The Tortoise vs. Hare Approach To Business

tortoiseandhareWe all know the online world moves fast. Ideas can be spread in an instant. Technology changes seem to happen in the blink of an eye, and many have come to expect all aspects of business to move and grow at that same rapid pace. Sometimes no matter how fast technology moves, other meaningful growth in business still does (and should) take its sweet time.

I had a recent client with a very small start up consumer product company. The brand has a website with online shopping, a Facebook page and a Twitter profile. Tiny sales and a tiny following is what they had. But that’s ok, because they were just starting. I was hired to do some outreach work to promote the brand online. I got to work and started getting some good response online to the product. Buzz was starting. People began to enthusiastically talk online about the product. Traffic to the company’s site was starting to increase. Their Facebook and Twitter interactions increased. And yes, their sales increased a little bit too. I was feeling pretty good about what I had started for my client.

But in a short period of one month, they decided to abandon the outreach simply because it didn’t result in a huge increase in immediate sales. Although sales did increase as a direct result of the online campaign, it wasn’t immediate enough and it wasn’t huge enough by their standards. I tried to explain to them that the campaign was an investment in brand building and brand awareness. I told them that brand building is a process that happens over time, which leads to measurable increases in sales further down the road. I told them that there will be incremental growth, but to expect instantaneous explosive growth is unrealistic. Slower growth is longer lasting and more meaningful. I told them that they were a new brand that no one had heard of yet. They needed to spend some time, get their name out there, get to know their customers and build some excitement and online talk, then they would begin to see some more significant sales in return.

They couldn’t wrap their minds around that. They saw their dollars go out and expected them to double back in instantly in sales. Brand awareness cannot often be measured directly in sales, especially in the initial stages of a start up. Brand building (which in SM terms is essentially the same as relationship building) takes time. You wouldn’t expect to go out on a first date and be married by the second. Brands need to court their customers a while before they’ll go steady or even consider marriage.

I am right there with the tortoise. I believe a slow and steady pace will lead to more meaningful and long-lasting growth. We all dream of instant success. Wouldn’t that make life easier? But it is rare for a brand to find overnight success and it’s even more rare for those that do to be more than a flash in the pan.

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5 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. John Cavanaugh

    wrote on July 12, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    As always, Cheryl, you are all over it. I think the collective corporate patience is even worse in the era of Facebook and Twitter since everything *seems* so instantaneous. As you know, it’s not *actually* that way. Branding is and will ever be a process that takes time, patience and expertise. Even in the SM era. I’m sorry your client’s patience wore out before they could see that. And I wish your story was the exception rather than the rule.

  2. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on July 12, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I think because the new tools are fast, it’s assumed that the long term results will be as well. Some things don’t change even in the new age of marketing. Brand building and consumer trust take longer to create than it takes to write a couple of tweets.

    Thanks for your comment John – Nice to virtually see you again.

    - Cheryl

  3. TerryR

    wrote on July 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Nothing has changed that much … bean counters still rule the roost ninety percent of the time. And corporate short-sightedness (read that as “quarterly goals”!) will always trump patience with building a good brand foundation. *sigh*

  4. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on July 13, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Maybe not always, but most of the time it seems. I think in business it really takes a visionary person at the helm to understand the big picture. Thanks again for stopping by.

  5. Shasta

    wrote on September 5, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    So true! Great post.

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