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Mind Your Business: What Snooki Knows That You Don’t


I’ve been an honest-to-goodness genuine Jersey Girl all of my life and I can honestly say that in all my shore-going, Turnpike driving, Springsteen-listening days, I've never actually made the acquaintance of a Snooki, a JWoww or a Mike the Situation.

Oh, they exist for sure. You see them here and there – the mall, the boardwalk, the tanning salon – but if you believe what you see on TV, you’d swear you couldn’t swing a dead cat south of the George Washington Bridge without hitting a tactless Bumpit-wearing bimbo.

But, that’s the reality of reality TV. It eschews complicated characters, clever plots, and witty dialogue and instead makes sweeping generalizations, perpetuates stereotypes and follows a formula as old and tired as an episode of “All My Children.”

You have to admit it’s entertaining, though. Not only that, it’s a formula that could work for your business, too.

Brand reality

You don’t have to watch much reality TV to get the hang of the genre. There’s conflict, sex, drama, backstabbing, redemption and heartache. It doesn’t matter if they’re making cakes or cocktail dresses; dancing or singing; mountain climbing or manipulating. Everybody’s got a back story. And, you can be sure that before the season’s over, you’ll know them all.

What’s your back story? Do your customers know it? Have you found a way to tell your customers who you are, where you’re coming from and what they can expect from you? If not, then you aren’t doing a good job of selling yourself.

Think about your business as its own reality show. If you only had five minutes to create a show that would convey, with clarity, who you are and what you sell, what would it be?

Whether you use print, social or digital media, all of your marketing efforts (and dollars) should be focused on cultivating a brand as clear as that of your favorite reality show.

If your customers can’t sum up your brand in three words or less – think: gym, tan, laundry – you’d better get back to basics before you get voted off the entrepreneurial island.

Cast of characters

It’s pretty clear that reality show contestants are chosen as much for their talents as for their ability to play the part. Every show’s got the backstabbing bitch, the middle-aged mom in it for her kids, the teary, sensitive guy and the intolerable jackass who eventually wins you over with tales of his neglected childhood.

Mix them all together in the test tube of reality TV, add the spark of trials and tribulation, starvation and sleep deprivation and let the fireworks fly.

Maybe you’re not looking for drama, but who you hire – be it employees or outside consultants – can be responsible for a lot of spark.

Surrounding yourself with people who will only tell you what you want to hear is not only shortsighted, it’s dangerous. It doesn’t allow you the opportunity to see what might not be working and where changes need to be made.

While it may be tempting to surround yourself with a cadre of backslapping glad-handers, their feedback will be about as honest and coherent as Paula Abdul at an "American Idol" tryout.

Been there, selling that

If there’s one thing all reality shows have in common, it’s that they offer a chance to live vicariously through their contestants.

You may never get the chance to make a cocktail dress out of car batteries or skydive into sub-Saharan Africa in a scuba suit. Thanks to reality TV, you don’t have to. Without leaving your sofa, you can experience the joys, horrors, humiliation and adventure of the show's contestants.

Your business is like a reality show in this regard, too. Whether you a own a catering business, a dry cleaner or a pet cemetery, customers use your business to avoid having to cook it, clean it or bury it themselves.

Being sure your brand conveys what you are is just as important as expressing who you are. If your customer can’t figure out what’s in it for them more quickly than they can Google another company, you’re going to lose a lot of business.

Take a few minutes to do a little reality check of your own. Review your website, your brochures, your press releases. Do they say — in one sentence or less — exactly what your customer will be paying you to do on their behalf?

If not, your customer may change the channel on your business faster than The Donald himself can say: “You’re fired.”






Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.