What I Learned About Marketing From “2 1/2 Men”

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This is first article in a series about dealing with clients

“2 1/2 Men” is a randy, funny and very coarse sitcom that’s popular in reruns. People normally don’t look for nuggets of wisdom from old TV shows, but I saw real-life truths about marketing in one extremely funny episode of “2 1/2 Men.”

To fans of the show Charlie Harper’s brother Alan is the world’s most hapless loser. Actor Jon Cryer plays Alan to the hilt, a character who has perfected the fine art of undermining his success. He never fails to wallow in his misery and feel sorry for himself. He is a miser, a mooch, and exasperates his brother Charlie by refusing to move out of the beach house and get his own place.

There’s many things wrong with Alan’s life: he’s on the hook for alimony for two ex-wives, he has a dull-witted son, a low income, and Alan’s family can’t stand his personality. Yet this discussion resonates in the real world because lots of real people are just like Alan Harper. It’s a story about how Alan leaves money on the table and remains poor by not marketing his business properly.

He has every opportunity to prosper, yet Alan exists at the margins of his profession. Alan has the degree, the office and proximity to some of the world’s most rich and health-conscious people, yet he still cannot improve his financial lot. Alan compensates for his low income by being a miser, and paddles furiously to keep from being sucked into a financial eddy.

Alan Harper, doctor of chiropractic

Alan Harper, not winning.

Alan is a failed doctor of chiropractic who doesn’t need to be. One very relevant episode addressed the root causes of Alan’s failure as a businessman and a chiropractor: missed opportunities, a lack of marketing, and placing a low dollar value on his business by thinking small.

What Alan Did Right

Alan had a great idea one day when he decided he would borrow money from family and friends to market his services. Raising the money was easy; his family loves him even though they hate him. Alan ultimately stacked $50K worth of ill-gotten paper.

Everything went wrong soon after he smelled money. All those benjamins in his pocket were too much for Alan to handle.

What Alan Did Wrong

Alan never acted on his marketing ideas, and his big plans for business outreach degenerated into a Ponzi scheme. The money Alan borrowed from people went towards high-dollar shopping to soothe his battered ego, and he eventually needed to be bailed out.

Instead of marketing his business, he became a big spender on trivial things. He treated himself to a personal restyling, including a new designer wardrobe and an expensive salon haircut. Alan felt big with cash in his pocket, although he was guilty of thinking small by spending money on expensive clothing and not his business.

Alan Dragged Himself Down (Again)

Ultimately, Alan spent most of the money on unimportant things and achieved none of his goals. The sheen (pun intended) of his acquisitions faded quickly. Even though he had the opportunity to advance, Alan remained stuck in the same place because he failed to grab it. In the next episode, he went back to being the same annoying loser.

I know, Alan wouldn’t be funny if he became successful, as he’s a foil for glamorous, successful Charlie. But Alan’s like a lot of real-life people.

What Can Be Learned From Alan?

The episode presented several important lessons about marketing in a humorous way. We learned about the importance of marketing a business, the high value that others place on marketing and how any business can suffer when marketing plans go awry or unfulfilled.

In short, marketing was the “tiger blood” that Alan needed.

Working With A Client Like Alan

Clients like Alan are tough to work with. They often don’t put much value on a marketing budget. To them, money well-spent goes towards covering day to day expenses and buying stuff. A client like Alan will piss and moan about every dollar spent on the campaign. He’ll be anxious about the ad content and second guess you every step of the way.

If you find yourself working with an Alan and can’t afford to give him walking papers, I’d handle it like this: Make it clear to him upfront what he could expect from the campaign before it starts. Present an itemized budget before work begins. If possible, do everything you can to show him results quickly. Multiple email blasts or whatever it takes to get fast results will soothe an Alan quickly.

Don’t Be An Alan

Are you an Alan of the world? Do you market your business effectively, or neglect to market at all? If marketing is low on your priorities list, it’s gonna cost ya. Effective marketing is money well spent. It gets the word out to the right people about how your brand can solve their problems, which helps you get richer.

I write marketing copy, and I know that words that sell pay for themselves. Take action now improving your business with better sales copy.

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