Sunday, November 27, 2016

A million dollars in eleven days.

Some marketers love to use analogies and colorful comparative statements.  Recently, one manufacturer said their company produced so much wire, it would stretch to the moon and back ten times.  That’s a lot of wire, but unless you are selling to the twelve people who have actually walked on the moon there are few who can truly relate to such a distance.

Statements like these should have some relationship or direct meaning to a customer or prospect. Only then will they fully comprehend the enormity of an accomplishment or milestone.  Here is an analogy I used with some financial executives prior to presenting some global economic reports.  It uses a common symbol of retail banking – the teller – and maybe the most recognizable currency on the planet, the one dollar bill.

Today, the words million, billion and trillion cover the world’s financial pages.  With all the news about budget cuts, sequestration and financial austerity, it is easy to forget the enormous sums of money these words represent.  Here is a little analogy to put things into perspective.

Imagine you want to borrow a million dollars from your bank and you want that lump sum in one dollar bills.  To ensure accuracy, a bank teller counts every single dollar.  Each second, the teller places a single dollar bill on the counter.   The teller continues, non-stop, until the total equals a million dollars.  If you needed the money today, the bank teller would have to start counting eleven days ago.

Now imagine you are a local government official.  You need to borrow a billion dollars for some pork-barrel infrastructure project or a new football stadium.  Without stopping, that same bank teller – counting a single dollar every second – would have started counting the day President Ronald Reagan officially opened the XXIII Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California – 32 years ago.

Now imagine you are the US Treasury Secretary.  You need to borrow a trillion dollars.  Why?  Well, we are not really sure, but you need a trillion dollars right now.  Your bank teller friend – counting one dollar every second, nonstop – would have started counting about the same time a humble caveman painted the walls of Chauvet Cave in Southern France.  These paintings – the oldest known man-made artwork in the world – were created over 32,000 years ago.


The next time you hear the words million, billion and trillion – especially when talking about sums of money – think about the bank teller, Ronald Reagan and a nameless French cave man scribbling animal pictures on a rock wall.  With these images in mind, we may think about budgets, expenditures and money in a whole new way.

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