The TV show adaptation ‘Hannibal’ is gone. I, for one, considered it to be brilliantly produced, and it will be missed. I’m very hopeful that Bryan Fuller will get the chance to continue this kind of storytelling, but only time will tell. As an homage to what they’ve accomplished, I decided it would be worth looking back and considering what we, as marketing people and business owners, can learn from Hannibal himself. Sure, none of us want to think we’re in a similar business to Hannibal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take away some of the finer points. Obviously skipping the whole killing people and eating them part. So here’s my list.
1. Exit Strategy
With a pile of bodies behind him and cops at his door, Hannibal’s exit from Maryland was anything but quiet. But when he knew that what he had built was no longer working, he didn’t cry over it. He hopped on a plane and flew off to Italy. What can we learn from this? Sometimes marketing plans don’t work. Sometimes product launches don’t work. But following sunk costs and treating these things as your children can lead to trouble. By remaining detached and having an exit plan, and being willing to follow it, your business can thrive. Hannibal doesn’t just leave, of course; he makes sure every loose end that needs to be tied up is, and that the baggage from his last run won’t follow him to the next.
2. Know Your Market
There are a lot of fictional serial killers. But none as effective as Dr. Lecter. Why? Simple. He knows his target market. Knowledge is power. As marketers we have to know who we’re talking to, and what it is that motivates them. We have to know their behavior better than they know themselves. When Hannibal takes a patient into his office, they turn into tools and victims simply because he understands their psychology so intimately. Not only does Hannibal understand their motivations, he knows exactly what to say to keep them engaged. To keep engagement with your own clients, you can’t just throw things at the wall and see what sticks- you have to know what they want to hear.
3. Be Patient
Hannibal’s attempts to connect with (and convert) Will didn’t work out so well the first time. He successfully destroyed the man’s self confidence, nearly his career, got him locked up in an insane asylum, left him delirious and near death, traumatized from the losses of the people he loved. But it wasn’t until the end, with the death of The Great Red Dragon, that Hannibal’s plans were fulfilled. Some prospects require years of friendship and good service before they turn into clients; patience is valuable here. Even clients and customers who aren’t high value yet may turn that way, if you spend long enough proving yourself through your work.
4. Presentation Matters
I read a post somewhere, where the person giving advice said that your potential employers or clients will never see the piles of paperwork on the edge of your kitchen counter because you don’t have a real desk. What they will see is your business card and your personal presentation. Look professional, and people will treat you as a professional. The analogy is pretty obvious to the show, so I don’t think I need to elaborate there.
5. Be Authentic
I don’t know if this one is a lesson Dr. Lecter would agree with, but it’s worth sharing. Sometimes, he takes off his people mask. Sometimes, he lets people know him. See him. It’s a rare gift. In Will Graham’s case, at first he didn’t want that gift. But the two grew together over time, in their own way. Your authentic story may not appeal to everyone- but the nice thing is, it doesn’t have to. It only has to appeal to your specific demographic (see lesson #2). If your story resonates with that specific group, it’s much more powerful than any amount of corporate whitewashing would be to a mass market. This one is a bit repetitive, as I say it in every post, but that’s because it’s worth repeating.
So keep these tips, and all the others, in mind while crafting your messages and reaching out to your clients. When your audience is engaged and following through exactly the way you intended, you can sit back and proudly proclaim, “this is my design”.