Don’t Blame the Moths

I’m reading A Book of Bees, by Sue Hubbell. Today she talked about some threats to the health of beehives, including various kinds of moths who lay their eggs in empty hive cells.

Lots of amateur beekeepers, upon losing their hives to infestation, shake their heads and mutter, “The moths got ’em.”

Hubbell has little sympathy for this fatalistic view.

Strong hives have nothing to fear from moths, she explains. They can spare the resources to defend themselves.

It’s the weak, poorly tended, over-stressed hives that succumb to the moths.

The moths aren’t the cause of the problem. They’re just an opportunistic symptom.

What are your business moths?

Competition?

Sluggish demand in a recessionary economy?

Expensive advertising?

Here’s the good news: these factors are at play throughout your industry. The moths didn’t just choose your hive.They’re flapping around everywhere, looking for opportunity to deposit their voracious larvae into any business unable to defend itself.

And in terms of the moth of competition, there’s a simply prevention you can implement all by yourself.

Be so different that the term “competition” becomes ludicrous.

Why being different is more important than ever

According to Ad Age, Google is offering flat rate advertising options in two test markets, San Diego and San Francisco. They’ve figured out that most small businesses, no matter how hungry they are to appear on the first page of Google, will simply not participate in an advertising program that requires reading a 408-page For Dummies book just to get in the game. So they’re experimenting with a solution that’s as simple as the old Yellow Pages ad: tell us what you do, sign the check here, and forget about it.

Google sets its bids and keywords based on – guess what – the data they’ve gleaned from all the advertisers currently in that marketplace.

You can cry about it if you like, but that isn’t going to put rosemary and tarragon olive oil on your bread tonight.

The signs are everywhere – AdWords is getting dumbed down so ordinary people (the ones who don’t read blog posts about marketing) can participate. (Don’t believe me? Just check your brilliantly researched “long tail” keyword list to see how many keywords Google has disallowed because they don’t get enough searches.)

Let’s look at the reductio ad absurdum here: AdWords becomes just like the Yellow Pages, with fixed rates and Google’s own “ad specialists” writing most of the ads (this time supported by data rather than “what looks nice”).

How do you win in such an environment, where the old AdWords advantages have all faded away?

By being extraordinarily different. By standing out. By knowing your customers’ hearts and minds better than they know themselves. By developing relationships of trust, loyalty, and reciprocity so they get the most value (goods and services) from you while you get the most value (money) from them.

Yes, there will always be room for AdWords brilliance. Just listen to my interview with Richard Stokes of AdGooroo.com, in which he demonstrates how to use competitive research to enter any market and be profitable within one week (yes, it took my breath away). (The interview is in the Ring of Fire, so if you’re not a member yet, go here to try it for a month for just $20.)

But the DNA of marketing is not in tricks. Not even in data.

No, the DNA of marketing is your unique spirit. Your unique voice. Your unique expression of life itself.

Marketing is Unlearning

Ultimately, the craft of marketing is simply unlearning almost everything you learned as a child, as a student, as a young adult, about conformity.

And unlearning almost everything you picked up about knee-jerk non-conformity.

Becoming aware enough of yourself to know yourself, and to then enter into relation with others as an authentic source of knowledge, inspiration, and help.

Being solid and grounded enough to listen, really listen, to customer feedback. Even if it hurts.

Being strong enough to ignore and reject criticism and praise that tries to pull you away from your core essence. That seeks to shame or flatter you into pleasing others, rather than serving the world through your own joy and power.

Market from that place, and the moths can’t touch you.

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  1. #1 • Lloyd Matthews said on October 14 2009:
     

    Hi Howie,

    As always you have hit the nail on the head, being different to the competition is important for survival, and I think this would be largely true whether you are big or small. I have read that many multinational corporations are purchasing young companies simply for their new ideas they are bringing to the market.

    When I was serving my apprenticeship many years ago, I was told, “The person who did not make a mistake did not make anything”. Personally I have found that it is only through honest constructive criticism that you can improve what you are doing. When running my own business, I found that customer feedback could be a source of many new ideas; but what we appreciated most was the complaint.

    Many customers if they are not happy will just go away without saying why. The customer who takes the time to say why they are not happy should be listened to carefully as they are giving you information that your competitors would love to know. You can act upon it before they do!

    You write, “Being strong enough to ignore and reject criticism and praise that tries to pull you away from your core essence. That seeks to praise or flatter you into pleasing others, rather than serving the world through your own joy and power.” Now that is a difficult skill, and my only comment would be is to listen carefully to the advice of the people who love you most, as you can become blinded by your own enthusiasm.

    Best wishes – Lloyd

 

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