Monday, September 13, 2010

The Butterfly Effect in Marketing

The Butterfly Effect suggests that small variations in the initial condition of a dynamic system may result in vastly differing outcomes over time. I won’t go into the history of the coining of the term, but suffice it to say that one notion of The Butterfly Effect is that when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, it affects the behavior of weather far away in another part of the world.

This principle can be applied in just about any facet of life. It is very applicable when we talk about marketing. Today I’d like to share just three ways The Butterfly Effect may apply to our marketing efforts:

1. Small amounts of time and effort spent consistently can produce dramatic results. Many business owners with whom I work are the marketing decision-maker for their businesses. They don’t have a full-time marketing director, manager, or even assistant. Especially in such cases we see the most significant proof of this concept. Spending 30-60 minutes a day or a half-day a week consistently on marketing efforts can pay off in a big way.

One such example was a two-person business who, after listening to me speak, decided to distribute flyers for one-half day each week. They began immediately, and within a few weeks they were in the best financial position they had been since opening their doors.

2. The smallest act of kindness toward a client can bring back a tidal wave of business. Sometimes going the extra mile with a client increases the loyalty of that client, but doesn’t go any further (which isn’t a bad thing – we’ve still won in that case). But occasionally, a particularly satisfied client becomes an avid promoter for the business that went above and beyond.

In today’s digital society, good news can travel faster than ever. It’s easy for people to share their positive experiences with others, including businesses. Making these “acts of kindness” part of our companies’ cultures and daily operations can have a monumental effect on our success. Think “Zappos.”

3. A seemingly insignificant oversight or error can come back to bury your company. I’ve noted two positive ways The Butterfly Effect can bring greater success to your company through relatively small marketing efforts. Here’s one on the other side of the fence.

I once worked with a company that had a customer complaint come back to them about how they had been served. The complaint was unfounded by any reasonable person’s judgment. The company told the customer nothing would be done to rectify the situation. And, based on my understanding of the situation, they had no reason to. The customer was dead wrong. Unfortunately, the customer took legal action and the judge saw things differently. The event resulted in the company’s demise. They filed bankruptcy and closed their doors. The saddest part of the story is this: for a day’s time on the part of one of the principals and two or three thousand dollars, the whole situation could have been averted. A significant investment, you say? It seemed so on the front end. After all, the customer was wrong. Period. But in the end, it would have been a very inexpensive fix. Hind sight is 20/20.

What other Butterfly Effect scenarios do you potentially see in your marketing? What small efforts can result in significantly different outcomes for you and your business? Please share your thoughts.

Here’s to your marketing success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

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