The Cold Truth

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For twenty years, we had a second refrigerator in the basement.

It was a piece of junk – dented on one side with a broken shelf and a small freezer. But it was a handy place to keep leftovers and extra supplies.

Eventually, though, I realized something very important: the fridge part was almost always near-empty; the freezer part was jammed tight and never quite big enough.

And so, when we moved to a new house, we didn’t take that energy-sucking dinosaur with us. 

Instead, we bought a small, standalone freezer: it takes up less space, uses less electricity, has much more capacity and, since it’s basically just a frozen box, was very cheap.

One problem, though: inventory control.

The freezer opens from the top. Which means that as you load things in, it doesn’t take long before you’ve got 3.5 cubic feet of who-the-hell-can-remember.

That meant that whenever you wanted something, and even though you couldn’t be 100% certain that whatever you were searching for was even in there, you practically had to unload the entire thing.

But then I had a brilliant idea. (Actually, it was my wife Linda’s idea, but she said I could tell you that it was mine.) We made a list – a list of everything that was in the freezer.

And then we agreed on a simple rule: When you put something in, you write it down. When you take something out, you cross it off.

It’s not a perfect system (sometimes we forget to update the list), but it sure works better than trying to remember what is or isn’t in there.

Your Marketing Needs a System

In the prior century, marketing for a small professional service firm or solo was simple: networking, public speaking and the occasional sponsorship or nifty Yellow Pages ad.

That was it. And while I have no idea how people like us made a go of it back then, like it or not, your tactical choices were limited. Which means the “system” was easy to manage.

Today, we’ve got a different problem – too many moving parts. Email, podcasts, blogs, SEO, webinars, LinkedIn, video, Twitter, blah, blah, blah.

A lot of great stuff. But trying to keep track of it in your head is like trying to remember if there is one more package of pumpkin squash tortellini in the bottom of the freezer (Hint: there isn’t).

So try these two things:

Thing #1. Limit your activities.

There’s nothing wrong with dabbling in many things – who knows, you may uncover a terrific new tactic – but only commit to a handful. In fact, I recommend just four things at a time.

But four that you do, regularly, no matter what.

These are my four:

#1. This newsletter, every other week, to anyone who wants it.

#2. Emails to stay in touch. One-on-one, not automated, sent to about 250 friends/colleagues, twice a year (at least).

#3. Snail mail cards with a Marketing Tip of The Month. Sent to the same (more or less) 50 people.

#4. Coffee/Lunch (now Zoom) with one person each week. (Not the same person, that would be dumb.)

Are these the “right” things? No. They are my things. Yours would likely be different.

But the point is, even though I do plenty of other things haphazardly, I have committed to doing these four regularly.

Thing #2. Keep track.

You may think you are “marketing regularly,” but if you don’t keep track, I can assure you that there are gaps of which you are unaware.

I keep a one-page “tick sheet” on my desk at all times. It’s got 26 rows (that’s half a year, for those of you on the metric system), with my list of things in the columns across the top. I tick them off as I go and can see at a glance how I’m doing.

And by the way, it’s not perfect. I miss things here and there. But, because I track it, I know where I’m falling down and can correct as needed.

Here’s the bottom line.

Marketing is a “doing” thing.

So while it’s fine to tweak your web site and work on your logo and all that other fun stuff, marketing is fundamentally about activities that you complete, day after day after day.

It’s not hard, and it’s not complicated. But I can pretty much guarantee that until you figure out and commit to a system, it’s not happening.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Wouldn’t “The Energy-Sucking Dinosaurs” be a great band name?
  2. What’s the oldest thing in your freezer? (Extra credit if it’s your ex-husband.)
  3. How/where do you track your marketing activity?

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16 thoughts on “The Cold Truth

  1. Stacey Shipman

    Actually energy sucking dinosaur sounds like a good name for all the social media sites I hate but use because, well, marketing is complicated today.

    corn chowder my husband bought at the farmers market last year (2019) and then stopped eating dairy…

    Working on systems now. And I have a nifty tracking system someone once shared with me.

  2. Isabelle Baker

    The oldest thing in my fridge are seeds that I sprout. They are a few years old bc I switch out, have a lot, get lazy sometimes and forget .

    My coach Belinda (yeah, that Belinda ) is helping me get more organized. I like that one page idea for the biggies though. That’s a super idea and I’m copying it!

    I can’t do the list in the outside of the fridge bc I’m single. No fun in blaming yourself for forgetting to add or cross something off!

  3. Dianna Huff

    Oldest thing in the freezer – hahaha — that is a good one. Chicken carcasses. I buy chickens direct from the farmer and since they’re quite pricey, I don’t throw away the carcass after I cut up the chicken. I freeze it for soup. I haven’t made soup in a while. 😀

    For tracking marketing activities, I use an Excel spreadsheet where I list each activity and a corresponding result. For example, “Weekly catch up calls” — email sent (activity); number of replies and calls (result).

  4. diane

    Energy Sucking Dinosaur is TOTALLY a name for certain social media platforms!

    Oldest thing in my freezer is a box of frozen pie crusts from 2015…the last time I had an itch to bake a pie. It might still be okay.

    For tracking, I use a content planning calendar for social media. But for the Stay in touch plan I use a tick sheet just like yours! I learned the system from a marketing genius! 😉 Never found anything better!

  5. Jessica Eken

    Energy Sucking Dinosaurs conjures up a picture of grey haired old men sucking on their bent pipes smoking aromatic tobacco leaves while listening to their good old songs scratched out on their antiquated record player…

    which brings me to the oldest thing in my freezer. What freezer I ask. Don’t have a freezer since we buy everything fresh at the farmers’ markets. LOL

    But, I do track my activities in a nifty dotted note book. So easy to see progress or lack thereof!

  6. Brigitte

    1. IMHO it’s a wonderful name for a band.
    2. I just checked…starch potatoes for Passover…hum… 1985! This is not from my ex-husband but from my mother-in-law who left us … 2 years ago. I guess it’s time to make this freezer really mine! It’s a good one with door opening, it’s easy to track what’s in there, that is, kind of, because… everything (I didn’t put in there) is double packaged and you have to take out the top plastic bag to figure out what’s in it.
    3. Excel spreadsheet but sometimes I don’t fill it out and thus it defeats the purpose

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I think 1985 is going to put you in the record books, Brigitte. Those potatoes may date back to the original Passover.

  7. Lorraine

    Yes on the name for a band! Better than some other names out there.
    Oldest thing in the freezer…most likely a package of lima beans I bought many years ago and need to throw out. I doubt that anyone could beat my Mom though. When she moved to a Senior Community, 10 years ago, my brothers and I cleaned out her freezer. We found packages of frozen fiddleheads that my Dad had picked 25 years earlier. Yum!
    I am hopeless about tracking and hopeful about finding a simple way to track.
    Thanks for fun questions.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s some old fiddleheads! On the tracking, I highly recommend paper, at least to start. Easy to see at a glance and no danger of the technology getting in the way.

  8. Charles Alexander

    We did the exact same thing with moving from a fridge to the freezer-box-of-death which has hidden popsicles that are 10 years old.

    Now there’s your band name:).

    And to track my marketing I use spreadsheets, but I’m desperately trying to move to a CRM (Pipedrive).

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Let me know what you find with Pipedrive. I actually use Copper for a CRM (OK, don’t love it), but that’s to help me keep track of the people who need keeping in touch with, as opposed to the number of keep-in-touch-with activities I do in a given week (if that makes sense).


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