Perhaps this lesson comes more from Geppatto than it does from Pinocchio, but since the two are so closely related, I'm going to use it to wrap up the series. See, Geppetto makes a great analogy for small businesses who haven't quite reached their potential. He had skills and abilities, but he hadn't yet enjoyed the fruits of his labor. He worked hard, but he often fell short.
In this six part series, I'll be exploring six valuable lessons you can learn from the classic story of Pinocchio and offering up some input on how to apply it to your own marketing plans. If you are just joining the series, catch up on past articles:
Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy: Part One: Search Engines Want to be Real Boys
Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy: Part Two: Online Reputation Means Straight Talk
Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy: Part Three: Don't be a Social Media Jackass
Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy: Lesson Four: Listen to Trusted Advice
Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy: Lesson Five: The Conversion is the Goal
If You Don't Have Money, at Least Have Skills
Geppetto was neither young, nor wealthy. He had something in common with many small business owners; he was dirt poor. That didn't stop him from taking joy in his work and honing his skills though. Geppetto may not have had much in the way of extra money for marketing, but the craftsmanship he demonstrated while making his puppets and toys spoke for itself. A man like Geppetto would have relied on word of mouth and personal relationships to spread the word about his products. His kind demeanor and willingness to work hard would have served him well in today's world of social media and word of mouth marketing.
Small businesses can take a lesson from Geppetto. While a marketing budget can go a long way toward helping you build your sales quickly, finely crafted skills can get the job done too. Need some inspiration? Stop by Etsy's Spotlight area some day and read some of the great "Quit Your Day Job" case studies.
Spend your lunch break reading through them and you'll find story after story of shop owners with next to no marketing budget and a unique set of skills. Time and time again, they've built their business up through word of mouth due to the quality of their product and the quality of their service. Like Geppetto, they understand there are people in the world who value craftsmanship and they're happy to focus their efforts on them.
You Have to Get the Right Traits Working Together
It's not as simple as just offering the best made product or the best customer service. Great customer service on a bad product won't get you anywhere. Neither will the best product with the wrong price and the wrong message. What you need to do is make sure you are building and integrating the essential traits of a successful small business.
Creativity: Geppetto was immensely creative. Taking a rough cut log and turning it into a life-like wooden boy isn't an easy thing to do. It takes vision...the ability to see something that isn't yet there and to chip away at the excess until you reveal what was hiding underneath. If you lack budget, you can often make up for it in creativity.
Flexibility: Perhaps the single biggest advantage low-budget small businesses have over their larger and better funded competitors is flexibility. In fact, flexibility is one of the key reasons I prefer to work with small companies over large ones. Social media, search marketing, blogging and most other low-cost online tactics require the ability to make quick decisions and to avoid the miles of red tape that often accompany larger businesses. Flexibility also means you can quickly change course if one tactic isn't working so you can devote your time and energy to another one.
Perseverance: Geppetto didn't really end up with the most well behaved wooden boy on the planet, but he didn't give up on him either. In fact, Geppetto was so determined to find Pinocchio and take care of him, he set off on a wooden raft across the sea in search of Pinocchio. That led to a bit of a rough ride (more on this in the next section) but ultimately, it got him where he needed to be. The same goes for small business owners. While there's the rare company that takes off quickly and easily, most small businesses will experience several false starts before they hit their stride.
Sometimes You Have to Get Gobbled Up and Spit Out Before You Get What You Need
Now, some would point out Geppetto's perseverance and willingness to take risks landed him in the belly of a whale. That's a fair point to make. When Geppetto set off with Figaro and Cleo to look for Pinocchio, their raft gets swallowed by Monstro. It appears to be a fairly hopeless situation and the three of them resign themselves to their fate.
Once again, not so uncommon for the small business owner. Nearly anyone who has started up their own business has had at least one experience (probably several) that left them feeling like they'd been swallowed up with no hope of rescue. I mentioned the need to understand and embrace the failure metric in part five of this series. That's because it's often the perceived failures and the experiences of being swallowed whole that teach us the most valuable lessons about doing business online.
Sometimes you have to fail before you can succeed. That's why attitude is absolutely essential to the mix. Give up easily and you're dead in the water. Work hard, hone your skills and persevere through the hard times and you're likely to build up the type of knowledge, experience and reputation that lets your business soar.
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.
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