Sidewalk Cigarette Butts


As I entered a quick shop yesterday, I noticed a guy walking out who looked down on his luck.

He stopped by the door and pulled from his shirt pocket a half-smoked, crooked cigarette butt. He bent it back into shape, lit up and took a long drag.

When I walked out of the store, that cigarette was burned down to the filter. The guy took one last drag then tossed the butt on the ground beside him — not a spec of precious tobacco wasted.

Made me think of a song by Mary Gauthier, about a guy named Steam Train Maury — “The Last of the Hobo Kings.”

A streetwise vagabond, Maury jumped more than 10,000 trains and rode more than one million miles, the song tells us.

And this: “He could tell how his nation was doing by the length of a sidewalk cigarette butt.”

I love that line. I love that image. I love the idea that we can glean wisdom from the things around us — as long as we open our eyes and pay attention.

That’s true for hobos. It’s true for business people.

Our businesses are full of small things that tell big stories.

Business consultants call these “leading indicators.”

I prefer to call them “sidewalk cigarette butts.”

In my business, we have a lot of sidewalk cigarette butts that we monitor — support call volume; open, click and opt-out rates for emails we send; percentages of new clients who attend our training sessions…and so on.

We look at the cigarette butt and we ask, “What does that tell us?”

For example, we noticed that fewer of our new clients were attending our free training sessions for our email marketing software. We also noticed that a large percentage of the clients who don’t renew our services were ones who never attended training.

So we began to measure training attendance as a cigarette butt. The larger that number, the healthier our customer satisfaction and the greater our customer retention.

Because we measure that cigarette butt, we develop new strategies and tactics to increase training attendance and improve retention.

Your business has sidewalk cigarette butts, too. What are they? What do they tell you? Open your eyes and pay attention, and you’ll glean great wisdom to help your business.

p.s. I help coaches, consultants, and business leaders discover and deliver powerful stories that captivate prospects and inspire them to act. Whenever you're ready, here are several ways I can help you become a storytelling stand-out so you'll land more clients without pitching and prodding:

1) Connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook and (if not subscribed already) join our email list.

2) Watch the free, 7-minute Micro-Training: “The 3 Most Important Storytelling Keys to Captivate Prospects and Inspire Them to Act -- Without Pitching and Prodding.”

3) Become a Story Power VIP in the Content Transformation Academy: Master how to discover, assemble, and deliver business-building stories. Weekly masterclasses. Members-only content. One-on-one feedback and consulting sessions. And more… If you'd like to learn more about our VIP program, just reply to this email and put "Story Power VIP" in the subject line. I’ll contact you with more details.

4) Work with me one-on-one: If you’re interested in working directly with me -- to discover, assemble, and deliver powerful, business-building stories -- simply reply to this email and change the subject line to "Private Client." Tell me a little about yourself, your business, and what you'd like to accomplish, and I'll reply to discuss options.

5) Invite me to speak at an event: I can tailor a presentation that meets the specific needs of your organization. Informative. Entertaining. Virtual or live. Potential for continuing education credits when applicable for your group. If interested, reply to this email and change the subject line to “Speaking Engagement.” I’ll circle back to discuss the possibilities.

Want to get great content like this...

...delivered straight to your inbox?

Join our email list...

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Post Categories

Previous Post

Next Post

Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.

Leave a Comment