We use these as a compass to make sure we are taking our clients (and our company) in the right direction. Inevitably we slip up and break a commandment and pay the price in sanity, reputation, time and cash.
Last month, Seth and I flew down to San Antonio, TX to help BudgetDoc with their booth at the National Diabetes Association Conference. Long story short, we ended up running the booth - that is do-able, since Seth and I had experience working crowds. But the other issue was devastating from a marketing perspective. We had brochures, fliers, a fancy vinyl banner AND NO SWAG.
No cheap pens. No key chains. No stress balls.
My first suggestion was a bag of chocolate bars (like Halloween), but I was gently reminded that it was a *diabetes* conference attended by people that could quite literally die from a large fluctuation of blood sugar. After a slight panic attack, I thought to myself, what would Johnny do?
Well, Johnny B had rescued many of our early projects years ago with a quick visit to the dollar store. He was convinced that most of the world's problems could be solved with some cheap bric-a-brac and gaffer tape. So I mapped the nearest Dollar Store, grabbed a cart and filled my cart to the brim - for $78. As the frustrated clerk scanned scores of tiny object with even tinier barcodes, I realized something.
I had no plan.
You all know the advice, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And as an ex-military man, helping a decorated Army veteran catapult his business via a 10ft x 10ft patch of carpet on a convention floor, our plan-less operation seemed even more ominous than usual.
After arriving with bags of glittery plastic, our clients looked at me with a hopeful gaze. Then I spotted Seth dancing in front of our booth with brochures in hand to draw attention to our vanilla booth. He powered through a ridiculously uncomfortable situation and was getting the job done funneling people away from the much sexier nearby displays.
Encouraged, I dumped out all of the dollar store haul and went MacGyver-style. 10 minutes later, I had created a display of prizes, and taped some hand drawn signs on yellow legal pad paper behind me. One said FREE AWESOMENESS. The other said "Shoot the Target" (a hand-drawn bulls-eye). And the third one said WIN A SUPER DUPER AMAZING PRIZE. Our first guest clamored for the plastic gun with foam arrows, and quickly broke the gun.
The gathering crowd (and our clients) looked at me suspiciously as I scrambled to rescue it. Eventually I wrapped some rubber bands (also a find from the dollar store) on the ends of the foam arrows and instructed them to throw them like darts.
Between Seth crooning to the little old ladies, and my creepy carnie style rapport with the crowd, our patch of awesome became one of the highlights of the 100+ booths.
So where is the lesson buried? If we didn't step - no - if we didn't LEAP into the choppy waters of discomfort and certain failure, we would have failed in a flagrant public display of mediocrity. I'm not saying that having a plan couldn't have helped things a bit, however, all you small biz owners out there know that even carving out time to draft a plan is a luxury.
Getting uncomfortable scrapes away our 'business' veneer and shows the world that we are just like them.
Flawed, strange, clumsy, nervous, awkward and awesome.
I don't know about you, but I would buy from that guy.
- Nate -
See the rest of the commandments here:
10th Commandment - Be Human
9th Commandment - Leave No Interaction on the Table
8th Commandment - Remain Relevant
7th Commandment - Rock Your Niche
6th Commandment - Get Uncomfortable
5th Commandment - wouldn't you like to know 😉 Get notified by signing-up here for our monthly newsletter