The internet is full of cats. We all know this. In fact, if the internet was a real place, it would definitely smell like poo. And disappointment. And unfulfilled dreams.
All of which are… gross.
Don’t get me wrong: Cats are cool. I’m more of a dog person, but I like cats too.
Except for one. There is one particular cat I dislike. And the reason I don’t like this cat is the same reason that you, as a business owner or solopreneur, should not be like this cat.
Here’s the deal. I end up going to my mother-in-law’s house at least once a day. To pick up my kid, maybe, or just stop by on the way home to take care of something I promised to do.
There’s a host of reasons; I have many very boring talents.
But whenever I get there, my mom-in-law usually isn’t home from work yet. Which means, the cat has yet to be fed.
I take that back. The cat’s bowl is full of dry food. The cat will never starve. It’s like an eight-course roman feast of nutritional goodness laid out in bowls across the kitchen floor.
But the cat is not satisfied. The cat waits at the top of the steps for me every single day. And the first thing she does is indicate that she wants to be fed.
She doesn’t like her dry food. She wants the soft canned stuff.
So everyday, halfway up the stairs, I hear it.
She doesn’t purr. She’s old and smells like a corpse that hasn’t realized that it’s dead yet and her hair gets matted if you look at her weird and I’m fairly sure her purr-mechanism quit working a decade and a half ago. But if she were drawn and scripted by the guys over at Marvel or DC, she’d have a superpower. And that superpower is the ability to SCREAM.
Every day, she SCREAMS at me. It’s loud. Unbelievably so. And it also sound like a baby who is in exceptional and unending pain. It’s awful.
And I think she knows it.
WHICH IS WHY SHE UNLEASHES IT ON ME EVERY SINGLE DAY. SHE KNOWS THAT IT’S BAD ENOUGH THAT I WILL RESPOND.
Before I do anything else, I head to the cabinet. I grab a can of soft cat food, open it up, and scoop out the whole thing into her bowl. I generally don’t even use a spoon. At that point, amid the screaming, a three-stitch laceration and a tetanus shot actually seem like adequate sacrifices to make if only it gets things QUIET.
The marketing industry, for the last few decades at least, is a lot like my mom-in-law’s stupid cat. They got your attention by interrupting you. Badgering you. Screaming at you until you complied with whatever they were offering if only it would shut them up.
Which is why you probably hate traditional marketing as much as I hate that stupid cat.
(She’s seriously screaming at me right this minute… I forgot to tell you that an hour or so after her soft food demands are met, a whole new series of “whole milk” negotiations very loudly begin anew…we only have skim… it’s a nightmare. This cat is a nightmare.)
But the difference between “interruption” marketing and “content” or “inbound” marketing is night and day.
If the cat were doing inbound marketing, our relationship would be very different.
Let’s say the cat wants soft food and expensive milk every evening. But instead of yelling at me when I walk through the door she instead has planned ahead.
She’s gotten smart and started a campaign:
She starts in the morning by leaving a maple cream stick on the counter, knowing that I will be hungry and will also be unable to refuse a maple cream stick.
Then, around ten, she emails me a couple of very cute things she has done that morning.
Then at lunch, she sends me a little note thanking me for all the milk I have ever bought for her, along with a blog post she found that shows Lebron James’ analytics up against all the great basketball players down through history.
Mid afternoon finds her tweeting something funny (but slightly speciesest) about puppies.
Around four she sends over some facts about why cats and people really aren’t all that different.
Then, she waits.
And I get home.
And she just smiles, or whatever cats do.
At that point she’s met my needs (breakfast), provided a little midday entertainment (video selfies), educated me (Lebron!), and also made some intentional steps toward “closening” our relationship.
At that point, what do I want to do?
Answer: I want to give her all the soft food she wants! I open up a whole gallon of milk, pour it into the tub, go find and kill three wild salmon, and carry her toward it all on top of a pillow made of clouds and marshmallows encrusted with rubies that spell out her name. Seriously: I would give her anything she wants. I would buy anything she was selling.
And why? Because she gave me great stuff! She knew what I wanted, even before I did. She thought ahead and did so thoughtfully. She gave ME a ton of great stuff. Small stuff, maybe, but personalized and given out of kindness. She took steps toward building a relationship with me.
And in the end, she got her own parade, fit for a Roman general after a victory against the Gauls, the Huns, and the Vandals simultaneously.
That’s what you should do. As a small business owner, be like that wholly imaginary cat. That’s the new wholly un-imaginary economy. That’s the new way to do business. The old ways don’t work very well anymore.
Give and give and give. Not products, per se, or free services, or stuff that costs you huge amounts of cash.
I mean: Give your time, your expertise, your kindness, your thoughtfulness, your attention.
Give it away, and do it consistently.
And when that customer needs something or wants to pay a little forward, who do you think is the recipient? Answer: you.
This isn’t hippie-dippie stuff. It’s not rose-colored in any real sense. It’s not even that optimistic.
It’s just real. It’s basic. This is how the world works now. This is what inbound marketing is about.
Give, give, give. It’s the best advice you’ll get this year.
The alternative? Ugh.
Ask that cat. She’ll keep getting fed, but no one’s happy about it.