I’m not sure what words I’d most like to hear coming out of my twenty-three-year old son’s mouth, but I’m pretty sure these are not them:
“That may be the most ‘old guy hobby’ on Earth.”
And yet that’s exactly what my son Evan said to me when I told him how I’ve been spending my time.
Let me explain…
Last month, while rummaging through some old boxes in the basement, I came upon a combination padlock. It had four dials on it, each numbered 0-9, and it was locked.
I asked around, but nobody in my family could claim ownership, let alone suggest what the combination might be.
Toss it in the trash? I considered it. With 10,000 possible combinations, unlocking it could take a while.
But it might also be kind of interesting. So I set the lock to 0-0-0-0 and began my journey, counting up, one number at a time. I told Evan about it, prompting his snide, but I suppose accurate, reply.
As of this writing, I am at 4,060, with the lock still unopened. But I keep fooling with it: at breakfast; while watching TV; waiting for the NPR fundraiser to end.
But second, because I find it satisfying to know that there is in fact one correct combination and that sooner or later, I’m going to pull on that lock and it will open.
You know what isn’t at all like this?
If you said “marketing,” you are correct! (If you said, “a turkey and cheese sandwich with a side of sweet potato fries,” you should probably break for lunch.)
A recent Inc. Magazine column posed a question to five founders of companies that appeared on the 2016 Inc. 5000 list: “You have $10,000 to spend on marketing. How do you use it?”
The five answers given were as follows: co-op marketing, branding, social media, direct mail, and some incomprehensible gobbledygook about customer identities.
Well, thanks for nothing, Inc. Magazine.
That’s like asking five doctors what the key to long life is and being told: exercise, kale, weight training, finger-painting, and purple.
So what’s the answer? There isn’t one. That’s what makes it frustrating.
That said, I do have a few recommendations:
- Only do things that make sense to you. Can you explain why you use Twitter? Or Facebook? Or Instagram? Or any other marketing tool?
Either find an answer to that question or stop doing it. The fact that everyone else is doing it is not a marketing strategy; it’s a third grade birthday party.
- Only do things that you enjoy (or, at the very least, don’t hate). Solo and small business marketing requires time, effort and consistency. It might be free-ish (thank you Internet), but for the most part, you have to get personally involved.
But if you hate it – regardless of how effective a given tactic may be – you’ll never do it. Like exercise, showing up regularly matters way more than which activity you choose.
- Think relationship first. People like us live in a word of mouth world. The best clients always come through referrals. Your job, therefore, is to figure out how to get your words coming out of someone else’s mouth.
To that end, I live by a simple marketing mantra: “Stay in front of the people you know, over and over again, in a way that positions you as a Likeable Expert.”
The more you can make that happen, and regardless of which specific tactics you choose, the more effective your marketing will be.
Here’s the bottom line. It would be nice if marketing had one simple answer – one combination you could use to unlock all the clients you want. But hey, as long as we’re dreaming, it would also be nice if ambidextrous, middle-aged bald men were revered as gods.
Neither is going to happen. The best you can do is develop a simple, understandable, easily repeated set of tactics that work for you.
And maybe eat more kale.
- Do your children make fun of you too? Give examples.
- What’s your go to marketing tactic (please don’t say, “finger-painting”)
- The answer to my combination lock riddle lies somewhere between 4,060 and 9,999. Post your guess below. Whomever comes closest will win an authentic, Blue Penguin Development baseball hat (or maybe a slightly used combination lock).
Share your comments below!
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