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A Spoon Full Of Sugar Helps Investors Take Their Medicine

Every time my 3-year-old son sees a bottle of children’s Tylenol he asks for “petesina.” That’s his word for medicine or “medecina” in Spanish. Does he have a headache? No. Is he addicted to pain killers? I hope not. But what motivates him to want the medicine is its sweet, cherry taste. Why did Tylenol give the medicine this sweet taste? As Mary Poppins said, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Every time my 3-year-old son sees a bottle of children’s Tylenol he asks for “petesina.” That’s his word for medicine or “medecina” in Spanish. Does he have a headache? No. Is he addicted to pain killers? I hope not. But what motivates him to want the medicine is its sweet, cherry taste.

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Why did Tylenol give the medicine this sweet taste? As Mary Poppins said, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Children often struggle when given medicine, but as parents, we know it’s what they need sometimes. By wrapping the medicine in a sweet flavor, the children get what they need without realizing it.

Sometimes investors are like children – you must sweeten an opportunity with a little extra sugar before they will bite.

This brings me back to Mike Hokenson, one of the founders of an asset management firm that specializes in providing debt capital to microfinance institutions that are lending small amounts of money to low-income people and thereby dislodging them from the trap of poverty. When Mike first started pitching the Minlam Asset Management concept, he was met with glazed eyes and rejection.

Traditional investors and fixed income managers at investment firms don’t care – professionally – about helping poor people in Asia get out of the poverty cycle. They might say they care, but they do not care enough to make a bad investment.

As Mike learned this, he decided to change his message. He now opens each pitch with compelling, fact-based evidence of the profitable benefits of investing in microfinance.

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Mike gives investors their “sugar.”

He is not lying. He cites the facts, figures and documented success. But he chooses now to open with facts that matter the most to the investor.

An ancient Chinese metaphor calls this “the stratagem of the beautiful woman.” It advises that you identify and appeal to the acute interest of whoever you wish to influence. By appealing to their soft spot, you can exert influence with far less energy.

Ask yourself the questions below to see if you can add some sugar to your presentation while also applying pressure to your competition.

1. How can I repackage or change an existing policy, product or service to make it a sweeter opportunity for my target audience?
2. What is my target audience’s soft spot and what matters to them?
3. What is my adversary’s soft spot?
4. How can I change my approach to put pressure on my competitor’s weak spot?

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About the author

Author of Outthink the Competition business strategy keynote speaker and CEO of Outthinker, a strategic innovation firm, Kaihan Krippendorff teaches executives, managers and business owners how to seize opportunities others ignore, unlock innovation, and build strategic thinking skills. Companies such as Microsoft, Citigroup, and Johnson & Johnson have successfully implemented Kaihan’s approach because their executive leadership sees the value of his innovative technique. Kaihan has delivered business strategy keynote speeches for organizations such as Motorola, Schering‐Plough, Colgate‐Palmolive, Fortune Magazine, Harvard Business Review, the Society of Human Resource Managers, the Entrepreneurs Organization, and The Asia Society

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