What It Takes to Acquire “The Knowledge”

BlackCabIt was a cold, rainy London morning on Monday, September 28th when I first learned about The Knowledge.

I was getting a tour of the city with a friend I met at a 5-day training when our London taxi driver suddenly began educating us on “The Knowledge.”

This education came after I asked for his candid recommendation about which London car service was the most reliable to hire.  Our driver’s answer was immediate, simple and straight-forward.

“Anyone you see driving a Black Cab in London must pass a test called The Knowledge.  The Black Cab drivers have already passed this test which demonstrates that they have an intimate knowledge of the streets in London,” he said.

“If you want to get to your destination faster and more reliably, just hail-down a Black Cab – like the one you’re in – and you will be delighted with the service,” he added.

It was a solid recommendation because the night before the taxi driver I chose wasn’t in a Black Cab and wasted twenty minutes of our time looking for a restaurant on a side-street he couldn’t find

He obviously didn’t have The Knowledge.

The 2 Rules of Marketing: If you want superior knowledge over your competitors to win every marketing game you play, you must first learn two important rules.  I teach my students these 2 Rules because they’re both critical.

Rule #1:  “Know your Market.” 

Rule #2:  “Never forget Rule #1.”

The Market for the London taxicab driver is the mental map they’ve memorized of the 320 main (standard) routes through central London, as well as the 25,000+ streets within the major arterial routes through the rest of London.

It’s mind boggling!

Acquiring The Knowledge really means that a taxi driver must master all of the routes and streets contained in “Blue Book” (known as The Guide to Learning the Knowledge of London) put out by the Public Carriage Office which regulates licensed taxis in London.

Training for The Knowledge: During their training, would-be cabbies (known as Knowledge Boys and Girls), will typically seek-out the many routes around London on motor scooters.

They can easily be identified by the clipboard fixed to the handlebars and showing details of the streets to be learnedKnowledgeBoy that day.

According to the “Blue Book,” taxi-driver applicants must be “of good character”, meeting strict requirements regarding any criminal record, then first pass a written test which qualifies them to make an “Appearance.”

During their Appearances, these Knowledge Boys and Girls must (without looking at a map) identify the quickest and most sensible route between any two points in metropolitan London that their examiner chooses.

For each route the applicants must recite the names of the roads used, when they cross junctions, use roundabouts, make turns, and what is “alongside” them at each point.

The memorization required to pass The Knowledge oral examination is utterly massive.

“Each Black Cab driver must learn the key London routes, as well as the ‘points of interest’ along those routes including streets, squares, clubs, hospitals, hotels, theaters, embassies, government and public buildings, railway stations, police stations, courts…

… diplomatic buildings, important places of worship, cemeteries, crematoria, parks and open spaces, sports and leisure centers, places of learning, restaurants and historic buildings,” reports Wikipedia.

What Ignorant Marketers Do: In the business world, most entrepreneurs choose to ignore the importance of thoroughly “knowing their Market.”

They don’t take acquiring marketing knowledge seriously as they should, and they often “outsource” their marketing responsibilities to unqualified people outside of their companies.

These entrepreneurs are like the millions of other cab drivers in cities outside of London who drive their passengers around without precise knowledge of how to get to their final destinations.

Sound familiar?

The net result of this lack of knowledge is to waste a lot of money and time on strategies that get them lost and even lead to becoming irrelevant to their customers.

What Knowledgeable Marketers Do: The best marketers have the same attitude of London Black Cab drivers because they have the reverence to seek and acquire The Knowledge about their target markets.

There are far fewer of these marketers, but they are the wealthy ones because they are the leaders who have superior insights and situational awareness about how to undercover the most profitable niches in their target markets.

Look, throughout the world there are millions of taxi drivers.  In the UK alone, there are probably a few hundred thousand taxi drivers.  But less than twenty thousand have The Knowledge of the Black Cab drivers in London!

That’s the type of marketer I want you to aspire to be.

I want you to become a marketer with the “knowledge-passion” of a London taxicab driver so you can learn to know every nook and cranny of where your Market exists.

Fact #1: Black Cab drivers with The Knowledge have the ability to decide routes immediately in response to a passenger’s request, rather than looking at a map, relying on satellite navigation, or asking a controller by radio.

Fact #2: The Knowledge is the world’s most demanding training course for taxicab drivers, and applicants will usually need at least a dozen “Appearances” (attempts at the final test) after preparing an average of 34 months to pass the test.

Fact #3: The oral exam was  initiated in 1865, and has changed little since.   Medical tests have discovered that London cab drivers developed a bigger hippocampus – the region of the brain where info about locations is stored.

If you want to be ready for The Knowledge about your target market, you must know the answers to the following 5 important questions.  This is what is known as your Marketing Executive Summary:

  1. What is the URGENT PROBLEM of your target market?
  2. What is your UNIQUE SOLUTION to this problem?
  3. Why is your target market STUCK with this problem?
  4. What’s the step-by-step PROCESS to get them unstuck?
  5. What’s the first ACTION STEP to your unique solution?

What To Do Now: Re-read this post.  And if you live in the United Kingdom, be advised that I plan on visiting London again for a 1-day training in November.

If you’d like to attend, please let us know through our Online Help Desk. In the meantime, please comment and share this post with other who also feel it’s important to acquire more knowledge about their target market(s).



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