Gifts from the Groundhog: Sales Lessons from Punxsutawney Phil

BY: ON WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2016

Superstitions can feel a little silly at times. Still, many people avoid walking under ladders, crossing a black cat’s path, or opening umbrellas indoors. Although superstition isn’t grounded in reality, people connect through tradition and folklore, and the stories are passed from generation to generation. Groundhog Day is a holiday steeped in superstition and story.

The tradition stems from Candlemas Day, a holiday Roman legions introduced to the Teutons or Germans during the conquest of Northern Europe. On Candlemas Day, if the sun made an appearance, it would cast a shadow over a small hedgehog, predicting more bad weather.

When German settlers came to Pennsylvania, they carried the tradition with them. Instead of using a hedgehog, they chose a groundhog for its similar looks and demeanor.

Since the beginnings of Groundhog’s Day in the late 1880’s, folks have gathered on Gobbler’s Knob to watch Punxsutawney Phil emerge from his den. To this day, people await his appearance to find out if he sees his shadow and retreats back into his hole, which means we’re in for six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, an early spring is predicted.

Although Punxsutawney Phil has only been right 39% of the time, people still flock to watch his prediction. What draws such a crowd? And what lessons can you draw from this annual tradition to help your business? Let’s dig in.


Coordinate Your Efforts

When Punxsutawney Phil originally made his debut, he didn’t do so in front of media lights and crowds of thousands of people. It was a private occurrence in the wooded Pennsylvania town.

Pulling a major media event off year after year is no easy feat. For businesses planning events and coordinating this level of excitement around a product or service, having a superior communication system in place is essential.

An online CRM is ideal for managing leads, contacts, partners, and suppliers so no one gets lost in the shuffle. It also helps you keep a pulse on what the customers want from the show every year by tracking audience cues. With a CRM you’re able to monitor every stage of the project throughout the year in one central database.

When the team gathers on February 3 to go over their successes for the year, they can pull up business overviews and reports, update contact information, make notes about what worked and what didn’t, and decide whether it’s wise to use the same vendors in the future. With a single tool, they’re able to manage the entire event.

In your business, this same tool can help you manage your teams, projects, and social cues and give you reporting to let you know where you succeeded and where you might have missed the mark.


A Fun Story Keeps People Interested

Groundhog Day has been successful because the story is told in unique ways without breaking away from the same traditions. This renews attention and gets more people excited. For example:

● During prohibition, Phil turned into “Prohibition Phil.” Instead of threatening 6 more weeks of winter, he threatened 60 more weeks of frigid cold if he wasn't allowed to drink.

● In 1981, Phil honored the American hostages in Iran by wearing a yellow ribbon.

● In 1995, he appeared on Oprah.

In your business, you can keep the same excitement in your story by infusing unique, timely elements. Don’t be afraid to stir things up. As long as the story is grounded in the fundamental tradition, you can keep people excited and wanting to buy from you by adding a few unique elements to the mix.


The Tradition Continues On

By incorporating your brand story into your sales and marketing, you can gather thousands around your brand to watch in anticipation while you unveil new products, services and offerings time and time again.



Image via Shutterstock

About the Author

Susan Payton

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s written three books: DIY Press Releases: Your Guide to Becoming Your Own PR Consultant, 101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and has blogged for several sites, including The Marketing Eggspert Blog, as well as CorpNet, Small Business Trends, and BizLaunch.
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