Marketing lessons from a 310-million-year-old fossil.
On March 23, high winds pushed the container ship Ever Given aground in Egypt’s Suez Canal. For six days, the Ever Given completely blocked the canal, which ordinarily carries 50 ships per day (12% of the world’s trade). Even Captain Phillips would have sat helplessly on the bridge as he waited for an excavator to move the muck that was trapping the ship in place.
I originally planned to cover the story for next week’s Tax Beat column (formerly The Networker), but I missed the boat – literally – as 14 tugboats and a supermoon “king tide” finally joined forces to yank the vessel from the mud where it had been stuck. By the time that finally happened, over 400 ships were jammed up at either end of the canal, including cargoes full of sex toys, toilet paper, and live animals. Lloyd’s of London estimated the economic impact at $400 million per hour, and some ships even chose to take the two-week journey around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope rather than risk even further delays in the canal.
Do you remember where you were when you heard the boat had been freed? What was your favorite Ever Given meme? And how fair is it that the ship is free while all the rest of us are stuck in our pandemic doldrums?
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Soon enough, the Ever Given will be just another pandemic memory we share with our grandchildren, along with murder hornets and Tiger King. But there are plenty of lessons to take from the saga of the 21st century’s most monstrous cargo ships relying on the 19th century’s Suez Canal to move one out of every eight dollars of global commerce.
Here’s just one: the value of diversification. How do you market your business? Do you diversify your message and media like a smart investor diversifies their portfolio? Or do you rely on just one strategy for prospects to flow your way, like a single canal carrying too many overgrown ships?
Financial Gravity CEO Scott Winters and I have just finished a new book called The 10X Tax Pro and Scott shares a terrific story about the dangers of relying on one “canal” for deal flow:
“Not all campaigns work, and not all campaigns that work, keep working. I’ll give you a great example of the latter that was a little too close to home. Early in my career, I stumbled on a campaign that worked like a golden ticket. I would put one dollar in, and eight to ten dollars would come back to me. Obviously, with a payback like that, I did what any rational person would do. I bought a gun and robbed a local bank to dump as much cash as I could into the campaign. Laugh if you must, but the results were incredible. I was making a ton of money, so I doubled down; bigger office, more employees, more marketing, and it all led to more profits. Until one day, suddenly, it didn’t. My golden goose campaign worked like clockwork for over two years until it stopped. I was stuck holding the bag: all the overhead of a scaled-up business with no fallback marking strategy to keep the lights on.”
The operators of the Ever Given must have felt the same way as they watched engineers work to free their boat from the banks of the canal.
So, what are your fallback marketing strategies to move your prospects when your Suez Canal stops flowing? (Anyone making jokes about the cargo of sex toys gets blocked.) And more broadly, what’s your strategy to keep your business alive when the “numbers in boxes” business inevitably runs aground? Don’t assume that will never happen. Things that have never happened before, happen every day. Your job is to make a plan to make sure you aren’t stuck when they do!
The Briefs is a weekly column on marketing and business planning for tax professionals and financial advisors looking to better serve clients and grow their business.
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