beard 264x300 Thoughts on Small Businesses, Marketing, and My BeardIt’s been a few weeks, but I’m back after a bit of a hiatus. I kind of decided to take off a bit around the holidays, and then I got sick with some sort of flu or other bug, and my hiatus was extended. I’m still not completely over it, but I’ll live.

I also started growing a beard over the holidays. Well, it didn’t start out that way. I actually just stopped shaving for a day or two. And a bit more. Then my kids noticed and encouraged me to see what would happen if I actually tried to grow a beard. So I went from not shaving to actively growing a beard for the first time in my almost 52 years on the planet. And I’ve never done it before because it’s a long process. While my dad can shave and have a 5 o’clock shadow by 10 a.m., I just go from clean shaven to an extended period of “early American hobo.”

But I digress.

While I was on hiatus and growing my beard, I also did a bit of soul searching. I took a long hard look at what it is that I do as a marketer. I also took stock of this whole thing we call marketing, and how others do it, particularly in the small business space, which is where most of my clients are.

And it left me frustrated.

You see, online I spend a good bit of time interacting with other marketers. I’m part of that community. And I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Lately, I feel like I’m seeing more of the bad and the ugly, particularly in the way other marketers treat each other. We can be a rather catty bunch, stabbing one another in the back from a posture of marketing superiority, all the while hiding behind a facade of faux ethical purity and humility.

And at times I feel the need to take a bath and wash it off of me.

As for small businesses, the mom and pop stores and businesses that are everywhere around us, I see other things that bother me. When it comes to marketing online, they have several choices, but those choices are often tempered by this one thought I hear voiced over and over again:

“I don’t have the time or money.”

Sometimes it’s just a lack of time, other times a lack of money. But most of the time it’s both. They can’t afford to hire someone, and they don’t have the time to do it themselves. Or so they think. And that’s where the local Facebook or Twitter for hire folks come in. These are people with no background in marketing. But they’re good at Facebook, doggone it all! In other words, they know how to post updates. They aren’t hard to find. Just go to your local coffee shop and there they are, hunkered down over their laptops day in and day out, posting away for a variety of clients. They update and they tweet.

That’s it.

No strategy. No analytics. No integration. And most of the time, no real knowledge of the rules and best practices associated with these various platforms.

And yet I understand the attraction for small business owners. It costs them very little, maybe as low as $10 or $20 a week, and they can ignore social media and let these folks do their thing. After all, they’re not going to ever pay the big bucks to hire an agency. I get that.

But settling for something like this comes from a mindset that doesn’t really value marketing; a mindset that thinks of social media as something cheap and dispensable. Something that’s nice to have as an extra, not something that might just be important and integral to their survival.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s much like the difference in mindset between “not shaving” and actually “growing a beard.” In the realm of logic there is something known as the argument or fallacy of the beard. This argument is when,

“one argues that no useful distinction can be made between two extremes, just because there is no definable moment or point on the spectrum where the two extremes meet. The name comes from the heap paradox in philosophy, using a man’s beard as an example. At what point does a man go from clean-shaven to having a beard?”

There’s a fine line between the different approaches to marketing. And while different approaches might bring about similar results, there are definite differences, and in the long run, certain approaches will be better.

And so, I’m growing a beard. I look at it and I’m not really sure it’s really a beard. Yet. And it might not stick around long, but I want to see one happens.

And I’m also going to continue approaching marketing from the same perspective and mindset I always have. As we move into 2014 I’m determined to do what I do, and do it well. I want to do what’s best for my clients, regardless of what others are doing, or what others think. I’m going to work harder for myself and my clients.

This is my 2014, beard or no beard. What does 2014 hold for you and your small business?