Marathon Man

For most people, the first sign of spring is something beautiful: a robin singing; buds appearing on the trees; maybe the sound of children playing outside on that first, warm, sunny day.

For me, it’s Porta-Potties.

You see, I live in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, a town that’s famous for just one thing: it’s where the Boston Marathon begins. And this coming Monday, April 15th, the marathon will kick off a scant 50 yards from my office window.

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It’s quite the event, I don’t mind telling you. Even after living here for 10 years, I’m still amazed by the transformation our little town goes through, beginning about a week before the race.

Street lines are repainted, statues are touched up, unattractive residents are encouraged to remain indoors. And yes, the porta-potties arrive by the truckload. When they drop the pair in my office parking lot as they did last week, I know the warm weather is coming soon.

If you’ve never been at the beginning of a race like this, you really do need to go.

27,000 people from all over the world, lined up in order – from “The Fastest Human on Earth,” on down to “How did that guy qualify?,” and everyone in-between. Once the race begins, it’s like watching a 20-minute moving version of that Evolution of Man poster, in reverse.

Like most spectators, I have no idea who’s going to win this year. But I can guarantee one thing: Come Tuesday, my health club is going to be jam-packed with people.

Every year, the same thing happens. People watch the race, they think about how amazing it must feel to be part of the event, and there and then, they vow to themselves and any long-suffering spouse within earshot that “Next year, that’s going to be me!”

The very next morning, off to the gym they go.

Wednesday, fewer people go. Thursday, still fewer. By next Monday, things are back to “normal.”

I’ve watched this phenomenon for many years and I think I’ve finally got a handle on the problem: people set too high a goal. They go from zero to marathon and quickly become discouraged. A week later, most are back to zero.

If this sounds like the marketing history of your solo professional practice, you’re not alone. Fundamentally, I think it’s the same problem: too much, too soon.

People who’ve never written a word announce that they’re going to write a book. Others launch a “weekly newsletter” right out of the gate. Still others commit to attending one networking meeting each week.

All good intentions, but too much activity from a standing start.

Earlier this week, in the kick-off session of my One Year Marketing Program, I gave the group a simple assignment: Over the next month, write one, hand-written thank you note each day to someone – anyone – and drop it in snail mail.

People were excited. I had just spent the previous 45 minutes extolling the virtues of “staying in touch with the people you know,” offering example after example of how that would lead to more business.

One person in the class was so pumped up, in fact, that he asked, “Can I send two of these a day?”

I said, “No, you can’t.” And then I told my marathon/health club story.

My approach to marketing tactics – and exercise – is that when you’re starting something new, you should do a little less than you feel like doing.

Don’t run five miles your first day … you’ll never come back. Run around the block once or twice and then stop.

Stop while you still have the feeling of “wanting to do a little more.” And then tomorrow, do a little more. And then the next day, a little more again, until before you know it, you’ll get to your five miles.

Same with your marketing.

Never written a word? Write 250 and stop for the day.

Never read a marketing book? Read one chapter and put it down until tomorrow.

Never published an E-Newsletter? Shame on you. No, I mean publish one a month, on time, for six months in a row before you start thinking about turning up the volume.

You get the idea. Solo professional marketing – the kind that depends on word of mouth, building trust and developing your network – is like a marathon. One step at a time, for a long, long time.

Come out too fast, and you’ll never even make it out of town.

One of the Marathon traditions that’s developed over the years here in Hopkinton is that each year, the Kenyan team (which always consists of several previous winners) comes to visit the elementary school in the week prior to the race, accompanied by the high school track and cross country captains.

Click here to watch a two-minute news segment of the event (that’s my beautiful daughter Emily in the pink sweatshirt, at the 1:11 mark!).


7 thoughts on “Marathon Man

  1. Mark Wayland

    Again I find your post scary … not because of your photo … but because we think the same. Maybe I was stolen at birth and sold to some couple living in Australia … we’ll never know.

    My point is that this issue should be the First Law of Solo Professionals. In fact I am about to launch my “new” re-branded business with the sub-head “one bite at a time.”

    Needless to say I’ll enroll you in my newsletter … you can thank me later.


    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Lucky for you we don’t look the same too, Mark. Glad we’re of a like mind from halfway across the world!

  2. Susan Rivera

    Your information rings true, although I’m always concerned about that fine line between keeping in touch with my customers and spamming them, so I opt for not bothering them at all, unless they contact me first. What would you suggest?

  3. Allison Kneubuhl

    SO TRUE! I have seen many MANY great marketing plans fall apart in execution. When something seems daunting, break it down into tiny little baby steps. Sometimes when I have something I really don’t want to start I give myself a start/stop time of 15 minutes. That’s all I have to do. Just 15 minutes of that task then I can look at it again tomorrow. What invariably happens is that once I start, I often either finish it because it was way easier than I thought or it gives me a jump start to pick it up even more quickly tomorrow. Amazing how that works!


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