Keeping the Light Bulb On

The lightbulb goes on. You have an idea for a new service, a new product or, most exciting of all, a whole new business. Like many entrepreneurs, you want to hit the ground running. So, in a rush of entrepreneurial endorphins, you build a website, post a flood of information out on on social media and throw hard-earned dollars at some other promotional tactics. A month or two later (if you are patient) you’ll throw your hands in the air, figuratively or literally, and feel defeated that things didn’t work out–that you had a bad idea or the things that you did didn’t work.

Ugh. How depressing. I hate to say it, but I see this a lot when I work with small businesses and solopreneurs. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble if you slow down, take a deep breath and ask yourself the right questions before and after you start your business. If you do, you’ll literally be getting out of your own way and increasing your chances of success exponentially.

So why don’t more entrepreneurs do this? Are they lazy? No, quite the opposite in fact, they are probably more action-oriented than the average person. It’s just they stuck with a short-term view and some unrealistic expectations about what building a viable customer base really entails.

The truth is, it is hard to win people over in today’s market. Few of the old advertising tricks work–that’s why having a short term view is so detrimental to your business. Gone are the days where quick hits create impact or move the sales needle. Consumers are too savvy for that. Instead, businesses have to work significantly harder to be visible at all. Then if you do gain any level of awareness, it’s an uphill battle to engage people and even harder yet get them to take action in terms of buying what you have to offer even once, let alone many times over.

So how can you change this short-term view into long-term success? A good place to start is by looking at some successful, entrenched brands. When you do, you see very common elements that have helped them retain customers and grow over an extended period of time:

  1. They are in control of their marketing and have a very clear idea of what they do, who they do it for, and how they are different.
  2. They also put extraordinary effort into creating the most cohesive impression they can in the market—even when their operations are widely dispersed or segmented. This cohesion is one of the most powerful forces of any brand when it comes to creating and retaining a dominant place in the consumers’ heads, hearts and wallets.
  3. They remained focused on their customers needs and wants and were committed to sharing the story of their company with emotion that connected them to the market they sought to reach—even when they grew larger.

That last point is important, while we attempt as a society to digitize, automate and remove as much human effort as we can from virtually everything, the paradox is that when it comes to building affinity for a particular brand choice or gaining the trust of a client or supporting a cause, the most effective marketing approaches still must tap into our emotions—what we like or don’t like, how we feel and our aspirations.

​Given the extreme fragmentation of our markets and our media, this means we have a real challenge…one that businesses often attack by taking a purely tactical approach and trying to be all things to all people. This strategy simply won’t work.

​Bottom line: people buy from people they like (and your company is only as good as its people) and they buy because of how your product or service makes them feel.At a time when human interaction is declining and the mistrust of traditional marketing is at an all-time high, the your ability to “keep the lightbulb on” past the initial honeymoon stage of your brilliant idea or newest initiative matters more than ever.