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I’ve been thinking a lot about the paradoxes I’ve encountered (and used to great effect) during my time as a small business marketing consultant.

Probably the most recent: slowing down to go fast. Slowing down, that is, to: sort things out; heighten your understanding; prioritize; allow insights to slip into the open. How do I slow down? I walk with my dog, Willie, pretty much every morning. Being with him, watching him so completely in the moment with everything around him allows me to click down a few gears and, well, go slow. Which makes me faster.

We like paradoxes, don’t we? They crowd our literature: the unlikely hero (from Ulysses to Star Wars). They make the news: the last surviving old growth redwood in Oakland, CA (because, paradoxically, it grew too strangely and was located in too hard a spot to make for good lumber). Yet, we are afraid of them in marketing. We shy away from spending money on something that feels different from the current school of thought.

Paradoxes Also Make Good Marketing

Quick, what makes a good prospecting letter or email? What probably comes to mind first: keep it short, a couple paragraphs at most. Right? My experience is sending a two-page letter or long email can out-perform shorter versions.

While we’re on the topic, which performs better today, sending email or snail mail? Why email, of course. Snail mail is so…90s. Right? My experience is snail mail is creating nice response rates, I believe because fewer companies are using it.

Quick, if you own a food truck, do you want your customers waiting in line for over an hour? Of course not, well, actually yes, if you ask a veteran food truck chef she’ll tell you it’s an important part of the experience.

A paradox, simply put, is looking at what everybody else is doing and doing it differently. One of the most wonderful descriptions of paradoxical thinking came from Steve Wozniak about his partner Steve Jobs (after Woz left, about the original iPod). I’ll paraphrase: Everybody was trying to design a better music player. Steve wanted to design a better listening experience.

Another great strategy (and paradox) for getting to the finish line faster is Eric Ries’ MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Which is as applicable to marketing campaigns as it is to product launches. I write about it here. His book is here.

Okay Hamilton, wrap this up, will ya?!

What is everybody else doing? Can you imagine doing it differently? Use the paradox to your advantage, to stand out, to differentiate (long versus short prospecting messages, snail mail versus email, a better music player versus a better music listening experience).

Don’t judge too quickly. (Are long lines good or bad if you own a food truck?)

And, slow down to go fast.