Two old maples, two squirrels and strategic marketing musings

There’s a large maple outside my bedroom window. Two of three primary branches running eight feet up off the trunk are now gone. The first came crashing down during high winds, taking out the power lines feeding the house, barn and office. The second hung over the driveway, so was removed later. The third branch is still vibrant, but will soon be no more as the trunk continues to rot. The hollowed remains make a wonderful playground for wildlife.

squirrels are an interesting study in strategic marketing
Courtesy of by dewolff

A small, spastic red squirrel calls this tree home right now. He’s almost invisible as his coat blends into the bark and ground while his actions mimic the surrounding area being blown by winter winds. Blink and he’s twenty feet from where you just spotted him.

Another century-old maple sits halfway down the driveway. A black squirrel resides here. In contrast, his motion is slow, graceful and casual. He’s beautiful to watch as he savors every delight his senses discover.

It’s odd how two creatures with a similar genetic makeup can be so different in how they live life. Strategic marketing concepts can be equally different. How to best promote your small business depends on what makes you comfortable.

Quick provides strategic marketing answers for some

Cursory seems to be the trend with the advent of social media, smart phones, drop-shipping and online shopping. It’s curious that first on the scene has become the mantra of so many. Business owners used to carefully consider their words before going public. Now, people blast off e-mail messages, post to public forums, publish blog posts and respond immediately to prospects without reflecting on how the message may be perceived – or even taking time to proofread their missives.

As I watched this little red squirrel flitting around in the early morning hours, he seemed anxious to keep moving for fear a prize find might go to another, or concerned that a slower, more thoughtful approach would make him vulnerable. In some industries, this is reality.

Sadly, more often, I see small business owners staying busy to ensure they’re seen without investing the time to consider what they want from the exposure. This can lead to a frazzled and activity-focused approach that keeps one always in motion, but unclear about where they’re going. In fact, these people are rarely present – in the moment, for clients or for prospects. They’re minds are already on the next big thing, failing to see the opportunities right in front of them.

I’ve seen this tactic work well for some who have systems in place and delegate. It’s seldom effective, though, when the business owner tries to manage a rapid-fire approach to outbound communications without carefully considered goals.

Successful small business marketing can be leisurely

I had to chuckle watching the black squirrel in the background as the hasty red squirrel buzzed around. He was so casual in his approach. I saw and enjoyed his every move. The nervous counterpart seemed stressed and uncomfortable. The plodder showed delight with each hop he took – discovering something new and unexpected. His relaxed and steadfast approach reminded me of the methods employed by some of the most successful small business owners I’ve known.

Business success isn’t defined by revenue alone. Most people start a small business as a lifestyle choice. It’s easy to jump on fad bandwagons, but rarely effective if a good deal of prior thought hasn’t gone into the why. When you start reacting instead of planning with strategic marketing concepts, you’ll not only likely undermine your business foundation, but also your quality of life.

Plus, thoughtful actions are often more appreciated. Anyone can jump into the fray. Those who spend time to respond with the answers people really seek (this often requires reading between the lines) are the ones that gain an enviable client following. If you’re rapidly attacking business activities as daily chores, it shows. Conversely, enjoying and sharing the business building ride you’re on makes your passion contagious.

Are you shouting to the masses or carving a niche with prospects?

In observing the black squirrel, I noted he was fun to watch. His exuded joy for life and fascination with the simple pleasures drew me in and captured my attention for a long time.

I got dizzy watching the red squirrel as he’d scoot off fast to another focus. It was hard figuring out where he went or where he was going. Ultimately, the joyful, easy to follow critter grabbed my interest.

Some shotgun business marketing strategies work, throwing out messages to as many people as possible for a tiny percentage return. Most small businesses do better with a targeted, thoughtful and personable style that illustrates you can relate to prospect perspectives.

Direct mail, paid advertising (sans niche publications), telemarketing, form letters and cold calling have historically provided poor returns for most small businesses. While the internet provides a lot of opportunities for the little guy today, it’s unlikely you’ll win over prospects by bombarding them with quick, disconnected and loud sales messages.

Do you have great stories on small business marketing tactics done right – or wrong? How about exciting wins you’ve had with strategic marketing? Consider adding your experiences in the comments below. Also, please be kind and share this blog post through the clickable links on the left side of this page. Thanks!

12 responses to “Two old maples, two squirrels and strategic marketing musings”

  1. Nanette, I am a small business and I am afraid to try anything, yet I don’t know what to try to market my small business. I don’t have a ton of money to throw away so I sort of feel stuck right now.

    • Wyneatte, I tried repeatedly posting a comment to your blog, but kept getting an ‘incorrect Catpcha’ message. Might want to fix that ;-). Anyway, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to market a small business. Time (which, of course, has a value) can be just as effective. Since your business is relationships, I would think getting out there would be critical. This can be done by joining organizations (NAWBO, Chamber, Rotary, PTA) and going to meetings. Public speaking is another great way to spread the word where you can get paid for your time if you’re skilled. Just don’t try the hard sell in these venues – give the audience something useful they can apply immediately. I’m guessing from looking at your website your clients come primarily from the local community. Newspaper coverage is a good way to gain credibility. Pitching a good story to the right reporter (this means you need to read the publications you’re approaching) can net a lot of valuable free editorial exposure. There’s so much more you can be doing without a marketing budget. Pick one and give yourself kudos for the achievement, then move onto another. You’ll start getting a rhythm going that has you excited about the next marketing challenge.

  2. You speak truth. It has taken it awhile for me to find my passion and now that I have I want to take my time, do things correctly and be smart in how I reach out to others.

    • Thanks for sharing, Shawn. It’s amazing how once you find something that grabs you and drives you while slowing down to notice the opportunities, how much richer life and business coffers become, isn’t it? I feel for people who have invented businesses with the sole objective of generating revenue. They don’t last. People sense when you’re passionate about what you do – and tend to want some of what you’ve got. Of course, enthusiasm alone doesn’t do it, but it’s a lot easier to focus on promotion when you believe in what you’re selling.

  3. I really don’t have a story to tell because I am doing something I really enjoy and although it is a business and I am here to make money I’m not making any real money as of yet. I actually am making a little money from books I have written and an affiliate program, but like the black squirrel, I’ll get to where I’m going when I get there. I do enjoy the examples you use. Have you every watched two bluejays when a squirrel is after the same food they are. One will dive at the squirrel to drive him off while the other one dives for the food. Then they change places and the one that has eaten will chase away the squirrels while the first one goes for the food.(teamwork) There is a lot to be learned watching nature.

    • Ah, but you do have a great story to tell, Chef William. You’re pursuing your passion. The money usually follows if you stick with it long enough. You meet the right people, start collaborating and continue to build on what you’ve already created and things start to develop when you least expect it. In fact, I imagine there may be some interesting possibilities for some alliance discussions in the not too distant future ;-).

  4. I’ve always lived in town, but I am a country girl at heart – I was smiling at you watching your squirrels!
    I think the great thing about small businesses is they can be flexible and move fast. But from experience, they don’t think about the end goal and become a red squirrel.
    I’m guilty too – mainly of rushing about and forgetting to click submit comment! So, several hours after starting to write this, I’m commenting!

    • Too funny, Jan. Yes, I think you might have written a blog post on procrastination :-). What about if you justify it as creative muse? Anyway, it was a nice way to start the day – albeit about an hour later than I had planned.

      Good point on the advantage small businesses have in being able to move quickly due to flexibility. You’re so right. Of course, speed is a relative term and I’m not so sure I like what fast is becoming. Glad you got back to started tasks in the day.

  5. I can totally see and identify with both squirrels, Nanette. I have been both! I feel like I am enjoying a slower pursuit at the moment and trying not to engage in the frantic chase for cash. Great marketing analogies. It always comes back to relationships, relationships, relationships! It’s always worth it to take the time to build rapport with your audience, whether they are in person or online.

  6. Yes, my life feels frenetic more often than not these days, Minette, so I suppose there’s a practice what you preach lesson here as well (hmm – maybe there’s another blog post in this). I try not to be that way with business, but as always, when you’re trying to do to much, nothing gets the attention it needs to be done right. You’re so right on the importance of building relationships. I don’t think that will ever change as an important business building (or quality of life) tool.

  7. Great post. Unfortunately at the moment I feel like the red squirrel with my new business. Hopefully I will get focussed soon. I’m loving blogging so maybe that is the way forward for me.
    Great extra advice in your replies too. Thank you for sharing.

    • Sorry to hear you’re feeling harried at the moment with your business Janice. We all spend time there. Glad you’re enjoying blogging. As I look at your tutorial today on the dragon fly, it occurs to me that what you offer would be a great project for kids to do with parents during inclement weather. Do you offer kits? You might want to consider packing as such if you don’t. You can always refer people to the blog posts you’ve already done for instructions, or just print them out.

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