I’ve always been deeply suspicious of anyone introducing themselves as an ‘Entrepreneur’. It’s one of those wank words I find impossible to say out loud.
Women don’t seem to like the word ‘moist’, but for me, it’s ‘entrepreneur’. Eww. I’m less disturbed when the term’s used to describe someone else. It’s strictly the self-use of the word that bugs me. So, “Richard Branson is an entrepreneur”, is wholly acceptable. “Hello, I’m Steve. I’m an entrepreneur”, isn’t. See what I mean? Wanker.
So when I walked into a client meeting I was relatively relaxed as the introductions were made and the Marketing Director said, “…and this is Steve.” It was only when Steve himself then repeated, “I’m Steve – I’m an Entrepreneur”, that I knew we were all doomed.
I’d been asked to the meeting to discuss brand strategy in a social context, something I’m increasingly integrating into on and offline marketing planning so I was slightly perplexed as to why we might need an ‘entrepreneur’ in the room. Was it just in case a brilliantly creative idea sprang out of our conversation and someone needed to throw money at it? Or maybe if we had a good idea, but suddenly and mysteriously ran out of creativity, we might need Steve to step in and… ‘preneur’ over everyone? His role wasn’t clear. And I didn’t like him. Mainly because of his self-proclaimed title. And because he was a wanker.
I let it go for all of about a minute and a half and then said, “So, Steve, what does an entrepreneur do then?”
There was a pause while he composed his best Dragon’s Den stare and he replied, “I seek the alternative.” I waited for the subject in his sentence, but it never came. That was it. Steve sought ‘the alternative’. I admired the brevity, but I wasn’t really any the wiser. “I suppose people ask you what ‘the alternative’ is quite a lot?” I enquired oh so casually. “No” he said.
Everyone shuffled their papers and cleared their throats so I kind of knew I was supposed to shut up. But that’s never stopped me before and I wanted to understand his purpose in life. “Well, are you entrepreneurial in the social space?” “No”, he said,
“I think social is a complete waste of money.”
Now that, I thought, was interesting – for someone who ‘seeks the alternative’. Social is surely THE alternative. Markets have changed, audiences have moved, tools have improved, knowledge is being shared and the world is responding to new social methods of communication for their brands – we’re all doing at least something in the social marketing space now even if it’s just blowing the dust off our Linkedin accounts and trying to make sense of Twitter. Of course, some brands are doing considerably more in the – they’re using social tools to create very active, vibrant communities online, they’re harnessing customer opinion, influencing perceptions, engaging in conversation and debate, they’re even transforming sales methods, processes and revenues.
Those companies are re-capturing audiences that had been lost to the internet and are finding new audiences at the same time. In a commoditised marketplace, those companies are achieving elusive competitive advantage by staying a step ahead of the competition and finding their social voice. And they’re doing it in truly creative ways – using music, video, photographs, conversation. What’s ‘the alternative’ anyway – another email? Really? Is that really going to work this time around when it hasn’t worked for years? The companies that will survive and accelerate through the recession are learning to balance traditional communications strategies with the social mandates of their audiences. If the customers want it – you’d better deliver it. New, inspired, thinking and brand development starts when digital and direct strategies are properly aligned and it’s the steps forward in social media that are truly… ehh… “entrepreneurial”. Oops.
Naturally, I regurgitated those thoughts in a demented stream of consciousness mad professor kind of way and only stopped to draw breath when spots started appearing in front of my eyes and I thought I was going to faint. Waste of money? My arse. In the last 12 months the current British Government has increased the Gross National Debt by more than the combined total of Governments over the last 300 years. Now THAT’s a waste of money. I dunno – somehow I expected an ‘entrepreneur’ to know the difference. Does that make me the real entrepreneur, the alternative… or the wanker?