The Benjamin Franklin Guide to Marketing Your Business Online

Benjamin Franklin PictureDid you know that Benjamin Franklin never said “A penny saved is a penny earned?”

As popular as the saying is, it doesn’t really make sense (or its meaning is not as clear as it could be). Here’s what Franklin actually said:

“A penny saved is twopence dear.”

Translated, if you save your money you can double it (or a penny saved is two pennies earned). Ahhh… sound investment advice! So maybe Ben can help you out in other business matters, even when it comes to marketing on the Internet.

Here are seven wise things that Benjamin Franklin had to say that you can apply in today’s interactive marketing environment:

1. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

The key to online marketing is content, and the ability to write well provides any professional or business owner with an unfair advantage over others, both in terms of social media audiences and with search engines. Video and podcasting are also ways to effectively communicate, as long as you have something compelling to say.

On the other hand, simply doing or providing something remarkable allows other media-empowered people to do the writing and spread the word for you. Either way, the lightening-fast viral nature of the Internet allows for unprecedented exposure—but only if you offer truly unique value.

2. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

The days of telling people what you have to offer are mostly over, and without a doubt dead as a doornail online. Educational marketing via valuable content is the rule of the web, and social media has given us the ability to fully heed Franklin’s prescient advice.

Educational marketing has morphed into conversational marketing, and the nimble and responsive business will see great advantages by involving prospects and existing customers in a dialogue that is beneficial to everyone involved. You lose control of the message (as if control was ever anything other than an illusion), but anyone who thinks you can talk “at” people online and succeed is deluded.

3. “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Benjamin Franklin was a true Renaissance man, and as a polymath accomplished much in the fields of business, politics and science. In these days of hyper-specialization, it’s ironic that the broader your knowledge base, the better your odds of not only providing remarkable products and service, but also of devising innovative ways to reach out to your target audience.

Another quote from Franklin illustrates the importance of constant learning: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.” Invest constantly in keeping up with the latest online marketing developments and techniques, but more importantly, broaden your general knowledge base so as to have more ammunition to drawn upon when faced with new challenges.

4. “Drive thy business or it will drive thee.”

The price of success can be truly expensive. You work your tail off to develop business through innovative online marketing techniques, only to be buried with work and growing pains when you succeed. And what’s the first thing you slack off on when you get busy? That’s right, the production of the very content that got you the business in the first place.

In the very short term, you won’t feel it, but if you’re trying to grow a real business and avoid the feat or famine cycles that are inherent when engaging in marketing only when hungry, the content should never stop. If you’re looking to grow, make sure you bring on people that can do the things you shouldn’t be. You might be surprised to find that your marketing is the last thing you should hand over to someone else.

5. “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

One of the most dangerous things about marketing online is the allure of the possibilities. Yes, it’s entirely possible that you can write something that spreads like wildfire across the ‘net. And yes, it’s possible that your every prospective customer could find you and jump on board. The problem is that’s not likely to just happen.

The truth is, marketing your business online is much like anything else—you work at it consistently and get better as you go along. As Wood Allen said, “90% of success is showing up,” and luck come to those who work hard.

6. “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain and most fools do.”

I think one of the toughest things for successful offline business people to deal with online is the wide-open nature of social media communication. Everyone has an opinion, whether qualified or not, and the least qualified are shockingly eager to share. Plus, there are always the naysayers who will take the time to complain that what you offer or say cannot possibly work for them, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

The people who succeed in attracting attention online, and converting that attention into cash, are those who take action, try things out, observe, and try again. The Internet is a medium that allows for unprecedented levels of tracking, testing, and low-cost experimentation, so idle opinions and complaints are even less warranted than at any other time in history.

7. “Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked, and never well mended.”

Reputation has been paramount to business success since well before horse-and-buggy days, and now news of bad business will spread faster than any other message you might want to communicate. If you’re tempted to put one over on people in the interest of short-term gain, you’d better be ready to close up shop and go do something else.

This does not mean that you should try to please everyone. Quite to the contrary, you have to fanatically please the people that matter to your business goals, and never sacrifice their interests to please those that ultimately don’t matter. Also, be wary of the inevitably opportunity for flame wars and stepping into unrelated controversy. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind, and they’re not going to change yours, so why bother? Stick to speaking to people who want to listen, and concentrate on speaking well.

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Reader Comments (50)

  1. says

    Excellent collection of Franklin quotes. They couldn’t be any truer today.

    Number 3 is kind of tricky. There is a cutoff between quantity of general knowledge gained and application of that knowledge. The same is true for the refinement and distillation of specific learnings.

    Education should never stop but should almost always be accompanied by action.

  2. says

    Great job adapting those quotes to online business.
    I think I could learn a lot from studying him. I think it is a good thing to realize how young he was when he represented the country in France (12 or 13?).

  3. says

    Wow ! You continue to amaze and drive me.

    I’ll keep fightin’ as long as you keep teachin’, O’ Mighty One.

    The truth of the matter is, as #2 points out, out of the 5 corporate blogs we guide, one outshines the others because the CEO takes the time to involve himself in the whole process.

  4. says

    Another great post. How many times do we need to learn that the key to good writing is content. Aviod what we used to call the Ally Sheedy complex, “just because people are listening doesn’t meen that you have something to say.”

    Well done.

  5. says

    I really feel this post. We have having problems marketing our new product. Here, we have a created a free firefox extension which helps the consumer bargains hop. But we don’t know how to get it out there – to really get people to use it.

    Old Ben knew what he was talking about.

  6. says

    #1 is very important and everyone obsessed with SEO always forgets it. do it well and people will come. do it half assed and nobody will love you.

  7. says

    #3 Investing in knowledge

    RSS subscriptions have changed our way of gaining knowledge at an incredible rate. Trying to stay above and beyond your readers takes great original content. No matter how much knowledge someone has, original content always puts a new perspective on old ideas.

    Great post!

  8. says

    I must admit that these kind of comments:
    […] has a list of great tips for marketing your business […]
    aren’t very helpful to people like me (or like you?).

  9. says

    aren’t very helpful to people like me (or like you?).

    Paul, that’s a trackback notification from another post that has linked to this one. You’d need to click on the title to read the entire “comment” on another blog.

  10. says

    so brian,

    i’m referring now to your
    “1. Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” quote.

    and ask you:
    – how do you assess if a post is a good post?

  11. says

    In depth, meaningful and informative, loved reading this post! “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” so true! This is the kind of post that makes me wanna write more and get better! Point #1 is also extremely important.

    Take care

  12. says

    Fantastic post. All round I have found this blog useful. As a marketing consultant I often have an interesting time explaining to clients how personal involvement with the promotion of their business is far more effective than sitting back and leaving it to me.

    The new age of a much more social style of business is something that many traditional business people need to adapt to.

  13. says

    Hi Brian,

    This is a Great post.

    It’s amazing how these sound advice can still be applied in today’s world. I especially like Point #3.

    Look at Bob Proctor.. in a recent interview, he mentioned that he received Wallace Wattles’s book The Science of Geting Rich and started to study it in 1968, and since then he never stopped studying it for over 40 years. Only now, then he decides he’s going to teach it.

    This perfectly corresponds to Benjamin Franklin’s “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

  14. jossypeter says

    great Ben lived his words both ways; do things worth writing , write things worth reading ; may his tribe increase.

  15. Mantelli says

    You know, I’m not sure all of your other tips are by Franklin either. Can you provide citations? The language on some of them doesn’t sound quite accurate for the eighteenth century.

  16. says

    Great article, I found yours on accident. I just thought I would let you know that you can make money now for your articles. At SayItAloud you can post your articles like you already do, but you can get better exposure and make some decent money in the process when companies sponsor your article. I bookmarked your page and I look forward to your future articles.%d%a%d%aYou can check out our site by clicking on my name.

  17. says

    This sort of reminds me of some of the inspirational audio clips listed on the site I’m referencing here. There is a lot of similar stuff about competitive intelligence, how to make your money work for you, creating something worth writing, and how investing in knowledge and tools to get ahead is the best sort of investment. Really good post, guy.

  18. Michael Scott says

    Hello, I am a student writing about Franklin and his involvement in the area of business. I wanted to ask exactly where it was that you found these specific saying. I assume it is Poor Richard’s Almanac, but I want to be sure of this.

    Also, in regards to the article, it is very well written and holds true, but not only to business.

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