Remember back in grade school when the teacher asked you to hold hands with a friend on field trips? The idea behind the buddy system is that it’s much harder to get lost if there are two of you traveling together. When you get into trouble, your buddy can help you out, or find someone else who can.
Maybe you could use a buddy in your marketing. The constant challenges you encounter while promoting yourself and your services make sales and marketing a difficult road to travel all alone, and it’s easy to get lost. Working with a marketing buddy can give you:
Perspective – A different point of view on your progress or challenges. Just hearing your problem restated by another person can give you new insight that will help you find a solution.
New Ideas – A partner for brainstorming and an extra pair of eyes and ears to spot opportunities. You can double the amount of knowledge and experience at your fingertips.
Accountability – Someone other than yourself to whom you are accountable — who will ask you once a week what you have done so far, and what’s next.
Support – Space to complain or celebrate out loud, with someone who cares about your progress. If you’re facing a roadblock, grousing about it for a few minutes may be all you need to get back into action. And having someone to share your success with can make it much sweeter.
While you could use your spouse, best friend, or business partner to provide this extra help, the individuals closest to you may not be the best choice. The people in your personal life will not always be thrilled with how much time you spend on marketing, and your business associates may tend to sidetrack you with day-to-day management issues. You may find it more helpful to work with a buddy with more detachment, who understands the importance you place on marketing.
You and your buddy can assist each other in reaching your goals by setting up a regular check-in, where each of you reports on progress, announces successes, and states challenges. The buddy’s job is to listen, celebrate, commiserate, and be a brainstorming partner. Here’s how to make the buddy system work for you in marketing:
1. Set a fixed time to talk. Whether you meet by phone or in person, set a start and end time for your conversation. Half an hour is enough; an hour is plenty.
2. Check in about goals and action steps. Make a brief report about where you are with your current goals and what steps you have taken since your last meeting. Keep your check-in brief and to the point, e.g. “I got one new client this week, and set up three appointments to give presentations. I interviewed a designer about doing my new brochure, and reserved a domain name for my web site.” Acknowledge your buddy’s progress and celebrate his or her success.
3. Help each other solve problems. Ask your buddy to first just listen while you tell him or her what’s going on and clear your emotional reaction to it. Your buddy can say things like, “Gee, that’s tough,” or “How awful!” but should not offer any advice until you are through. Tell your buddy not only what is happening, but how it makes you feel. If it sounds like complaining, that probably means you’re doing it right.
You might say something like this: “I’ve been trying for two weeks to draft my brochure, and there’s just been one emergency after another, and now my mother wants me to help sell her car, and I’m so frustrated! All the words I write down just come out wrong, and I don’t think it’ll ever come together, and I needed it yesterday, and I’m so worried that…” You get the idea.
Set a time limit of 5 minutes for reporting and clearing. At the end of that time, ask your buddy to summarize for you: “I hear how frustrated and worried you are. You seem to have two problems that need to be solved — finding the time to work on the brochure, and getting the words to come out right. Are you ready to look at some solutions?”
4. Brainstorm possible solutions. Your buddy’s job is not necessarily to hand you the right answer — his or her more important role is to help you expand your thinking to come up with some new ideas. Take your problems one at time, and together with your buddy, make a list of possible solutions. Don’t edit the list as you are brainstorming; include anything and everything that comes up. You are not allowed to say, “That won’t work,” or “I already tried that.”
Here are the potential results of a brainstorm on getting the right words for a brochure:
— hire a copywriter
— plagiarize my competitors’ literature
— use the thesaurus
— ask my cousin the writer to help
— do a brochure with only pictures
— don’t use a brochure at all
— look at the Yellow Pages
— take a class in marketing communications
— use what I have and stop worrying
— have some colleagues review it
5. Decide on your next steps. If none of the brainstormed ideas seem right, look at each one to see if there’s something useful in it. Maybe you can’t afford a copywriter, but you know one you could ask for free advice. Perhaps a class would take too long, but you could check out a textbook from the library. Find just one thing you can do that will get you moving toward a solution.
Regardless of any problems you try to solve during your session, always end by naming what steps you will take toward achieving your goals before your next meeting. Write these steps down — both yours and your buddy’s — so you can check in about them next time.
6. Keep the relationship reciprocal. Make sure each of you gets an equal amount of time at your meetings. If you end up spending the whole session on one person’s problem, devote the next session to the other buddy. Keep your buddy in mind as you make new discoveries and meet new people, and share any opportunities you uncover. The buddy system works best when you do for your buddy what you would like your buddy to do for you.