For two or three years of my childhood, the only thing that caused my Dad more grief and frustration at home than my own mischievous antics was the state of our lawn.
They say an Englishman’s home is his castle…
Well, the problem with our castle was its ‘moat’:
Our vast, dry, patchy, rebellious lawn…
It simply refused to play the game.
The Old Man could water it, treat it, keep me and my pals from playing football on it (eternal apologies to the Morleys down the street, whose own lawn took a regular pounding as a result)…
But nothing seemed to improve it.
It stayed vast, dry and patchy (until we eventually moved house).
Of course, what made this minor domestic farce into a hair-tearing heartache for my poor ol’ Pops was the contrast between the stubborn, yellow-ish scrubland outside our gaff…
…and the lush, verdant, almost mockingly-green turf next door.
I honestly don’t recall the name of the family who owned this scarcely-believable outdoor carpet, so let’s just call them ‘the Flanders’.
Their king, of course, we shall name Ned.
And the striking difference between the two lawns at our end of the street would have been just as apparent to him as it was to my Pops.
This across-the-garden-fence envy never quite manifested itself into the murderous rage I half-expected, though…
If ‘Ned’ is still alive today, tormenting other neighbours with his smugly superior grass-whispering skills, it’s probably largely due to the fact that the lawns never actually cropped up in neighbourly conversation.
But that didn’t stop my Dad from thinking about it…
…obsessing about it, even.
On weekends my beloved Pops would stare with a mix of awe, disbelief and barely-concealed hatred at Lincolnshire Ned Flanders’ magnificent lawn while ruefully sipping his morning coffee.
I’d like to say I could hardly stand to see my Dad suffer so, and was on hand to support the poor chap with familial encouragement…
But that wouldn’t be true – I found the whole thing hilarious.
(I know, what a little b*stard, right? A regular Bart to my Dad’s long-suffering Homer Simpson.)
The Neighbour’s Lawn Effect in marketing
Anyway, now that I’m (a lot) older and (a little) wiser, I’m able to see the marketing potential in this green-eyed grass-ogling.
It’s not just 1980s Dads who get envious about what’s happening across the fence…
Even the very best of us gets a little jealous of someone – or something – from time to time.
And that’s worth remembering whenever it comes to selling your products and services.
Because while it’s nice to think that ultimately, your prospects become customers because you convinced them of the impossible-to-better, standalone value of your product…
…the truth is, people buy/sign-up/click/apply for all sorts of funky reasons.
Sometimes, they do it because they simply can’t stand the idea of not having what their neighbour, competitor or rival already has.
Call it envy, oneupmanship, FOMO, whatever…
(You could even just call it sound business sense…)
People everywhere are constantly peeking over and around whatever ‘fence’ separates them from their peers, to see what’s being done differently.
Nobody exists in a bubble. We see something new, or hear about someone’s success, and we think:
“I want that.
That’ll help me get where they are. And then I’ll show ’em!”
At some point, we’ve all had an unbearable itch to find out what gives the other guy ‘the edge’…
We’ve all fixated just a little on what’s given the other other gal that ‘unfair advantage’.
And this ‘Flanders-matching’ phenomenon is triggered in all kinds of situations…
Think back to the last time you bought something with the intention of improving your biz.
Doesn’t matter if it was a software, a course, a conference ticket or a $10k mastermind fee.
The point is: wasn’t there a moment when you wondered which of your competitors would be using the same tool?
Maybe you already knew of someone who was, and you didn’t want to lose ground to them?
Publicly, you may have kept your cool and even feigned disinterest at your rival’s breakthrough.
But privately, you flagged-up that information to see if there was an opportunity to do something similar next chance you got.
People are competitive by nature – even sports-avoiding, arts-loving, “why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along?” hippie layabouts like me…
And this is especially applicable in business.
I was reminded of this recently on a client project…
In one of our discovery sessions, my client mentioned how he regularly heard from his customers about their constant battle to match what their competitors were doing.
Apparently there were a whole bunch of people in this market who regularly ‘peeked at their neighbour’s lawn’ – sometimes going to great lengths to find out what tools their rivals were using.
We knew what they were casting envious glances at, and why.
We also knew what my client’s service did better – and had results to prove it.
So I made sure to include a named quote from a customer considered a leader in our prospect’s field, talking about the specific results they’d had, and how that had made a big difference to their bottom line.
It’s almost guaranteed to resonate with our new-development-hungry prospects, as they start picturing themselves getting those kind of results, and leaving their competition in the dust.
Now it’s your turn…
If you’re selling something to businesspeople, try and discover what it is about their neighbour’s lawn that they want so bad.
You can do this in a survey to your existing users:
Ask them to tell you specifically what problem they were looking to solve when they found you.
You’ll see patterns emerge in their responses, common themes that you can reflect back at your prospects in your marketing.
You’ll even start to see numerous mentions of what ‘the other side’ were doing that prompted your customer to take action – and that’s when you can start to get specific.
You can use that info to show others exactly what they’re missing out on, to tap into their inner Homer and help them realise the only way to beat that damn-diddly Flanders is to take action and ask for your help.
You could also make a direct – named or unnamed, depending on how your niche works – comparison between your product’s features and the nearest best option(s).
Focus on what you do better, and show actual results (testimonials, case studies) that make that contrast clear.
Whether it’s on your sales pages, in an email series or around your site’s supporting pages, you can appeal to your prospect’s green-eyed side with bold, specific messaging that acknowledges their innate desire to get one over on their neighbour.
Position your product or service as the best answer to that obsession, and you’ll have customers singing your praises…
…and a growing line of envious prospects casting desirous glances across fences to where your solution’s making someone’s lawn superior.
Just make sure you’re open for business when they come knocking!