Follow the leader or follow the rules?

Lately I have tried to be more aware of what’s going on around me, especially when on the road. Which leads me (albeit ambiguously) to the question, do we need to only be conscious of life’s rules and try to live by them, or do we need to be proactive in following those rules? The same question can apply to marketing – do we just follow the rules or are we proactive in our quest to provide our clients with the best we can?

As I left for work, I saw a driver actually smile as we executed our car ballet through a six-way stop. Why was anyone smiling at 7:15 a.m.? What did he, or any of us, have to smile about? Well, probably a lot, no matter what our present circumstances. Do we carry that smile into our customer service? I hope so, because a smile is an invitation to connect – either as a part of the morning commute, the human race, or in our case, in creating a vital relationship with our clients.

I noticed lots of dog walkers, and I wondered if they had their little blue bags with them. Not only because the law says so, but because courtesy dictates it. Do we care enough about those around us to “clean up the droppings?” Do we shrug away rude behavior as “what do you expect?” or do we work overtime to overturn the rudeness that we experience, and not simply reflect it back?

It’s easy to break common sense traffic rules on the way to work. I stopped for quail crossing the road, irritating those behind me. I wove in and out of traffic to get a little bit ahead of those not quite going the speed limit. While I know it’s not a good idea to brake for animals, some rules seem made to be broken, and I think missing the quail is one of them. But I knew I probably wouldn’t get to the next light any faster than the cars I passed, so why did I try? Like passing those slow cars, do we feel the need to rush, to be first, causing us to take short-cuts with our clients, or be impatient with our vendors?

How many rules do we break when dealing with our clients? Little rules like showing up on time for a meeting or not returning a phone call right away are easily broken. But what about the big rules such as meeting deadlines, accurate billing and honest communication with the client, even if it’s not quite what they want to hear? Breaking those kinds of rules will bring a marketing firm, and their clients, down faster than…well, fill in the blank. At Imagine Marketing, the rules have been etched in stone (okay, brass) in our mission statement, vision and values that were established as the foundation of Imagine Marketing.

At the freeway off-ramp, the first car in line didn’t move when the light turned green. What were they waiting for? Not paying attention? Or maybe they were acknowledging the inordinate number of red light runners, waiting those few extra seconds that could save a life.

I believe that in our business, while it may seem that we need to work at break-neck speed, be the first, get the most, ignore the obvious, taking the time to wait a few seconds can do wonders. Maybe it won’t save a life as it would at the traffic light, but it might save an account, a relationship or a valuable contact by just taking a metaphorical breath before jumping out into traffic.

Sue Burkholder is the Company Mom for Imagine Marketing.
Contact Sue at

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