Biz tip of the week: Are you marketing like the spider or the cheetah?

The business environment in which we operate is constantly changing. Our long-term survival sometimes depends on our ability to adapt to those changes.

Bert Williams, the owner of Williams and Associates, understands marketing concepts better than most. Bert once shared a story with me that illustrated the necessity to adapt and it went something like this:

The spider finds a good home under a porch. It spins its web near the porch light and every evening the light attracts many bugs. Some of the bugs get caught in the web and the spider can eat. The spider does not have to work too hard as its dinner just shows up.

As the days go by, the spider gets fat and lazy. Then the bulb burns out and the bugs do not come. The spider goes hungry night after night and eventually the spider dies. The spider never adapted to the change in its environment.

Meanwhile a cheetah lies in wait near the watering hole. Every day, hundreds of animals must come there to drink. The cheetah has many opportunities to eat and rarely goes hungry. Then the water hole dries up and the animals do not come. The animals migrate to a new watering hole many miles away.

The cheetah realizes the environment has changed and it follows the animals. Once it reaches the new watering hole, the cheetah lies in wait and once again has many opportunities to eat. The cheetah spends its entire life adapting to changes in the environment.

When the economy is good, marketing professionals tend to wait for business to come to them. Most of them do well in the good times. When the environment changes, many of them do not survive because they do not know how to adapt.

Would you prefer your marketing director be more like the spider or the cheetah?

Bill Nordbrock is vice president of community relations for SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit group that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment at several locations. For information, go to, send an email to or call 505-3636.