5 Marketing Improvements for Small Brands

Your business is about making money, not doing favors, and yet you could do your business a favor or two by fixing your marketing. Before you think about techniques, and even before you think about strategy, think about what you want to achieve. Then ask yourself if you have the courage, vision, responsibility, industriousness, and humility to achieve it. If not, those get fixed first. And before we answer a knee-jerk “Of course I do, I’ve been doing this for x number of years…” let’s examine what those things actually mean.

small business marketing strategiesCourage is the Single Biggest Hurdle to Your Marketing

Give up any terror over technology, if that’s your racket: “I’m old, I can’t, I’m not good at that”. Unless you’ve gone back in time and are actually living in the 1980s, there’s no dichotomy anymore between the online and offline world, digital and analog. You’re preserving a myth, scared of the Zeus of a previous time. And any time you say “I can’t” it’s about fear, so let’s not pretend about that, either. Part of it is terror over learning something. Part of it is outrage and arrogance over having to learn something – more specifically over being an adult and not already knowing, and feeling like we’re supposed to know what we need to know by now. You can forgive yourself for all of that, but you can’t allow yourself to live in it. It’s disempowered. No one asked you to become a computer scientist. Maybe you’ll have to understand a few concepts to make some effective decisions.

All you’re really afraid of, if courage is your struggle, is having to think in a new way. It’s what most people are afraid of. Whether it’s the technology part, or putting yourself out there part, or how you’ll look in front of an audience part – tech or stage fright or whatever, it’s still fear. So now that we’ve identified it, make a plan to get over it. You aren’t going to get to live in safety and market effectively. If you want to be safe, you’ll be same; if you’re same, you aren’t marketing – you’re just marking time. Sameness commoditizes your business; it doesn’t sell anything but potatoes. It’s OK to be afraid, but it’s not OK to let fear drive your company.

Put in the Mental Work on Your Marketing (Vision)

Stop gambling and hoping. If you are ‘trying’ some of this and a smidgen of that, you’re dabbling – not marketing. The mental work required is building out a consistent marketing strategy and moving on it consistently to achieve a result. It requires us to have the vision to think farther ahead, not just think about what we want. It requires us to be persistent to achieve the goals of the vision through consistently revisiting and moving it forward. Most of all though, it requires a change of mindset. It’s not Field of Dreams. We don’t build it and hope. We don’t mentally check out once we have a marketing direction. You won’t get anywhere in marketing by going on autopilot.

You get growth by keeping the lights on in your marketing brain. You get growth not by frenetically jumping from idea to idea, but by planning for engagement and nurturing relationships. The mental work in marketing requires thinking not in terms of techniques, mainly, but of and about an ongoing conversation. You can’t just look all around the room or check out in the middle of a conversation; you stay with it. Your marketing is a conversation.

Own Your Own Marketing (Responsibility)

Treat your business like a business. Don’t pretend it’s a job. That means you don’t abandon whole chunks of it to specialists, or create silos where you’re just trusting and hoping, but not really watching or involved. Being a business owner means more than just doing a profession. If you just want to do a certain kind of work and not think about the growth part, become an employee. You can actually hire a CEO to run the business, if you didn’t know. There’s no shame in it; it’s a smart move under some circumstances. But if you’re really the small business CEO, that means you’re owning the big overall processes that make the company work. The financial side, the operations side, the marketing side – they are all facets of a small business CEO’s realm. A lot of business owners keep trying to abandon their own ship, as though they can just show up 9-5 and, if they’re good, they get clients.

If you’re in a marketing conversation, it’s because you either want more clients, more business from existing clients, or a better relationship with clients. Getting at clients means stepping up to the plate and overseeing the marketing side of the company. You can put a strategist on it, and fill the other roles that’ll be needed, but you can’t check out and really be a CEO. And if you’re not the CEO, who is? Don’t jump overboard on your marketing – the captain is the most important part of it. For everything but the marketing, we could technically replace what you do. That’s because you’re the thought leader – the one who can make the business distinct from competition.

Elaborate the Bigger Marketing Picture (Industriousness)

Think several steps ahead. Often the desire for immediate results conceals a desire for the simplest solution. And that’s a conundrum, because the simplest solution produces the least valuable results. We can go outside and wave around a sign and hand out flyers; that’s pretty simple. It’s easy to implement, we won’t have to learn anything new, and there’s very little planning required. What will you get from a marketing solution that’s simultaneously easy, already familiar, and unplanned? This is why so many businesses say “I guess it’s time to send out another e-mail blast” and then just throw together a pitch and hit the send button. There’s an ever diminishing return on push button marketing. Stop thinking hand to mouth.

Effective marketing follows a strategic process, even if you don’t know you’re doing it. To market, you have to reach someone, establish a reputation or rapport with them, and cultivate a relationship. Relationship marketing isn’t a technique, or even a strategy among many – it’s what marketing is. Relationships aren’t established by a flick of a switch, without learning anything, and without being prepared to cultivate them. If you’re committed to growing your business, be committed to visionary marketing. Be committed to big picture marketing that thinks ahead and takes into account the full range of human consciousness.

Be In Your Marketing, Not Above It (Humility)

Some businesses, non-profits, and professional practices posture themselves on a high road over against the presumably dirty world of commerce. Because we become the judge of marketing, looking down on it, our marketing is reluctant at best. Moral arrogance can be a lonely place as one struggles to gain constituents and cash, no matter how we do the accounting. A more empowered way to approach marketing is as a means of changing the world and helping others achieve meaning. A business that just wants to commoditize itself – just be a plumber among plumbers, without any real distinction, resorts to cheesy marketing. An undifferentiated company has to market in an almost unsavory way, because it hasn’t taken itself or its constituents seriously enough. Any organization or professional practice with a larger view of the world and humanity, can market more effectively than a commodity business.

If the goal is to change the world, or help people to change their lives, it’s the very thing commodity businesses lack. The lack of soul is why soulless marketing exists in the first place. It is precisely when soul is present that you have a duty and a mission to market the source of that soul. Your marketing becomes a way of changing the world, and a way of helping people improve their lives. The hard lesson any business or non-profit must learn is how your mission drives your marketing, not vice versa. Marketing is an act of thought leadership; what passes for marketing is often the opposite – an act of thoughtless solicitation. Marketing, at its best, is an expression of community with the world, not an assertion of company over community. If you’re taking the moral high ground and so not marketing, or not marketing effectively, the deficit isn’t morality but humility. Marketing can be what you like, so re-envision it as an expression of your best intent.

You can do your business many favors, but investing it with courage, vision, responsibility, industriousness, and humility will make it a powerhouse that begs to be marketed. A company so favored by its owner(s) is like a Christmas present waiting to burst out of the box. Marketing becomes merely the expression of a company’s integrity and character, fashioned as a relationship with its growing clientele. Get your company a present – get it a digital strategist at MadPipe, and let’s take your business the rest of the way to being fully expressed in its market.


Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.

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