As we head into the new year, small businesses across the web will be looking to boost their presence by sparking conversation, attracting links and driving new sales. If you're looking to walk the path to viral success, consider two statements made by popular marketing bloggers this week.

Seth Godin writes: "Make promises and keep them."

He says that's what good marketing is all about.

It's very easy to overpromise. Tempting to shade the truth a little bit, deliver a little bit less to save a few bucks. Who will notice?

The consumer notices.

If you need to overpromise to make the sale, don't bother. It's not worth it.

It sounds so simple and really, it is. But so many small businesses lose sight of this. They spend their time focusing on making themselves popular instead of making themselves valuable without realizing there's a crucial difference.

I was reminded of that yesterday when Brand Autopsy's John Moore rekindled his "Would You Miss" series. John's series looks at popular companies and asks his readers if they'd miss that company if they went away.

The series was sparked by the book Mavericks at Work which asked the question:

"If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would really miss you and why?"

John asks this question about The Cheesecake Factory and based on the comments of his post, they would not only NOT be missed, but they could easily improve their image by making some minor changed based on customer feedback.

Both John and Seth's questions got me wondering about our own business here at Search Engine Guide. Do we make promises and keep them? Would we be missed if we were gone?

I'd like to think we make promises and keep them, but I can think of a few instances where I've dropped the ball on series that were popular with readers. (Probably a good example of aiming high, but not so high as to be unrealistic.) That serves as a good reminder that I need to put a little more time and effort into planning out my more ambitious projects this year.

That said, we've always worked hard to make sure we're serving an under served market. Based on email and conversations with readers, I'd like to think we're doing fairly well on the "would you be missed" front. I know I'd certainly miss Search Engine Guide if it were gone. There's never been a better job or employer.

2008 is a new year and a new chance for you to change the way your business is perceived. Things like blogging and social media give you a new outlet to listen to what your customers are looking for and to talk with them about how you might address those needs. Do it well and you may find yourself with an unexpected viral campaign launched by newly created customer evangelists.

I'd highly suggest heading into the new year with Seth and John's lines as part of the checklist for any decision your business makes.

"Are you making a promise you will keep?"


"Are we building a business people would miss?"

January 4, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


I like the closing with the two questions. Since so many startup businesses fail, I think it's imperative that each entrepreneur, in light of such a failure, goes back to the business plan -- specifically to the value proposition -- and highlights exact what the market already had that was overlooked...

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > How to Set Yourself up as a Viral Success