Tips for Entrepreneurs: Napoleon’s marketing secret
When you can really feel the pain of your clients you will have an easy time selling your products and services.
'The coronation of Napoleon,' 1807 Photo: Courtesy
Napoleon’s enemies had put a bounty on his head. On the run, fleeing capture, he
came across a village. He urgently knocked on the door of a house and begged,
“Please, I beg you – have mercy and hide me! People are running after me, and if
discovered I will surely be killed!” The resident, a Jewish tailor, was
compassionate and instructed Napoleon to hide under his bed, which was quite
thick and stuffed with goose feathers.
Not a moment had passed from when
Napoleon had hidden when some scary looking men burst into the house.
anyone hiding here, Jew?” “No,” the Jew replied.
“Is there something
wrong?” The soldiers went through the house of the poor tailor, searching every
nook and cranny and ransacking everything, to see if in fact their prey was
After searching though the kitchen, they went into the
All the clothes were dumped on the floor, as were all
the clothes the tailor was in the middle of sewing. For good measure, they
punctured the featherbeds and pillows several times with their bayonets to make
sure no one was hiding underneath.
Fortunately for Napoleon, the beds
were quite thick, and he stayed quiet without making a sound, and was unharmed.
Grousing at losing their catch and their bounty, they moved onto the next
After the men left, Napoleon, drenched in sweat from his close
encounter with death, came out from his hiding place. He told the Jew: “I am the
Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and I thank you for saving my life. As a reward for
saving me, you can ask me anything, and if it is in my power, I will grant it to
The tailor thought and said, “Glorious emperor, I’m an old man. I
make a decent living and have a roof over my head. My children all live happily
and I have no need for money... so with your permission I’d like to ask you
“As you wish,” Napoleon said. “Ask what’s on your
“OK,” the tailor said, in an unsure and shaky voice.
would like to know how you felt laying under the featherbed as they stabbed the
mattress with their bayonets...”
“You fool!” Napoleon shouted. “How dare
you ask such a question of the emperor? You have just rebelled against the
crown. You will be shot by a firing squad tomorrow morning!” Distressed at this
strange and sudden turn of events, the tailor repented all that night, knowing
it was his last night on earth. At six o’clock the next morning, he was taken to
the place of execution.
He was blindfolded and his hands were tied. A
three-soldier firing squad pointed their rifles at him, and an officer
instructed the soldiers, “Fire on the count of three.”
The officer began
his count. “One!” he yelled. “Two!” ...just as he was about to reach three, a
rider on horseback galloped up toward the execution site, yelling “upon order of
the emperor! HALT!” The rider then handed the trembling tailor a note. It said,
“You wanted to know exactly how I felt lying there under the bed. Now you know.
My dear readers: That is the secret to sales. When you
can really feel the pain of your clients and understand what they are going
though – as if it was yourself˜– you will have an easy time selling your
products and services, because you truly understand them.
I have a client
in New York who sells kitchen supplies.
While schmoozing, he told me he
had been a professional chef for years. Those years gave him contacts and
insights into commercial kitchens, how they worked and what products were needed
(and what kind of profits there was in connecting people with the equipment they
need.) Once I heard this, my vision for his marketing materials became crystal
“The reason chefs and restaurateurs need to be using your company
is not because your prices are a bit cheaper. That won’t make them leave a
supplier they know just to save a few nickels.
“The reason they will
leave a supplier to use you is because you aren’t just a salesperson hawking
kitchen supplies. They’ll use you because they know you understand how they
feel, and what they’re going through. Because you have an industry background
and understand what gives specific dishes their secret, you have their best
interests in mind.”
People do business with people they like, who have
experienced the same problems they have, and overcome them. Identifying with
your client’s experiences is a positioning you can build nicely on! When your
clients truly feel that you understand their problems as if they were your own,
then there’s almost no selling needed at all. It’s merely two people sharing a
problem and trying to overcome it for their mutual
Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser,
marketer, professional speaker and rabbi who has been published in more than 50