The Most Important Question for Your Business

image of person tying a running shoe

You may not realize that there are two main ways to run an online business. And no, it’s not the skuzzy way and the cool way.

There really are two kinds of entrepreneur, with two styles of working. Neither one is good or bad. Either one can be successful, and either one can go down in flames.

Choose the working style (and the tools and techniques) that match your personality and everything in your business will work better. But pick the wrong style, one that doesn’t match who you are, and your business is going to make you miserable.

What kind of race are you running?

The two types of entrepreneurs are sprinters and marathoners. And you’ve got to figure out which kind you are.

A lot of the traditional Internet Marketing types are sprinters. They like to work in focused bursts. They might kill themselves pulling all-nighters for 4 or 6 weeks, create a process that works, deploy it, then go lie on the beach for a few months or until they run out of cash.

Buzz marketing guru Dean Hunt once said that an internet marketer was someone who “works 18 hours a day so he can make money while he sleeps.” That’s the best picture of a sprinter that I’ve found yet.

Sprinting is a lot of work, because your systems have to be able to work without you — to make money while you sleep. Tim Ferriss is a sprinter, and his best-selling The Four-Hour Work Week is all about effective sprinting techniques.

Marathoners, of course, take a more slow and steady pace. They show up every day. They tend to be excellent at producing quality content in small, bite-sized pieces. They often fall prey to doing everything themselves, because they can.

Bloggers are the consummate marathoners. In fact, bloggers often just keep running year after year and forget there’s such thing as a finish line.

You’ve got to pick the right tools for your business
and your working style.

You probably think I’m going to tell you that the marathon style is the right way to go.

But I’m not, because I don’t get to decide. You do. The rhythm of your business is something you need to understand, and there’s not a right or wrong answer.

I do, though, have some ideas about which tools work best for each kind of race.

Tools for marathoners

As I said, blogging is a marathon technique. A traditional blog needs to be fed high-quality content on a regular basis. It doesn’t need to be every day, but predictable schedules are great, and most successful blogs need at least one new post a week.

Newsletters (paper, email, or otherwise) are also a marathon technique. No matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you pour into this month’s newsletter, tomorrow you’ve got to start a new issue.

Marathon businesses get to capture the customer when she’s ready to buy. They can hold a prospect’s attention for a long time, because they’ve always got something new to say. They don’t mind customers who take a long time to make up their minds, because they can keep that customer engaged until she’s ready.

If you’re a marathoner, learn from your sprinting
brothers and sisters.

Put some systems in place so you get a break every now and then. Even a natural marathoner will benefit from taking time away from your business to recharge your thinking and renew your enthusiasm.

That’s why a smart marathoner looks for a sprinter as a partner. Sprinters can add excitement to a marathon business. And they have the energy and enthusiasm to push a marathon business to a higher level.

Tools for sprinters

Product launches are the quintessential sprinter’s technique. Launches are, by their nature, intense. Lots of activity confined within a short window, and lots of moving pieces that you need to respond to.

They reward the sprinter’s need for novelty, excitement, and intensity. The days may be long, but you know in advance how many days you’ll put into it. And they allow for plenty of rest afterward.

Advertising is a great tool for sprinters (especially something like pay-per-click), because they act as a faucet that can turn the traffic on or off. And a smart automated marketing sequence can work with a proven pay-per-click ad and make money on autopilot for at least long enough to get a really good vacation to Thailand in.

Lots of social media techniques are lousy for sprinters. Unless you’re willing to check in a couple of times a day, twitter isn’t the tool for you to find and connect with customers. Neither is Facebook. Or LinkedIn, or MySpace, or a forum. They all need the steady presence that belongs to the marathoner.

If you’re a sprinter, learn from your marathoning
brothers and sisters.

In the long run, it’s awfully hard to keep building and rebuilding from scratch. Momentum is a beautiful thing.

That’s why a smart sprinter looks for a marathoner as a partner. Marathoners build the kinds of businesses that command deep loyalty. And marathoners can keep a watchful eye over all of those sprinter systems, so they always work their best.

Why I love email autoresponders

Most of us aren’t pure marathoners or pure sprinters. We’re hybrids.

That’s how I am. I have periods of time when I’m working my tail off and periods when I’m kinda lazy. But I also tend to maintain a pretty steady presence over time. I tend to my forums and my twitter stream and create a steady stream of content for the blogs.

Every once in awhile, I have the temerity to take some time off. And “kinda lazy” turns into “resembles a form of plant life.” That’s when it’s nice to have a tool that will bridge the gap for me.

An autoresponder (and its cousin, the paid membership site with a “drip” model for releasing content) lets me do a sprint, put together several weeks (or even months) of great content, and then schedule that content to take care of my prospects and customers over some period of time.

Autoresponders take great care of new prospects when you’re out of town. Or when you’re busting your tail with a new project. Or when you have a baby, or a new puppy, or a garden to plant.

What Is an Autoresponder and Do I Need One?

Know thyself

One of the best things about running a business is you can set it up any way you please. So this week, think about the kinds of rhythms you want to create in your business.

Make sure the tools and models you’re choosing are
suitable to your goals.

If you’re a sprinter by nature, are you using the marketing tools that will naturally give you the breaks you need? (Too many people think they can maintain a constant sprint. If your name is not Gary Vaynerchuk, you can’t.)

If you’re a marathoner, are you getting the most out of your “slow and steady” nature by producing plenty of great content in easy-to-manage bites? Are you building rock-solid relationships with customers, and leveraging them over time with plenty of terrific offers?

Your homework

This week, take a look at the tools and techniques you’re using to build a list of prospects, interest those prospects in your product, and close the sale.

Are you working with the rhythm and style that work best for you? If not, what tools can you add to make that work better?

If your business rhythms don’t suit you yet, pick a new tool today and make a commitment to learn more about it. It takes time to build the business that suits you – and your style – perfectly.

Sonia Simone


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