Growing Your Business With Vitamins, Spaghetti, and Ships


Three concepts for rotating fresh sales and

marketing ideas into your business


Solopreneurs, freelancers, micro and small-business owners, and side hustlers committed to ongoing promotion know they need to try a range of things in their quest for greater visibility, increased sales, and new revenue streams.

They also know that when they hit on what works they should do more of those things and eliminate the duds. They further know they should calibrate the things that work so that they’re maximizing their possibilities.

And they need to know about vitamins, spaghetti, and ships:

  • “Swallow” a reliable, healthy formulation of activities daily to remain healthy and prevent decline — vitamins!

  • Throw a bunch of untested ideas at the wall and see what sticks — spaghetti!

  • Send out a fleet of well-funded, intricately-planned ideas to distant lands, like the royalty of yesteryear — some long-shot gambles that will pay off big if they return — ships!

Let’s look at these three things — how to use each to your advantage and how they can work together — so that you can generate and work with all types of new and proven sales and marketing techniques in a blend that works for your business.

 

Vitamins

Vitamins are the proven formulation of daily or weekly sales and marketing activities that keep your enterprise strong day in and day out. Think of these activities as the basic, measurable building blocks of promotion that you rely on, tweaking here and there as new data suggest.

For example, the current “vitamin” formula of an e-commerce business I started during the pandemic is:

  • 1 blog post every 3–4 days

  • 3–4 customer marketing emails per month

  • 25–35 Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter posts a week

  • 5–10 Facebook posts a week

  • Homepage inventory refresh 2–3 times per week

  • 20 media pitches per week

What is the special combination of routine activities you nourish your business with on a daily or weekly basis? Is it keeping your business at a sustainable hum or should elements of it be tested to provide greater vigor? If you don’t have such a habit, begin considering what such foundational elements might be and testing out their routine implementation.

 

Spaghetti

Spaghetti refers to any of the inexpensive, handy, easy, commonplace, white-flour ideas that may come to mind from time to time. Throw them all out into the world as your time, energy, and budget allow and see what sticks — which methods, which messages, which audiences. Build momentum on that stickiness without investing all that much.

Here’s an excellent pasta example I’ve seen this week (May 2021): A neighborhood sports bar located near my city’s central vaccination site had written in chalk outside the center: “Free shot with proof of your shot! Major Goolsby’s two blocks away…” Arrows indicated how to get there. This promotion was low-cost and required no real extra thought, effort, or time. Brilliant.

It probably popped into someone’s head and they tried it out. Who knows how many people claimed a free shot between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., but if they did, it’s likely they also purchased a snack, a meal, and/or another drink. The thing is, I had seen at least four other such sidewalk chalk messages over the last several months from Major Goolsby, which tells me that they may have discovered some sticky spaghetti of their own.

How can you use this category to your benefit? Have a system for tracking all the low-friction ideas you want to throw out into the world and plans to grab and test things from the list when time allows. When you find your best sticky ideas, decide how you will use them going forward and add them to your routines and calendar. The right gummies may even become part of your vitamin formulation.

 

Ships

Vitamins may keep you healthy. Spaghetti adds low-investment variety and testing. But for the big payoffs, the big leagues, appreciable growth, you’re also going to have to launch ships regularly. Not as often — it takes forethought and proper planning, an investment of creativity and energy, to send out a ship.

It also takes guts and deep reserves of self-confidence, patience, and vision to cushion you against long lead times and inevitable failures. Shore up your kingdom and wait for your prizes to make their way back to you.

Some real-life examples of successful ships small businesses I’ve known have launched: A coach establishing a life coaching program for high schools; a historian becoming a syndicated columnist; a consultant founding a meetup group in her area of expertise as a way of finding ideal clients; a humorist, a marketer, a chef, and a bartender teaming up to create an underground dining club; an actor and producer developing a costumed workshop for third to fifth graders to sell to schools in the district; local food companies and book publishers partnering with convention planners to provide regional-themed gift baskets; a PR company expanding into event planning.

Now you. Start your plan to send out ships by scheduling a day this week to brainstorm on paper or with a compadre: To what ends will you summon your boldness? What sort of ships align well with your broader goals and desires? To what ships will you devote a real investment in time, energy, and exquisite, thoughtful planning (because it’s worth it)? Next, decide what makes sense for you: On what schedule will you launch new ships? Weekly, monthly, quarterly? It may depend on how spirited your planned undertakings. Perhaps put six months’ worth on your calendar, allowing a week for this one, two months for another, three weeks for yet another. Figure a realistic time and double it.

Now, pick the coolest idea and start on that ship this week. As with your spaghetti list, keep a ships list. Over time, you will discover the best way to work these into your overall sales and marketing program.

 

Review

  • The concepts of vitamins, spaghetti, and ships can help a small business organize its sales and marketing activities in a way that promotes stability and growth.

  • This threefold division of ideas is a way to generate and track possible promotional ideas, rotate and test fresh efforts, and maintain a healthy routine of what’s known to work humming in the background.

  • Vitamins are the formulation of daily/weekly activities that sustain your enterprise, preventing decline.

  • Spaghetti refers to easy, low-cost ideas that you can test as time, money, and effort allow by throwing them out into the world and seeing what sticks.

  • Ships require real investments of creativity, energy, time, and sometimes money — and they are gambles. While many may fail, the ones that succeed can be game-changers.