The New Regular: The Small Business Standup Act

Jim Blasingame

This is the 12th edition of my New Regular series, designed to help Main Street operators restart their business into the post-pandemic economy. Normal tested positive and has been quarantined indefinitely. 

Most comedians and all entrepreneurs write their own material for when they stand up in front of their respective audiences. Other than that, what does your small business have to do with a comedy act?

It’s true that even when operating a business is fun, it usually isn’t funny (except when we laugh at ourselves). But perhaps we can learn something from the simple truths that are foundational for all good comedy. And who better to model our simple truths after than Jeff Foxworthy and his one-liners.

Foxworthy’s shtick made him rich because audiences understood its cause-and-effect simplicity: “If you have more than one car jacked up in your front yard, you might be a redneck.”  “If your mother can cuss a state trooper without taking the cigarette out of her mouth, you might be a redneck.”

Perhaps we can channel Foxworthy as we perform our post-pandemic Main Street material before a tough crowd of COVID-challenged customers and a rude marketplace. Who knows? Maybe a little levity will help us focus on business elements that need attention. Since I promised Jeff I’d stay out of his lane, instead of redneck, our hook will be relevance. And as you consider this handful of one-liners from my material, start writing your own.

If the coronavirus shutdown has you holed-up inside the four walls of your business, you might become irrelevant.

This is about high touch – building and maintaining relationships. And today, you have to manage the many ways prospects and customers prefer you to “touch” them: voice, email, text, social media, etc. The tricky part is that everyone has their own unique combination of connection preferences (generational differences apply). Learn their currently preferred platform(s), which quite likely have changed since March.

Pandemic ghosts become irrelevant. And don’t make all contacts about selling something. 

If you aren’t keeping up with customer expectations for delivery and service, you might become irrelevant. 

This is a real cause-and-effect truth. With many customers and prospects still working remotely – and will likely continue to do so indefinitely – shopping, purchasing, delivery, and consumption expectations have shifted heavily to online platforms. And yes, in many ways Walmart, Target, and Amazon have a tech advantage. But the good news is customers and prospects still enjoy the intimacy of your small room act. And unlike the Big Boxes, who have to conquer the world with their ecommerce act, you don’t.

You can get booked for a return engagement by combining the most updated online capability you can afford with your small business special sauce shtick.

If you cut too much of your digital marketing material, you might become irrelevant.

Like connection preferences, marketing is increasingly about delivering your message on the digital platforms prospects and customers prefer to use as they learn about stuff they need and want. You can break through without breaking the budget with micro-targeting tools to test what works with both demographics and individuals. The good news is that there are also micro-marketing tracking tools that are perfect for small business because they’re granular in application and budget.

If your marketing goes dark digitally, you’ll bomb on that lonely stage called irrelevance.

If you’re still making cold calls on business prospects, you might become irrelevant.

Cold calling was never a high percentage play. And today, in the third decade of the 21st century, in the middle of a global pandemic, no one allows a salesperson through the “front door” unless they have The Key – a referral. Conducting higher-quality prospecting through referrals does take longer, but the relationships you build from this method also last longer. Referrals build bridges, cold calls burn them.

A referral will get you a standing ovation. A cold call will get you booed off the stage.

If you don’t have a close relationship with a community bank, you might become irrelevant.

Since before you ever heard of Jeff Foxworthy, I’ve encouraged – begged – small business owners to have a primary, joined-at-the-hip, BFF relationship with an independent community bank. Following the 2008 financial crisis, that advice was proved when community banks stepped up every day to help Main Street with mid-crisis loans, while big banks quite literally stepped aside.

And in 2020, when the meanest economic smackdown in a century hit us, community banks again had our back during the Paycheck Protection Program funding. And they’ll finish the job in the upcoming forgiveness process. Even though the combined assets of America’s 5,000 community banks is barely more than that of the top two big banks (JPMorgan, BoA), according to the ICBA, Main Street lenders made almost 58% of all PPP loans. Boom! Mic drop! Any questions?

Community banks will keep your business relevant because they get your Main Street material.

It’s okay to fall in love with what you do, but if you fall in love with how you do it, you might become irrelevant.

What you sell may never become irrelevant – shoestrings, shrubbery, and shellac will continue to be in-demand. But how customers want to buy, take delivery, and use them is changing all the time.

Just like Jeff Foxworthy, don’t fall in love with old material.

Write this on a rock ... Cause-and-effect small business truths from the world of standup. Who knew? Thanks, Jeff.

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.


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