The question came from a parent during the Q&A portion of my son’s freshman orientation at the University of Virginia this past summer.
“Do you recommend that first-year students bring their bicycles?”
The gentleman on stage, the assistant dean of student affairs, could scarcely conceal a smirk because he’d clearly answered this question before and knew his answer would resonate.
“What I tell students about bicycles is this,” he said. “If you didn’t ride your bike a lot at home, the chances are you’re not going to magically start bike-riding just because you’re in college.”
There was genuine laughter among parents because the answer was so funny and also because it rang so true. Four months later, the racks outside the first-year dorms at the University of Virginia are not full with rusted, unused bicycles because of a single, common-sense answer.
In my perpetual quest for self-serving anecdotes, this was pure gold. My rough equivalent is this:
If you’ve known for months or even years that you needed to jump start your marketing and publicity efforts, but couldn’t find the time, the chances are that you’re not going to magically find the time next week or next month.
Marketing is an interesting blend of art and science. Inevitably, when we engage with a new client and ask them how new business arrives, their answer is some version of this: “Our business is different. We get most of our clients from referrals and by word of mouth.”
I am certain of two things:
- Your business is, in fact, different.
- But the difference is NOT because you get clients by referral or word of mouth. That is everywhere.
It’s what you do to perpetuate client referrals and facilitate word-of-mouth publicity that determines the magnitude of your success.
I’ve grown up in marketing and public relations, so I know from experience that it’s a business that is prime for second-guessing. There isn’t a single message, tactic, or effort that is the solitary answer. There are many different approaches, but the approach that is CERTAIN to generate the same exact results every time is TO DO NOTHING.
Amazingly, though, DOING NOTHING is the approach that too many organizations select, not by choice, but because they think that somehow next week or next month the time, energy, and ideas will magically materialize. They think, all of the sudden, they will begin riding their bicycles.
Typically, I don’t like for my blog posts to have such a self-serving purpose, so let me say that if you’re stuck in perpetual limbo with your marketing and publicity – if your bike is locked to the rack and rusting – here are 7 questions you should be asking yourself:
- What sense does it make to complain about your own website? That’s your primary identity to the world. If you’re unimpressed by it, chances are that others are similarly unimpressed.
- How long can you avoid social media? If 50 years ago, someone offered you a free opportunity to build awareness of your business, how silly would you be to ignore it?
- What is the number one problem facing your clients? In what ways are you explaining how you can solve that problem?
- When a prospect makes contact with you, how often do you follow up? 80% of purchasing decisions are made on the 5th to 12th contact by a company.
- Do you have any type of digital advertising out there working for you? Why not? With micro-targeting on all digital platforms, it’s cheap, fast, and efficient.
- Are you cultivating your stories? What are the best, most compelling, and funniest stories about your business and your clients? How are you making use of them?
- Is there any other reason other than available time that you’re not telling your story?
The new year is around the corner, a great time to begin planning and to set goals for your organization. Maybe you’ll start riding that bike again. But chances are you won’t. Maybe it’s time for a scooter.