I've spent years working with small businesses to help them improve their online marketing efforts. In that time, I've seeing companies falling into one of two traps. They either begin to obsessively focus on the latest and greatest or they go into panic mode and avoid trying anything new for fear of making a mistake. That's a point Mike Moran addresses beautifully in his latest post over at Biznology.

Mike starts out with a powerful, yet simple point.

I can go on and on about what a great cook Linda is. She uses fresh vegetables and other ingredients. She makes dishes that are healthy as well as delicious. But there's something I haven't told you: She always uses a recipe. In fact, she often uses a recipe even when she's made a dish many times.

Does that surprise you? Sure, a lot of great cooks can just size up a pile of ingredients and wing it. They don't need recipes; they can just create. Linda is not that kind of cook. No matter what she's making, she'll crack open a cookbook or she'll Google something. She wants to have someone else's plan in front of her when she's doing her creating--she's not creating a recipe, she's creating our dinner.

And you know what? I couldn't care less. The food tastes every bit as good when Linda uses a recipe as it does if some other cook creates something.

That may seem like an odd post on a marketing blog, but Mike does a great job of setting up a very important point.

Your marketing can be just as good following someone else's recipe as if you created the idea yourself.

In other words, if you're a small business owner, there's nothing wrong with focusing on your business and taking your marketing cue from other people's trial and error. You don't need to chase algorithms, you don't need to launch groundbreaking viral marketing campaigns, you don't have to spend all your time on Twitter trying to find marketing value.

You CAN focus on building your business and rely on the advice and experience of other people to help you shape your campaigns.

You can look at Dell and realize the value of interacting with your customers online. You can look at Stormhoek and realize the value of reaching out to bloggers. You can look at Mentos and realize the value of capitalizing on opportunity. You don't have to be the example, you can learn from the example.

Yes, there's something to be said for being cutting edge, especially in competitive markets. But ask yourself this: is the time you might spend setting up and testing 27 web sites to find the one NEW thing that impacts rankings worth the loss of time spent focusing on your business? Or, do you compete in an industry where keeping tabs on the latest SEO news via your feed reader keeps you competitive?

You can't be afraid to try new things, but if you start obsessing over them, you may find you'll losing valuable time that could be spent building your business.

Mike sums it all up quite nicely:

You can be a great cook by following a recipe. The food tastes just as good.

January 21, 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 really enjoyed your article, it is very direct and it makes sense. We have our clients debrief projects with their staff to discuss what did not work, why it did not work, what worked well, why it worked well, etc. so that they can learn from their mistakes and continue to improve their systems.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > You Don't Have to be Groundbreaking to Be Successful