Here’s a cool marketing story.

My friend Larry is an art teacher at a small college. By the end of each semester, his students — almost all of them nonartists — have amassed a large collection of their own works. Larry thought it would be nice if the rest of the school could view their efforts. So he put together a little lunchtime “gallery opening” complete with music and beverages.

Attendance was terrible.

Larry asked around to find out why no one came, and people repeatedly told him they didn’t want to take time away from their lunches. This made no sense. Looking at that artwork took about 20 minutes, but somehow the message conveyed in Larry’s fliers made students feel they had to buy plane tickets and travel to the Louvre.

The following semester, in response to what he had heard, Larry changed his approach. This time, his promotional materials were titled “The 30-Minute Museum,” and placed a much heavier emphasis on the snacks and beverages served.

It was a hit. Not only was the hall packed, but attendees seemed to have a great time. Many students told Larry they would be back for a new “exhibit” the following semester.

If this were an Aesop’s Fable, the moral would be, “Take a picture of the customer before you hang the print.”

The importance of understanding your clients’ needs cannot be overstated. Many pool and spa companies habitually survey their customers after a purchase has been made. But it may be even more important to learn why a potential buyer chose to do business with someone else.

This allows you to fine-tune your marketing efforts to appeal to a broader base and zero in on your target shoppers’ desires. Providing a little food never hurts either.