When it comes to small business and email marketing in St. Louis, time is money.

How long would you stand in line for a couple of free donuts?

Twenty minutes? Forty-five? An hour? An hour and a half?

In my younger, less healthy days, I might have countered, “Are they good donuts?”

But these days, I wouldn’t stand in line for more than 15 minutes — even for the most scrumptious donuts on earth. An hour and a half!? Are you kidding me!?

Yet, I recently saw thousands of people stand in line for close to 90 minutes for two lousy hunks of fried, frosted dough.

Google prompted this madness by building a temporary hut in St. Louis’ Cortex District. Get in line for your free gift, Google commanded. Everyone in line knew the deal: The vast majority would open the gift-box and find two donuts. A small percentage would find, instead of donuts, a Google Home Mini — one of those “smart speakers” that responds to voice commands.

This event was not a product launch, dishing out items not otherwise available. For weeks before this event, anyone could buy the device for $49.

I know. Some of you may be thinking, “Sure, I wouldn’t stand in line for 90 minutes just for two donuts. But it’s different if I’m waiting for the chance to win a Google Home Mini.”

OK then. I’ll rephrase the question. Imagine Google was giving away the devices. Stand in line, and you’re guaranteed to get the device. How long would you wait to receive the $49 gizmo?

No doubt the line would be much longer than 90 minutes if participants were certain to get the device (although I suppose Homer Simpson and some other donut lovers would skip the gig).

Sorry to say, my reaction is the same: An hour and a half for a $49 gizmo!? Are you kidding me!?

So what does this have to do with small business marketing? One of the most important questions you must answer as a business leader is “How much is my time worth?”

There are different ways to calculate this. On the simplest level, can divide your annual salary or earnings by the total hours worked in a year. If you worked 2000 hours to earn $50,000, your time is worth $25/hour. That time in donut line cost $37.50 — and that doesn’t count the time you spent traveling to the Cortex District and hunting for a parking spot.

But the salary/time calculation fails to consider the market potential of your time. As a small business person, you probably have potential to grow your revenue with the same investment of time. Spend some more time selling, rather than doing less productive things. Spend more time on service delivery, rather than doing less productive things. If you were working at peak production, what might your time be worth?

Small business leaders spend too much time on tasks below their pay grade. I say this not to sound pompous. I say this to preach productivity and profit. If you find someone to handle tasks for a fee far lower than your time is worth, you can spend time on more valuable tasks — activities that maximize productivity and profit.

Then, with your business riches, you can buy yourself a box of donuts, sit in your living room and tell your Google Home Mini to crank your favorite tunes.

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