Most business choices boil down to one fundamental question: is this savvy, is this smarmy, or is it both?

If a business choice is neither savvy nor smarmy, it probably won’t get made (unless you’re like Jimmy Wales and have an overarching social imperative). In general, they might not always work out as the best business decisions, but they make us feel good.

Savvy business decisions are the ones that make us go, “ooh” – like the Furby and Pet Rock.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, most smarmy decisions seem savvy at the time if you’re deluded. Smarmy decisions mostly make anyone involved feel like a jerk.

Smarmy, savvy business decisions make you money and win you exposure, but not for the right reasons. These are things like being close to the top of an MLM pyramid, showing up religiously at someone’s house to sell them something each week, using squeeze pages, and greenwashing.

You should always be weighing the potential smarm against the savviness of your business actions. If there’s not a 10:1 ratio of savvy to smarm, you probably shouldn’t do it. Of course, if you’re a “guru”, do whatever the hell you want, we know you will anyway.

Customers will only take so much smarm before calling you out or calling the business relationship quits.

For the people wanting to make a real difference, savvy social imperatives are where it’s at.

(Header photo: Smarmy by skunks)