Embracing the Tortoise

by Chris Kenton on May 7, 2009

bunnybonesI‘m doing a Webinar today on Surviving and Thriving in the Economic Downturn, along with Thor Muller from Get Satisfaction and Scott Wilder from Intuit, moderated by Bill Johnston from Forum One, who also manages the fantastic Online Community Unconference. Working on my thoughts around this topic has been a great opportunity to reflect on why SocialRep is still plugging along quite well, in the midst of all the economic doom and gloom.

There are a lot of factors at play. But when I stand back and think about the meta frame for why SocialRep is still tooling along instead of flaming out or getting pummeled, there’s a pattern that interests me. In Startup World, especially in the valley, the dominant imperative is speed. Organize quickly. Raise money. Get to market fast. Grow fast. Run, baby, run. But for us, the focus palpably shifted last August when we stopped chasing money to focus instead on customers and product quality. Sure, we’ve grown much slower, but today we have a much more solid product and a base of revenue, which is perfect for a slow economic environment.

In short, we’ve embraced the Tortoise. We’ve taken a long view of the market, and marshaled our resources to move deliberately and steadily, holding ourselves in check when hares seem to pop up and speed away in front of us. It’s nerve racking sometimes to see a new competitor jump up and sprint away, but by now we’ve seen a couple of those hares further down the road, flattened like roadkill.

What does it mean to Embrace the Tortoise? It means to find and focus on your vision, and find your own pace in the market by being true to your customers and your product. A long term vision is not just stringing short-term results together–if you’re always sprinting, you eventually run out of steam. You need a solid sense of direction you believe in enough to plod toward, without being driven to waste your energy every time a competitor makes a move. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

It also means to take a long-term view in understanding your market–and this is especially important in marketing and social media. If you want to make it further than the next turn in the road, you need some strategy to anticipate what’s beyond it. The best way to do that is to be a student of history, which is something in short supply in the marketing profession. I talk frequently about the historical context of the social media phenomenon and the bursting media bubble. If you want a synopsis, I wrote about here.

It’s been a busy few weeks, but I’m happy to say I’m finally circling back with Jonathan Knowles to continue the discussion on Social Media and Marketing ROI, and we’re launching a survey together to measure marketer’s experiences with social media metrics. If you’re a marketing professional, please join us and take the survey. We’ll provide the results to everyone who participates.

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jason May 20, 2009 at 11:37 am

Chris, great post. We may be headed for depression so keep that in mind as well. Check out the graph on this website as it shows future market conditions. The article is pretty long, but well worth the read.

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