Small business marketing against the grain

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I had a barn cat at the farm for almost 15 years. She came with the name Boo Kitty, which is one she seemed to like. She was happy hunting, being lavished with attention while home and roaming free as she did her wild thing covering miles and miles on her daily trek around the area.

I was worried sick when she disappeared. After months of looking for her, I spotted her in a neighbor’s driveway. She was 20 pounds overweight. The woman must clearly spent tons of time luring her because when Boo was hunting, she was untamed.

I spotted the ‘for sale’ sign and asked if the neighbor would be taking Boo with her. She said no; then called me cruel for making my barn Boo’s home. Funny, she didn’t see that turning this happy, active cat into an inactive, dependent creature then kicking her back outside to fend for herself when no longer convenient was a whole lot meaner. Some people just don’t get it.  

Are you helping or enabling?

small business marketing at http://NanetteLevin.comHelping isn’t always help. Easy rarely brings happiness. Entitlement mentalities don’t lead to fulfilling lives. Sometimes allowing one to struggle is the greatest gift you can give someone. It might make you feel good to lend a hand, but consider what that handout may be doing long-term.

I’ve had some clients over the years I thought I was helping, but wasn’t. Usually these folks shifted business strategies each time they spoke to someone new, failed to commit to following-through then found themselves in trouble when things didn’t magically fall into place. Periodically, I’d step in, do damage control, create and implement programs to generate sales and get them back on track while providing discounted fees to make it so.

Then the cycle would start again, until I stopped rallying the troops for another bail out.

Some would step up and arise triumphant. Others would fail and be forced to acknowledge this wasn’t the right path for them. Most were stronger and happier once they discovered the only way out of the dilemma they created was to look to themselves for solutions.

Failing isn’t always bad

When working with small business owners, it’s easy to lose sight of the business side of things. You become friends, start thinking emotionally instead of logically, tend to get involved in aspects of the business beyond your defined role and can feel compelled to done your cape when trouble descends.

Letting someone fail is a lot harder. It can also be the nicest thing you do.

Owning a small business is hard work. It can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. There’s something about being responsible for generating every dollar that you earn that not only ads to your sense of security, but also shifts your perspective on the value of your time. Every moment you spend on unproductive activities is wasted. There’s no salary paying for chat time, procrastination, web surfing or driving time. What you get, though, is a sense of satisfaction beyond imagination for creating an entity that makes a difference.

Frankly, I’m scared. There’s a trend in this country (the US) toward laziness, entitlement mentalities and convictions about who owes you a living (usually the government – what happens when everyone is on the dole with none left to pay taxes?) with a move away from personal responsibility.

What all those rallying for more programs that ensure everyone gets their fair share seem to miss is we humans don’t thrive without purpose. The price you pay for scamming the system (or encouraging others to do it for you) is immense. It sickens your soul.

Small business marketing against the grain

Today’s marketing buzzwords include ‘easy’ ‘free’ ‘simple’ ‘fast’ ‘proven’ ‘cheap’ and all sorts of other terms appealing to those looking to create millions while sipping drinks on the beach. Do you really think appealing to that crowd will produce business success stories for your firm?

Referrals are the best way to build business sales. If your marketing message draws tons of views, or follows, or subscribers or clicks from people who don’t have the stones to effectively implement what you’re offering, how effective or profitable will you be long-term? Sure, you’ll get a few suckers that buy into your hype, but they won’t be happy – and neither will you.

Instead of chasing the latest craze, consider, instead, being thoughtful about who your ideal client is. Craft a strategy and a message that truly resonates with them. Don’t worry about how popular you are on social media. After all, how many people do you know who are putting majority time into online chatter making a living with their business?

You might be surprised at how effective a contrarian approach could be with your small business marketing. Regardless, you’ll have a lot of fun trying.


17 responses to “Small business marketing against the grain”

  1. You are a woman after my own heart, I think.
    First, I can related to your barn cat. What a perfect example.
    Growing up we have barn animals. they were happy and self sufficient. They were “mouser”.
    Making an animal obese is irresponsible.
    My parents were small business owners. I owned my own business for awhile.
    I prefer to be just who I am; honest. I know people tend to fall for the secrets of free and easy. But what happens when they need help? They beg the stable small business for help that that the secrets to free and easy promise but don’t back up.
    Liked what you wrote; “nononsense”.

    • Hello Malika, yes, it’s amazing how much things change, yet remain the same. Not that long ago, small businesses were laughed at. Now we’re carrying the economy. Guess self-sufficient is a pretty good place to be for be for any species. Good for you for putting honesty as a priority. By the way, I tried commenting several times to you blog and keep getting a 412 error (with my message going into the ether each time).

  2. Oh My Goodness! Great post, because I can definitely relate to the “free” craze. I enjoy giving all the time; however, it is what crashed my original lead to writing my first blog and gaining new clients after attending several workshops. As in one workshop, she stated “up your prices”! Her philosophy was to encourage us to create what we deem we are worth for our information. We do a lot to create our “intellectual property”, so let your clients know. Thank you so much for sharing this. Much success on the UBC!

  3. Being that I love cats, I enjoyed your story at the beginning and how it fit so nicely into your message. The trend in this country is sad. Another word to add is “deserve” – it’s in all the commercials and print ads. Everyone thinks they “deserve” whatever it is without the work or having to earn it. I really like your message about being specific about your ideal client – that’s the key.

    • Good point about the term deserve, Amanda. I guess we’re here that a lot these days too, aren’t we. It’s sad that people don’t seem to realize how much less fun life is when you put your focus on ‘getting your fair share’ instead of earning it.

  4. love how your story about the cat introduces the main message of the article. and I agree that referrals are the best business driving force.
    slightly disagree with spending time online and making money, I think it depends on how you spend your time online, Social Media is not about popularity it’s about building relationships with your potential customers and when it’s done right, it doesn’t take up too much time.

    • Hi Inga – my point wasn’t to discount online as part of the mix, but I’ve seen a lot of people who create FB Pages or Google+ groups, spend all their time there then wonder why they’re broke. You make a great point about directing people to consider how they’re spending their time on line.

  5. This is really good advice Nanette. I especially do not care for the more masculine approach of reminding people of their pain and then trying to convince them that you have the pain relief. That approach doesn’t resonate with me. I am also sick of the “free” craze. There is nothing free or easy creating a successful business – it takes a lot of hard work and commitment.

    • Good to see you again, Julia. That’s an interesting way to look at pain relief – I hadn’t thought of it as a masculine approach. I’ll have to reflect on that one. Maybe it will be fodder for a future blog post :-).

  6. totally agree with this article. Enabling and empowerment, sometimes difficult to do when you’re a natural helper and problem-solver. Yes, put yourself in the potential client’s shoes and maintain your integrity for true success. Thanks for sharing, enjoyed the read.

    • You touch on an interesting point here, Andrea. It can be a fine line between enabling and empowering. Thanks for stopping in, reading the blog and leaving a comment.

  7. That’s right. I believe that better to let people learn on their own small mistakes and become independent and successful then babysit them all life.
    If you hold baby on hands all life – baby will never walk.
    -Shasheta UBC

    • It can be hard to watch, sometimes, of course, Shasheta, but usually in the long run, everyone’s happier. I’ve enjoyed discovering your blog through the UBC. I’ll be looking forward to following what you’re doing through the sign up form.

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