Why is Marketing like Photography?

It’s all about focus!

Recently I worked with a client who owns a company that provides services in the recruiting and human resources field. After meeting with the CEO and learning a lot about the different services his firm provides I thought back to one of my favorite articles. The article was published in the Harvard Business Review in their November/December edition. The author, Susan Bishop, wrote an article entitled “The Strategic Power of No”. I would highly recommend reading it.

As an amateur photographer, I realized that the key to both photography and marketing is focus. Too often we take pictures without taking time to be sure that the focus is what we want. Yes, you can use the auto-focus on many cameras but that isn’t necessarily what you want the focus to be. If you want something different and creative you need to focus on what you want.

The same is true in marketing for entrepreneurs and small businesses. It’s all about focus! In the article, Bishop talks about how her small business got off track and tried to do too many things. She lost focus.

She ended up redirecting her company to specialize in specific industries. She turned down potential contracts that would have made money because they were outside of what she was targeting.

The key to effective marketing is really identifying who you want as customers and focusing in on them. Like photography, you can just do the “auto” setting, but it won’t give you the results you want. Too often, potential entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t have a clear idea (out of focus) of who their customers are. They make the mistake of thinking that everyone is a potential customer. What does everyone need? Yes, we all need food, water, and air. But food can run from table scraps to caviar – and no one does both. Water can be unsanitary and free, or bottled water from Fiji. Air is free, so not much of a business model, but it is a marketing tool for locations and development.

Whether you are in business, or thinking about a business, taking the time to understand who your customers are is a critical part of success. How can you possibly do effective marketing without understanding who it is that you are trying to reach? There are so many possible marketing methods out there that you could spend a fortune reaching the wrong people!

Yes, there are always exceptions. There may be that 60 year old who shows up in your shop when your average customer is in their twenties. But the exception proves the rule. You should be marketing to the customers in their twenties. Would you use the same resources to market to both ages? Of course not. You could spend money to advertise to the folks in their 60s through the local newspaper, and not see much return on the investment. Or you can use social media and other tools to reach out to the customers in their twenties and get a lot more for your money!

(Originally published on Hubpages 5/24/2013)


Get Rid of the Monkeys!

Working with businesses here at the Maine Small Business Development center I have to opportunity to work with different challenges all the time. That’s why I enjoy the job so much. But occasionally things come up that make you sit back and reflect on management and how much it has changed – and at the same time how much it has stayed the same!
Meeting with an existing business owner, we got in to a discussion on management practices. There were some issues in managing staff that brought me back. One of the biggest problems for him was that of managing others and how he ended up not having time for his family despite putting in very long days. When I asked a few questions about how his day went and how the business was doing I realized that he really needed to go back to the basics.
I suggested that he read an article that many of you may have read years ago. Originally published in 1974, the article appeared in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review, the article has been around for a long time in today’s business world! It has been used in classrooms and has been reprinted. It is the classic, “Who’s Got the Monkey”. William Oncken Jr. and Danald Wass wrote the original and when it was republished in 1999 a commentary by Stephen Covey was added. If you have not read it I would suggest that you do.
The article talks about three kinds of management time. The first is Boss-imposed time. The second is System-imposed time. The third is Self-imposed time. The Self-imposed time is the only time that we as managers can actually influence.
Using the analogy of a monkey on the back, it looks at the way that we sometimes allow burdens to be shifted from our employee’s burden to one that we take on as a manager. The key is then to not accept the monkey that may rightfully belong not to us, but to our employees. It was clear that my client was in such a stressful situation due in large part to letting his employees give him the monkeys. He further compounded this by not having any real written policies in place. In effect, he was letting his employees run roughshod over him. They were dropping everything in his lap at the end of the day and going out and using the company credit card he provided to have a few drinks after work. He was left to work nights and weekends to try and keep up. A key quote from the article is “In accepting the monkey, the manager has voluntarily assumed a position subordinate to his subordinate.” He was never going to actually never going to be able to get caught up or be truly in charge of his destiny.
If you manage a small business and this sounds anything like where you are today, I urge you to go and read the article. Some of the “oldies but goodies” still apply today, although they have evolved. By all means get the article form the 1999 reprint. It contains a second part “Making Time for Gorillas” that is Stephen Covey’s follow up. It brings some of the points more up to date perhaps, but it also ties in to management today. After you have read it, think about how you might be able to get rid of a few monkeys!

(Originally published in MaineBiz 6/13/2016)