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At the local home improvement store I noticed something interesting: a rack full of plants in terrible condition on deep discount. There they sat, looking forlorn and nearly expired, when I noticed what they were – a great big pile of nearly-dead perennials.

For those of you who aren’t much into gardening, a perennial is a plant that hibernates at the end of the season and returns in full force in the spring. Most trees, for example, are perennials. By contrast, annuals are plants that grow and have an entire lifecycle in one season, dying off. If their seeds fail to propagate, then that plant is effectively gone forever. Most of our food crops, for example, are annuals.

If you’re a gardener, this is the time of year you love most – perennials go on deep discount because stores are clearing out inventory and they look terrible. Your average shopper wants nothing to do with them because planting them would make your yard look ugly. But the wise gardener buys them on deep discount, plants them, maybe cuts their current growth down, and lets them go to sleep for the winter. In the spring, they’ll burst through the ground in full force and beauty – and at no additional cost.

What does this have to do with marketing and social media? Simply this: If you’re the average, ineffective marketer, you’re probably going to think very short-term and blow a lot of resources on social media personalities – “influencers” – in the hopes that their dazzle and shine can lend some strength to your brand. Sometimes that’s called for, just as sometimes it makes sense to buy annuals and plant them in your garden.

However, if you want long-term success, look for the equivalent of perennials on deep discount. Look for the raving fans and evangelists you already have (even if they have low “influence scores”) because as long as you keep creating the conditions in which they thrive, they’ll flourish and benefit you over and over again. Buy the annual if you must, but if you’re tight on resources, invest in the perennials for long-term growth.


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