“It smells like burning metal.”
I haven’t done any research, but I’m pretty sure that this statement is not among the top three things you’d hope to hear from your wife regarding the microwave oven in your kitchen. I promised to give it a look when I got home that night.
And so I did – not that I had even the vaguest clue what I was looking for. And yet, as an American male, I felt an obligation to at least open the door and gaze intently inside. You know, the way you do when your car starts making funny noises, and you pop the hood to have a look, hoping that “low on wiper fluid” (the sum total of your car diagnostic wisdom) is somehow the cause.
Anyway, my wife Linda called the appliance place, and they said that a 20-year-old microwave was well past its useful life and not worth fixing. And so a couple of days later, we went shopping.
An hour after that, a new microwave was in hand. Of course, that’s the easy part. Any fool can buy a microwave oven. The trick is in hanging it above the range, and in such a way that it doesn’t come crashing down one morning while you’re trying to heat up the oatmeal your doctor keeps telling you to eat.
And so I got to work. Two hours later and in what I now consider a burning-bush-caliber miracle, I was successful. The bracket fit securely to the wall, the holes I drilled lined up and, with the help of several family members, we hoisted it up and sent it off on its maiden voyage (a cup of tea).
Was I excited? No. I was elated … jubilant … atingle! Linda accused me of “prancing around the kitchen,” and my teenage children rolled their eyes so many times I feared for their long term vision.
The next morning, I was still in a state of quasi euphoria. It just felt good to have completed something so important (for the two days we had no microwave, I felt like I was living off the land) and a bit out of my admittedly unimpressive technical comfort zone.
The key word in the preceding sentence is “completed.” Completion brings with it an unmistakable energy that propels you happily into the next activity. Without it, things can be a slog.
This also applies to your solo professional marketing just as much as it applies to your kitchen. Without completion, marketing can be a slog.
And that, I believe, is what makes 21st century marketing so frustrating for so many solos: There are too many choices.
Think about it. Fifteen years ago, you put an ad in the local paper, attended a monthly networking dinner, sponsored the boy scouts and you were done. If you were really ambitious, maybe you mailed out a quarterly newsletter. After all, there just weren’t that many reasonable options for the solo professional.
Today, the marketing options are nearly endless, and the time frame and frequency required is theoretically infinite. Completion?! How can you complete your marketing when you know you can always get involved in one more activity? You can’t. At least not if you view it that way.
What I recommend instead is a 4-step program. Pick four marketing activities that you will do regularly and well. And then do them. When you’ve accomplished those four, you’ll feel that sense of completion (and all the benefits that go with it).
Here are mine (find four that work for you):
- One face-to-face meeting per week (coffee, lunch, etc.).
- 100 snail mail cards sent to 100 people each month with a “solo professional marketing tip.” (I use and recommend Send Out Cards.)
- Emails sent regularly to about 350 friends and colleagues a few times a year. Just to say hello and stay in touch.
- This newsletter, every other week, to any human or land-based mammal who wants one.
Do I tweet? Sure. LinkedIn? Regularly. Attend networking meetings, post on blogs, submit articles I’ve written to other sources, send birthday cards? Yes, yes, yes, tell me your birthday, and I’ll send you one.
But – and this is the key – the four tasks in my 4-step program are the only ones I worry about. Everything else is an optional, nice-to-have.
The result? A sense of completion. I can shut my computer off at night knowing I’ve done my marketing, and without ever wondering what else, in addition, I could have done. Prancing optional.