MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2023

Making Marketing More Personal, not Personalized

How can you make your marketing more personal?

In this excerpt from her 2022 B2B Forum presentation, Cathy Colliver shares how her company connected with their core audience through a simple rubber duck.

For you, a rubber duck may not mean much.

But for many in Cathy’s audience, it had a very personal meaning—and it kept her company top-of-mind when it came time for that audience to find a new solution.

To get the full story, watch Cathy’s B2B Forum video or read the transcript below.




What is up with this rubber duck?

This is something that is beautiful. It comes out of [the] software developer community. 

You may think that software developers are just technical people. But they’re very creative. They’re great problem solvers and they’re working with really complex, challenging problems.

So the idea behind this, it’s called a rubber duck programmer. And if you are working on debugging code—which is basically like, why in the world is this code not working?—it’s often useful to basically just [ask] someone “Hey, how’s it going? My code is broken. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. Can I tell you about it?”

And in simple language, you’re like, “it’s supposed to do ABC, and then this thing’s happening. And I’m wondering why that is.”

And then, in the act of doing that, a lot of times… you figure out the… solution just [by talking] to someone.

But what do you do if there isn’t someone available to talk to? This is where this [rubber duck] comes in.

In the “Pragmatic Programmer,” which is a hugely trusted resource in software engineering, there’s a story of a person who carries around a rubber duck. And he does it for those occasions when there isn’t another programmer he can talk to. 

There isn’t another human at all he can talk to and he’s still trying to figure out what’s going on with the code and why it’s not working.

So when in doubt: you talk to a cat, you talk to a dog, you talk to a rubber duck! That is what a rubber duck programmer is.

And one of our developers, Megan—again, developers are super creative people and I love working with them—she came up with this idea:

“Why don’t we do, as a branded gift, a Test Double rubber duck programmer?”

So we ran with it. We did it for multiple gift initiatives.

The first thing we did, and we had a huge shout out—thank you to Megan as part of it—was giving this to everyone during our virtual retreat last year. (Because we were still doing virtual retreats at the time.) And this was so appreciated.

So the Test Double rubber duck ended up popping up in Zoom calls, and having a lot of other iterations.

And the reason is, because this was super meaningful as a way to recognize software developers giving them something that they use in their day-to-day problem solving. That’s huge. If you can make that kind of impact, that is huge.

And this is important because I also support recruitment. And recruitment is a long-term game, right? You’re not gonna get results right away unless you have absolutely perfect market conditions.

And so we use this gift a lot of times for folks that we’re connecting with and we wanna stay in touch with.

And if they’ve got this Test Double rubber duck programmer on their desk every day… and they’re using it when they’re solving problems… who’s gonna be top of mind when they think about switching jobs?

Ah… another successful example of conference swag as a long-term marketing play—not to mention the personal value it provides.

Published 5/10/23

B2B Forum is packed with marketing insights, strategies, and tactics taken from the real world experience of over forty industry experts, packaged into context you can actually put to use.

Join us in Boston for B2B Forum 2024 this coming November 12-14, 2024. Early buyers get B2B Forum tickets at their lowest rate, and discounted hotel rooms are available while they last.


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