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The One Thing Small Businesses Need To Know To Succeed At Marketing

In this episode...

Seriously, take a listen to this episode. It is the most valuable marketing advice I can give any small or medium-sized business. It’s the one piece of advice that must be reiterated over and over again. Every project, and dare I say everyone’s life will be better if you listen to this one episode and heed its advice.

So you think you know marketing, huh?

As a small business person it can be tough to keep everything straight especially when marketing and advertising professionals cannot explain the difference between marketing and advertising and they use the terms inter-changeably.

I won’t spend time on that right now but for an entire episode on the difference between marketing and advertising go to and search for The Difference between Marketing and Advertising.

This episode is about making sure you have the odds of success on your side for every dollar or minute you spend promoting your business.

The good news is in order for you to be good at marketing and advertising your small business you only need to know one thing.

The one thing you need to know is… Never be the buyer of a service. Be the buyer of a result. A result defined by you NOT the marketer.

If you buy any marketing or advertising service without understanding what I mean your effort will fail at least 70% of the time both perceptually and literally. Period.

The only tricky thing about making this as easy as it sounds is you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish with your business. That’s often times harder than it sounds.

I can hear my dad, who’s been in the car business at every level for 65 years saying, “all I wanna do is sell more cars. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

As easy as that sounds I have seen him do some of the most brilliant things to sell more cars and some things that had no chance of selling more cars. I want to help small businesses avoid the latter.

The persistent problem for small businesses is twofold.
1. The way marketing and advertising is sold is NOT in line with what it takes to improve your business
2. You, without realizing it, let your ego drive your decisions instead of logic

Here are a few things that a marketing outfit might offer:

• Top rankings in Google
• Driving traffic to your website
• A radio ad on a top rated or favorite station
• A lot of people following you on social media

The issue is none of these things will automatically improve your business. Just because that’s what you’ve heard you should do – means nothing. Even worse, buying something because that’s what your competitor is doing is a recipe for disaster.

Two quick stories – true stories

A guy came in off the street and asked if we could get him 1500 twitter followers for his pizza joint in a local small community. I said – “that seems like a strangely specific request, why do you want 1500 followers?” his reply was “because my competitor has 1100 and I want more.”

We could have easily gotten 1500 followers. Why did I refuse the job? Because he just wanted the optics of having 1500 followers. He wasn’t trying to improve his business and a very short time after we got him 1500 followers and absolutely nothing changed about his business, there’s a high likelihood he would consider it a failure and blame my company.

Here’s another hard-knocks learning moment in my career. When I started, websites were just becoming a thing. I know. I’m old. Not only could we build websites but we were already in the business of driving traffic to websites. After all there’s no sense in having a website if no one ever goes there.

I landed a good size client. We doubled traffic to their site in the first month and everyone was jacked up about it. In month two we were in a meeting bragging about the surge in analytics. Look at all this traffic! Two and a half times more than before we started – we’re awesome!

The company’s wiley CEO just quietly sat until there was a break in the action and he said – this is all fine and good but we’ve not sold one more widget and our call volume is actually down. What good is all of this? These are just numbers.

In his very subtle way he just ripped my head off – spine attached and threw it on the ground. That moment changed my life. I realized that driving all the people in the world to where I wanted them to go meant nothing if there wasn’t a reason for them to be there AND act in a way that caused real results for the business.

It makes me cringe to think of how naïve I was but I am glad you can avoid the same embarrassment.

That CEO was right we were aiming at the wrong result. Our result looked awesome but meant nothing to the business. Everything we would have done for that project would have been different had we been trying to sell more widgets and not just drive traffic.

Your take away should be clear. Do not buy a radio ad, do not BUY paid search results or SEO, do not buy and marketing or advertising tactic unless the seller can draw a direct line to how it will improve your business the way you want it to.


The money you agree to spend should be relevant to the result. For example, if your result is to increase the sale of a widget by 5% and that would mean $250k in additional revenue you should feel comfortable paying an amount equal to or less than any other tactic you could employ to get a similar result.

That’s it.

If you want more information about making sure you can measure results go and search for an episode called Making it Count

If you want more information on the logic behind choosing the right tactic to achieve your result, check out the episode Before You Spend $1 on

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