Note: This is the unfinished version of the introduction to Stephanie's upcoming book Market Like a Billion Dollar Business (On a Small Business Budget). This book is still in early stages. Publication date is not yet set. To be notified as things develop, join the mailing list at the bottom of this post)
Let’s clear the air on a couple items.
First, you do not need a billion dollars to market your business. I began to theorize about this concept of marketing like a billion dollar business back in my college years as I watched small businesses struggle to pull in the crowds they needed to keep the doors open. This bothered me for two reasons. First, that my parents were small business owners so I got the chance to see the back-end of running a small business, and secondly because, even as a college student, I recognized that the locally owned businesses were precious. I repeatedly found myself thinking that if small businesses could just market themselves like McDonalds or Walmart or any of the other multi-billion dollar brands out there, they would be swarmed. Small businesses regularly provide better products and better service than the big brands. Yet the big brands continue to attract the lionshare of customers. Why? Because they are known!
I went to school in a small town just north of Columbus Ohio and Main Street in Westerville back in the early 2000s perfectly encapsulated the quintessential small-town charm. Red brick buildings with striped cloth awnings overhanging the sidewalk and the windows decorated with hand-painted art to draw the eye, and hopefully the buyer, into the store. In the winter, when it snowed and the classic black lantern light posts were strung with garlands, I loved walking up and down the street and carrying on vivid conversations in my head as the heroine of a Hallmark movie. By my third year, I was noticing that more and more of the locally owned businesses along the street were being replaced with corporate versions. It was discouraging as I remember walking into a CVS one day to pick up some medication, and on my way back to campus, walking into a stationary store. The stationary store clearly had better cards, and was more thoughtfully laid out with all the extras you’d need when preparing a gift or communicating with someone via good-old-fashioned paper.
The CVS had someone on every aisle.
I was the only person in the stationary store.
It was the first time I consciously remember thinking that if only small businesses could market like the big guys, they’d do just fine! From my naivety, I figured that better marketing would solve all of small businesses problems and raged against the lack of accessibility to great marketing solutions for small business owners.
I’ve learned a lot since then. For example, no matter how good the marketing, if the sales skills aren’t there to back it up, it won’t do any good. Also, marketing won’t make up for a small business owner who can’t or won’t manage financials and protect margins. Lastly, marketing doesn’t make up for the mindsets & training needed for a small business owner to succeed.
That said, it does make up for a lot! But it rarely does it overnight. In fact, most of the “overnight success stories” we’re familiar with, came at the tail end of a lot of work, brand building, and trial and error.
But generating massive marketing results as a small business owner is entirely possible, and yes, on a shoestring budget. I’ve spent more than a decade of trial and error figuring out how, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it with you and empower you to thrive both personally and professionally. I’m a firm believer that small business is the backbone of the world. It’s the small business owner who continues providing access to a higher quality of service and products that keeps big business from being able to run away with providing cheap products and terrible service built on the backs of slave labor in third world countries. It’s small businesses that continue to uphold a higher standard of service & customer care.
Small businesses deserve substantially more attention than they get in the marketplace!
The second item I’d like to clear the air around before digging into the real good stuff here is “There are a lot of marketing books out there, why add to the pile?” To be fair, it’s a perfectly valid question. I’ve read many of those books. Seth Godin, Dr. Cialdini, Mike Michalowicz, Jesse Cole and Donald Miller have changed my life and I revisit their books regularly! So when the idea first came to mind to write my own marketing book based on the concepts I’ve been refining, teaching, and implementing for years, I asked myself the same question. What did I have to add to the marketing-education arena that wasn’t already covered in other books?
I realized quickly that, while those books are great, with everything else going on daily inside a small business, sometimes it’s hard enough to get through one book. Being told to read a small library of books in order to achieve success in marketing is simply unrealistic and daunting. So I’m taking what I’ve learned from them, but also from practically applying their concepts over thousands and thousands of marketing campaigns, specifically for small business owners and putting it together in one easy place!
Which brings me to my second reason for writing this book. Since I graduated and entered the workforce, I’ve been behind the scenes with more than 5000 small businesses and been part of marketing strategy and/or execution for hundreds, if not thousands of campaigns. I’ve had time to look at where small businesses really struggle, and had to get creative to solve those problems. In the past few years, my team and I have spearheaded some absolutely massive and impactful marketing campaigns for small business owners, sometimes on budgets as small as a few hundred dollars!
I want to make public what has worked across those campaigns, and our own campaigns, like the ones that kept The Grow Retreat (our flagship event) as one of the few ongoing and profitable live educational events throughout a global pandemic. I want to share what’s worked in a practical, to-the-chase way that makes sense for small business owners. But I also want to share what didn’t work across the campaigns that I’ve been privy to.
I am a big believer that neither time nor money are your greatest asset. Although most of us would agree that money isn’t your greatest asset, I believe I was the first, or one of the first, to espouse the belief that time isn’t either. I’ll prove it. Have you ever had an evening where you got home from work and you were just too exhausted to do anything? So instead of doing that workout you planned or making dinner, you ordered pizza and sat on the couch, watching TV or mindlessly flicking through your phone until bedtime? In short, you had time, but no energy to do anything with that time?
Energy is a resource and an asset and as the resource that is in shortest supply, it must be managed well. It’s incredibly important to ensure that we are wasting as little energy chasing dead ends as possible so more energy can be put into pursuing our goals. This is why it matters to me to share both what’s worked, but also what hasn’t. If I can save a small business owner from spinning their wheels and getting frustrated over marketing that isn’t working, perhaps it can propel the business forward faster and get them to thrive before they give up!
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