Small Businesses and Marketing Mantras

by Ken Mueller on August 18, 2011 · 2 comments

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Erin Feldman is the CEO and founder of factotum llc., a company that provides social media consultation and writing and editing services for websites, blogs, and social networks. When she isn’t busy with either of those two things, she’s pondering new ideas for her own blog, which usually involves some sort of collision between literature, writing, entrepreneurship, and social media; writing poetry; or drawing. Erin has her MFA in creative writing and her BA in English and graphic design. Like many of my guest writers, I met Erin via Twitter and in the comments of some other blogs, and am honored to consider her a friend and an important part of my community.

Brian Solis’ mantra is “Engage or Die.” He’s right. Engagement, on- or offline, is essential to a business’ sustainability. Guy Kawasaki adds another component to the mantra; he says businesses have to be “enchanting.” He’s correct, too. Being engaged doesn’t do any good if the business is perceived as a loudmouthed tyrant or a sleazy salesman. I would suggest adding a third element to the mantra: “Evolve.”

I’m not referring to the Darwinian sense of the word “evolve,” although “survival of the fittest” may be an apt phrase at times. Such words, though, can recall the idea of “dog-eat-dog,” and that idea contradicts the second component of the mantra, enchantment. No, I’m using the word “evolve” in the sense of being adaptable to one’s environment, of being able and willing to make changes.

My university’s health education resource center had such a mindset. It was 2006 or 2007, and Facebook wasn’t even on the radar. The center was just implementing a new content management system in order to align its brand with the university’s. Within a year or two, the content management system was replaced with an interactive, game-like system and a Facebook page. That online presence was supported by traditional media and methods; the center continued its engagement with the university community through print media, classroom discussions, and special events. Evolution.

I’ve also encountered organizations that weren’t adaptable. They thought they were. They incorporated Facebook or other social networks into their enterprise. They found a dedicated volunteer to cultivate their networks, and those networks grew. Unfortunately, their online engagement didn’t translate into their offline activities. They weren’t engaging, enchanting, or evolving. They thought social media would save them. They thought wrong. Their organizations are stagnating. They are not surviving. They are not the “fittest.”

It’s easy to become frustrated with such organizations and to query, “Why don’t they get it?” Those three things – engagement, enchantment, and evolution – appear to be simple concepts. They may be, but they are difficult to put into practice. Evolution is hard, as are engagement and enchantment. They are not easy taskmasters; in fact, they’re some of the worst. All three require hard labor, time, and energy. Nobody ever said building and running a business was going to be easy, though. What’s that other mantra? Oh, right. “No pain; no gain.”

What’s your small business and marketing mantra? Do you have words of wisdom that you could share with us?

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