Keeping Up with the Joneses is a GOOD Thing! Sometimes.


Keeping up with the Joneses

Are you trying hard to keep up with everyone else?
(photo courtesy of John Benson via Flickr.com)

When I received the July/August 2013 issue of MailPro: News for Mailing Professionals, a few articles caught my eye. Going Wireless is the one that inspired this post. It focused on efforts by the United States Postal Service (USPS) in pairing scanners with Bluetooth Intelligent Mail Devices to provide real-time data transmission. Such advances allow improved scanning and tracking of packages. When I read the article, I thrilled at the prospect of the Postal Service using technology that puts them on par with their competition (namely UPS, FedEx, and DHL). They’re finally keeping up with the Joneses in a good way.

However, it’s not always a good thing to follow the trend. For example, new social sites appear periodically. Emerging technologies have people jumping on their bandwagon, and those people encourage everyone in their address book to come along for the ride. And let’s not talk about all the latest gadgets, apps, and other releases announced (seemingly every week)! It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all these changes if we mistakenly make an attempt to keep ahead of every trend that comes out. Such an ill-conceived strategy is not only a bad way of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s also a great way to go mentally (it can drive you crazy) and financially bankrupt.

So how does one decide what to do/use and what to leave alone? Here are some guidelines that might help.

Know Who You Are and What You’re Doing

In the article The Truth About Your Global Brand, Hiroshi Mikitani said that we define our brand by the way we answer three questions:

  • What do you do?
  • Who are you?
  • Where are you going?

Let’s take the first two. By defining who we are and what we do, we get a better sense of our place in the market, whether that be global or local. This requires some serious self-examination, particularly if you’re self-employed or have a home based business. If the preceding applies, then know that you aren’t necessarily defined by the company you represent or the products/services you offer, although they play a part in your overall public persona.

Let me give an examples. Suppose you offer a skin-care product. Does that make you a skin-care expert and/or advocate? Perhaps. No doubt you believe in the product and can offer it with total integrity. But for some, they may see themselves as business builders first and skin-care advocates second. How you define yourself will have a direct bearing on what you present and how you present it to others.

With that clearly in mind, you can tackle the third aspect…

Know Where You’re Going

This gets to the heart of our discussion. While we need to define the previous points first, knowing where we want to go is critical in determining what methodologies and modalities to use getting there. For example, if you’re more interested in a B2B platform, then you’ll select social networks and tools that allow you to reach that portion of the market. On the other hand, if you’re more of a B2C (or “eye-to-eye,” which I’ll express as I2I) marketer, you’ll chose different networks and tools in reaching your target market. Having a clearly defined focus helps making the selection of tools you use easier. And, since you have competition from other businesses and individuals, you’ll need to keep up with the Joneses to a certain extent. Yet, even here some planning will help prevent ill-advised choices.

Let’s take an I2I (B2C) model for a moment. You want to reach the masses in the most effective way possible, and therefore decide on using Facebook and Pinterest. You notice a lot of others competing for the same eyes use Instagram. So, in order to keep up with the Joneses, you need to incorporate Instagram, right? Maybe…maybe not. Your market research may show that a 15-second clip does not adequately convey enough information to capture the attention of your target audience. To properly pique their interest, your research says you need to use a minimum three-minute presentation. Anything less leaves them scratching their heads, and we know a confused prospect tends to do nothing. So, in this case, you may favor a service that allows sending embedded three-minute video in email, such as iWowWe. Therefore, while it makes sense to keep up with what others are doing to a certain degree, you have to decide what works best in your case.

Going back to the changes implemented by the USPS mentioned at the beginning, following the crowd was a necessary step. For a long time the competition took a lot of business from them because they provided what the Postal Service did not: Real-time tracking data. That move was undoubtedly carefully considered and certainly much-needed. When making similar decisions for your business, do your due diligence. While you should certainly always observe what your competition does, you don’t always need to imitate their actions. Gather data to help make your decisions, then pull the trigger. Of course, as business owners, we sometimes have to “go with our gut,” especially if our data is inconclusive. Still, our gut reactions often find a footing in past experiences. The bottom line is this: we need to do things for our own reasons, not simply because the crowd happens to move in a particular direction. When that’s true, it’s a good thing if we’re keeping up with the Joneses.

What are your experiences in following the crowd? Did it turn out well, or did it all end up in the wash? Share your stories and feelings in the Comments below.

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