Lessons from the world’s best social marketer

If you have heard me speak, you may have heard about my grandfather.  I reference him whenever I can.  He is a shining example of a true social marketer before online tools were created.   He mastered the art of social marketing to build a business and to create a community.  My grandfather passed away 3 years ago after a rough fight with prostate cancer. I remember him at the strangest times, often when I have accomplishments I wish I could share with him. 

It is easy to put someone who is deceased on a pedestal that can’t be reached. I don’t want to do that.  My grandfather was far from perfect but he definitely taught me some of life’s most important lessons:

  • Give because you can, not because you expect a return
  • Honesty is the best policy
  • Work hard
  • Never give up

These are simple principals, but he actually lived and breathed them.

Give because you can– it wasn’t until he passed that I realized the true importance of this.  My grandfather was incredibly generous.  He didn’t take out a billboard and advertise it, he just did things because they were the right thing to do.  At his funeral, I met a woman who my grandfather bought a car for.  Yes, a car.  He had no obligation or moral responsibility.  But she was struggling, and he felt it was the right thing to do.  He gave because he could, always, without the expectation of return.  In the last year of his life, my grandfather knew he was dying.  He knew he wouldn’t live through the year.  Despite this, he underwent painful experimental medical treatments.  I firmly believe he did this to help the future generation of cancer victims, knowing full well, that the pain and suffering his treatment caused would never help him personally.  Give because you can without the expectation of return.

Honesty is the best policy– Grandpa was a wheeler & a dealer, but he was successful because he was honest about his intentions and he was respectful of those he was dealing with. In this new shift of customer thinking, we have a tendency to think sales are “bad”.  Sales are not bad, it is how they are handled.  People knew my grandfather was selling them.  There was no doubt about it, he was a salesperson through and through but they enjoyed the experience.  He was not deceitful, deceptive or dishonest. 

Work hard– success doesn’t fall in one’s lap.  Are you shocked to hear that?  It takes consistent work over a period of time. My grandfather was successful because he showed up, day after day.  When people said no to him, he figured out a different way.  Success rarely happens with luck.  It takes hard work, a thought out plan, persistence, and a willingness to adapt.

Never give up– Grandpa taught me that “no” doesn’t mean no.  It means not now or circumstances are not right, but come at me a different way.  If you understand the wants and needs of the other party, it is much easier to turn disinterest or a flat out no into a solid yes.    The obvious solution may be a no- get creative to find a way to make it all a YES if it makes sense for everyone.  Some of the people who told my grandfather NO later became his most regular source of business and referrals.

What does all of this have to do with social marketing?  Everything.  All of these principals flow directly into customer engagement online and offline.  Do rather than say.  Don’t give up, be honest and fair, give without the expectation of return.  Stop thinking of what is in it for me and think about what is in it for them. 

The last lesson doesn’t have a whole lot to do with social marketing, except for our personal obsessions with being connected all the time, but it is probably the most important lesson of all- family first.  Despite how hard he worked, I don’t recall a Sunday or a birthday in my childhood that we didn’t have a family dinner.  Family always came first.  Our economy is rough right now.  We all are trying to work so hard and yet we are distracted by many shiny objects.  Shiny objects go away. Put your family first.

People will remember what you do, not what you say.  Treat them right.