The woman was fiddling with something on the back of her bicycle by the creek head. She turned, startled, when she heard me. She was securing a wire animal trap, it turns out. Now empty.
She'd trapped a chipmunk in a Have-a-Heart trap in her yard and she had let him out here on the opposite end of town. She explained all this quickly and matter-of fact, like it was the most ordinary thing in the world she'd done: deposited a live chipmunk on this rocky creek head by a Maine beach.
The woman had covered the trap with a dishtowel. But why? To conceal what she smuggled on the back of her bike from people she passed? Or to cloak the route for the kidnapped chipmunk himself? To disorient him. Fake him out. So he wouldn't be able to find his way back?
"Better here than in my yard," she'd shouted behind her as she peddled away, the dishtowel flapping behind her.
Better here than in my yard.
Well... maybe for her. But what about the chipmunk?
Not for him, I thought, looking down at him now, his tiny furry toes doing their best to grip the rough ledge of the rock he was on. You think of chipmunks as scamps—scurrying to and fro, relentless as a Roomba. You rarely see them still and silent, like this one rooted on the rock.
I stared into his seed-sized eye with its black eyeliner and white eyeshadow, as perfectly applied as a drag queen's, and I could sense a small brain trying to make sense of what had just happened.
There he was—yes, he had been scurrying then on his Saturday afternoon errands in the copse of trees he called home. And there suddenly before him was a prize... something... a PEANUT?! Out here in his own woods? Impossible! But ooooh it smelled so delicious!
He inches closer to inspect and BAM! ... the trap door shuts behind him and oh no he's trapped. Scared. And alone.
Well, alone with the peanut. At least he has the peanut. He consoles himself with that. No sense having both a heart full of fear and a belly full of nothing. He eats it all up.
And now he's here, on the rocks. He'd chuckle at the irony of that phrase—were he not so freaked out.
And that's where I find him. He takes a few tentative steps, sniffs, trying to get a feel for the land. Where is this, he wonders: The moon?
He looked small, not like a wizened chipmunk who would know that this wasn't the moon. Not experienced enough to know that with one deep sniff he'd catch a whiff just down the street of the start of a Maine forest: Of tall pines and damp, punky leaves molting into the soil; the floor spongy and rotting.
Paradise, really, for a chipmunk.
But he was not wizened. He was a baby lured by the promise of an improbable Maine peanut, who now found himself in a strange landscape, airless and alone.
Why had his captor chosen that spot to release him? Why not the woods across the street? Why had she looked embarrassed when I saw her. And why had she peddled away so quickly? Was this the first chipmunk she'd abandoned?
What in his heart would make him decide which direction to follow, finally? Would he find others, just like him, complaining about their treatment in some private Facebook group? (LOL)
We'll never know. When I passed by again, 30 minutes later, he was gone.
* * *
I've thought of this crazy chipmunk story a hundred times since I witnessed the scene last week. And because I think of everything through a marketing lens (I know!), I've come to think of it as a powerful metaphor for the modern customer experience. (Stay with me on this.)
Powerful because it helps us rethink the relationship our businesses have with our customers—and not just the parts we think we control. And why it's important for Marketing to lead that charge.
🐿️ The chipmunk = Our customer.
🌰 The peanut = What we've promised—what our customer wants.
🌪️ The trap = The Marketing/Sales funnel.
🚴 The woman on the bike = the marketer or salesperson or ______ (any role, really), peddling away, convinced her job here is done.
🌚 The moon = Where our customers feel left—when you don't think through the post-peanut experience. ;)
🌲 The woods = Where our customers could land! In paradise. With a peanut. If we just went the extra mile.
At least, that's how I read it. You?
* * *
Here are a few things worth sharing this week.
How to Not Be a Jerk at Work
Last week I wrote about the importance of put the stamp on the envelope: Take ownership of the whole job, start to finish. Don't leave parts undone for someone else to do for you.
Writing Tip of the Week
It's apt that we use the word "home" to refer to the main page of a website, because "home" invokes warmth and belonging. That's exactly the mindset you need when you are writing and designing your own business's home page.
One shortcut to signaling belonging:
Use you promiscuously. Count how many times you use you on the home page. Then count the number of time you use us or we. Do the math. Make sure the yous are not just winning the game but sweeping the series.
Dive even deeper 👉👉👉 Next issue! The best home page I've ever seen and why I love it. (Teaser: It's from a government agency.) <--Legit.
SPECIAL EVENT: ASK ME ANYTHING, JULY 22