he started splashing in the water than he hears the carriage of the king approach. The cat jumps out in front of it and tells the king that his master, the Marquis of Carabas, has just been robbed of his clothes while bathing. Eager to finally meet the cat’s master, the king offers to lend him some clothes. When the young man approaches the carriage in his borrowed finery, they treat him as an honored aristocrat.
Why? Because the Marquis has already won the king’s trust through the actions of his amazing cat.
5. Positive word of mouth is essential
The cat asks the king to take them to a castle he knows to be owned by a troll. He pretends that the castle and all the surrounding farmlands belong to the Marquis of Carabas and runs ahead to ask the farmers and peasants to tell anyone who asks that the lands belong to the Marquis of Carabas. Their assertions convince the king that the Marquis is a man of wealth and honor.
6. Kill the troll first
The cat runs ahead to the castle where he finds the evil troll waiting for him. He says he’s heard of the troll’s ability to shape shift and asks him to prove it. Eager to show off, the troll transforms into a huge lion. Then the cat asks the troll if it can turn into a mouse—and when it does, it pounces and eats him.
To me, this speaks to the importance of facing your challenges head-on and breaking them into manageable pieces that you can easily deal with in order to keep moving forward.
7. The universe rewards those who fulfill their promises
When the king gets to the castle and sees how awesome it is, he pretty much begs the Marquis to become his son-in-law. His daughter, “the loveliest princess in the world,” is ecstatic because she fell in love with the young man the moment she saw him in his borrowed finery. The young man marries the princess and the cat lives with them in the castle as a great lord, enjoying a life of luxury and only chasing after mice when he feels like it.
And good for the cat – he made an outrageous promise to his master but then completely over-delivered on that promise and gave the young man more than he could ever possibly have asked for. When you make a promise and then not only fulfill that promise but deliver more value than people ever expected, they will become diehard loyal fans.
So those are the marketing tips I learned from Puss in Boots. Even though it’s just a fairy tale, its lessons have stuck with me.
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