How ‘vanilla’ is your social media marketing?

Russell Spanton Vanilla Grower (Image Vanilla Australia)

Russell Spanton doing what he loves best

Vanilla gets such a bad run as an adjective.

It usually means bland, boring and safe.

But vanilla bean farmer from Port Douglas in Queensland, Russell Spanton, not only lives the dream of following his passion, his attitude to his ‘calling’ is exactly what The RITE Series has been preaching from day one.

Russell and his wife, Mary, were featured in a lot of media coverage recently when the price of vanilla skyrocketed.

The stories, particularly the one I heard, Australian vanilla growers to cash in on global shortage, on ABC Radio’s AM program, all showcased the essence (pardon the pun) of two people fully committed to what they do for a living, and ultimately yielding their well-earned reward.

But two passages from the AM story in particular caught my attention and made me share them with you, as you ponder the future of your Top End business.

In it for the long haul

To get to a point where you have vanilla beans in a state ready for market, you will have waited at least five years for your new vanilla orchids to even flower, before another nine months or so for anything to harvest.

To succeed, therefore, you need patience, a plan and ferocious commitment because upon harvest, the work is only beginning, as Russell explained:

You kill the beans in hot water and then you sweat the beans and then you sun-dry the beans. Then you shade dry the beans. Then you massage the beans. And then you put the beans away – you bundle the beans up and put them away in boxes.

I can’t help but see the parallels between successful producing vanilla beans and successfully yielding business results through social media marketing.

The people who succeed in social media are the ones who know who they need to communicate with (plan), are prepared to offer interesting and helpful material to help these prospects discover and/or make informed decisions about their product/service (patience) and who are willing to answer questions and respond in a timely fashion to queries or requests from this group without collapsing into hard core salesperson mode (commitment).

Just like with vanilla beans, if you artificially force the process you will produce low grade but expensive compost.

The valuable bean needs to be nurtured.

Not in it for the money

Another poignant insight from Russell is that despite the hullabaloo about high prices and dizzying frenzy around a possible vanilla rush, vanilla bean production has not been a path to easy riches, or indeed to riches at all.

The Spanton’s have a lot of investment to pay off and still a lot of hard work to continue doing to reap the new promise of generous rewards. He said:

A lot of people want to grow vanilla and they think it’s about making lots of money. It’s actually not about- you’ve got to love doing it. Maybe one day we might make lots of money but, you know, that’s not what we do it for. We make a basic living but we’re happy and we love them.

I think that passage is worthy of reading again.

Russell and Mary LOVE what they are doing. Within some cultures on this planet, that makes them rich. Within the realm of achieving the right mindset for social media marketing, this attitude sets Russell and Mary up to become folk heroes.

My question for you (and me) is: Can we speak that frankly and passionately about what we are doing for a living? If not, apart from considering other options I am tempted to suggest to give social media marketing a miss until you can reconnect with your calling. The rest of us will smell the phony nature of your ‘forced’ messaging a million miles away.

Here’s to your success in embracing this holistic approach to business, an approach that will set you up to prosper in the era of the social customer. For some background reading, The Two Commandments of Social Media Marketing, might be a helpful place to start.


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