SMBs: Embrace Imperfection - InformationWeek
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11/15/2010
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Michele Warren
Michele Warren
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SMBs: Embrace Imperfection

Think you have to be perfect all the time to succeed? That your business will be "blacklisted" if you make a mistake or if something happens that makes your operation appear less-than-stellar? Not so. In fact, there's one exec who believes you should embrace your humanity, and, as we all know, to err is human.

Think you have to be perfect all the time to succeed? That your business will be "blacklisted" if you make a mistake or if something happens that makes your operation appear less-than-stellar? Not so. In fact, there's one exec who believes you should embrace your humanity, and, as we all know, to err is human.In one of his latest weekly newsletters, Clate Mask, co-founder and CEO of e-mail marketing company Infusionsoft, addresses the quest for perfection some business owners find themselves on and backs an adage we've all heard before: When life gives you lemons…well, you know the rest.

"You will never be the perfect entrepreneur," he says. "No matter how hard you work to avoid catastrophes, at some point [they] will happen. At times, you will look bad and your reputation will be injured. But that doesn't mean you or your company have to suffer long-term repercussions because of it."

OK, that's great news, right? You don't have to be a victim of bad circumstances anymore. But how, exactly, do you make a really good lemonade that people will want to drink? Here are the steps Mask says you should take to turn bad situations into "incredible marketing situations." (By the way, the translations are mine, not Mask's.)

Step 1: Laugh at yourself and your mistakes. Getting upset won't fix anything, so view the situation as an opportunity instead. (TRANSLATION: Accept that you just got handed a big old bag of lemons.)

Step 2: Fix the disaster, tenaciously. (TRANSLATION: Take out your blender, a knife--and maybe some sugar--and start making that lemonade. And don't mope; do it with gusto!)

Step 3: Offer the injured customers or prospects even more than they expect. If done properly, these individuals may become your biggest fans. (TRANSLATION: Offer the offended parties the best darn lemonade they've ever tasted.)

Step 4: Use the situation to fix your current systems. Making a mistake is OK, but repeating that mistake can be devastating. (TRANSLATION: Make sure you write down the recipe for your "Super Cool Lemonade." If ever you get handed another bag of lemons, you'll know exactly what to do with them.)

Step 5: Freely share these experiences in marketing messages, blogs, and webinars, or as a "reason" to have another sale or promotion. (TRANSLATION: Tell the world about your lemonade. Someone might even want to borrow your recipe one day.)

Mask says that people are generally more forgiving than you might think. "If you're willing to 'expose' your weaknesses, your contacts will feel your honesty and sincerity," he says. "The harder you try to be the 'perfect' small-business owner, the more detached from your contacts you become, and the more likely they are to mistrust you. Enjoy your imperfections and learn to use them to your advantage!"

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