The sad truth about marketing shortcuts

Here’s the thing: 4 ounces of plutonium are dangerous and expensive, but they won’t build an atomic bomb. And even if you get 400 ounces, you can’t build 100 bombs.

Critical mass is what happens when you have enough and do enough that you connect to a tribe, one that matters. Critical mass is the pay off from focused, consistent effort. Critical mass is what you don’t get if you are constantly working the angles and looking for a shortcut.

Open a small chain of restaurants before you’ve connected enough people to make your first restaurant standing room only won’t work. And online, the results are even more obvious.

After Squidoo gave away $80,000, we heard from many of the charities that sent a lot of their supporters over to vote. Do you know what they wanted to to know? "When was the next time we can rally a lot of people to get more votes and donations?" Do you know what not one of them asked? "How can we get our supporters to actually lay some groundwork so we can make this sort of money every week?"

It made me sad that so many non-profits have precisely the same mantra. Rush to the easy money, then look for more and rush after that.

Every day at Squidoo, thousands of people build pages. And most of them lose interest and fade away. But a few stick it out and many earn $2,000 or more a month in their spare time (for themselves or for charity). The difference is clear but sad. The shortcut didn’t work right away, so they’re off to the next thing.

If you have a presence on twitter, squidoo, blogs, facebook, myspace, linkedin and 20 other sites, the chances of finding critical mass at any of them is close to zero. But if you dominate, if you’re the goto person, the king of your hill, magical things happen. One follower in each of twenty places is worthless. Twenty connected followers in one place is a tribe. It’s the foundation for building something that matters.

This is why I don’t have a podcast, a video channel, any activity to speak of on Facebook. It’s why I don’t use Twitter or travel the country visiting bookstores. There are many places to be, and it’s tempting to act like those non-profits and race after the next one. But it doesn’t work.