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On smoking, loitering, and better marketing

the boardwalk

The boardwalk on Commercial St.

I’m sitting in a cafe with my first latte in weeks (been majorly cooling the dairy intake. Big sigh.)

The barista this morning is the cafe owner, a young guy who bought the place a couple of years ago from his then-boss.

I like his music aesthetic. Right now it’s an ambient electronic groove mixed with real instruments, right now a violin. Mellow sounds, but not so mellow that you start feeling melancholy or like you’re listening to the beginning of a guided relaxation tape.

Unexpectedly, there’s an early morning meeting in progress—a lot of folks sitting around two or three tables, 10 people maybe. 

I see a city council member, our new police chief and district attorney, one guy I was on the Downtown Association board with, some immediate shop owners and the rest must be citizens concerned about our little town.

The voices vary between a calm relaying of experiences and agitated self-righteousness. They’re talking about the ever-present crowd of folks that hang out on the boardwalk in a large group. (boardwalk in photo above)

Some voices relay concern about these homeless. Others insist that they have enough money for drugs and alcohol at the bar (implying that they don’t deserve kind words of concern). What the actual situation of these folks on the street is is unknown.

What is known is that they smoke cigarettes and joints, deal drugs and generally carry on in a way that frustrates the shop owners whose stores they loiter in front of.

What do these loiterers have to do with my business??

Lest you think this post is going to end up in a brilliant commentary on how we can all peacefully co-exist with our chosen lifestyles, I assure you, that’s not where we’re headed.

While the subject of personal freedom, loitering, drug use and homelessness is complicated to say the least, the eavesdropping triggered several other issues that can be applied to your adventures in business and growth as a human being.

  1. Inviting the “offenders” to participate.
    It’s certainly easier to paint broad strokes of assumptions and stereotyping when no one from that group is present.Sure, building and cultivating relationships takes time, but what better way to see each others’ point of view? It keeps the negative charge out of “They” this and “They” that.

Applying this in your business: 
Our overactive imaginations seem to jump at any chance to make something out of nothing or something big out of something small.

    Marketing is a scary proposition when you think of the faceless masses that need to be convinced of how awesome you are.

    Avoid the “They” syndrome and find specific people to put faces on. Learn about them, their fears, dreams, habits. Besides deflating the fear factor of that mysterious entity we call the target market, you’ll have an easier time communicating with them. And since quality marketing is about building relationships, this is just good practice all the way around.

  2. Encouraging people to take personal and civic responsibility
    Being aware of our impact on our surroundings and acting accordingly is one of the signs of an enlightened society in my book. We’re all here on this earth together.Walking up to this crowd of people and preaching my values of personal responsibility probably isn’t a tactic that would go over too well.When someone tries to “teach” us without our permission, we throw up walls. When given the space to observe and take in info on our own terms, we remain open to new ways of doing or thinking.

    One of the best ways to influence other people is through modeling, i.e. walking your talk.

    Applying this in your business: 
Many of us are in business for ourselves because of a very strong allegiance to our values. By showing what personal responsibility means to me through my writings and stories, I’m subtly reinforcing this as positive behavior. (did you see that coming?)

    Making your values public is also good for marketing. Folks want to know what you stand for. Taking a stand serves as a beacon of light to those who want to do business with people of similar inclinations.

    Whatever your philosophy is, articulate it.

  3. Staying grounded and present with an issue that makes us uncomfortable.
    It’s a lot easier to say, “help the starving people in Africa” than to engage in direct dialogue with a group of people whose behavior you don’t understand and that maybe makes you squirm a little bit.My yoga teacher says that yoga begins the moment you feel the urge to come out of a pose. How you deal in that moment probably mirrors your patterns of reaction in your life:

    • Do you clench your jaw and power through?
Do you back off and think, “that’s for people with more experience than I”?
Do you take note of the discomfort and then put your attention on your breath?

    Applying this in your business
This is kind of a funny one to mention to people who are forging their own way in business, i.e. faced with uncomfortable situations all the time.

    When you pay attention to your reactions in situations, you can begin to notice patterns. When you see what you tend to avoid, you’ll often find that those are the exact areas of growth for you.

    Being aware of the fear that arises and then consciously taking action despite the angst is one of the most powerful stances you can take in your life—and that often results in the most awesome benefits.

Being in business is an awesome vehicle for personal growth. Getting personal with “those people”, sharing viewpoints you are passionate about, and working with yourself in the face of discomfort are just three ways to benefit your business and be a better person for it.

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