Select Page
THE SMB Marketing Podcast

The one thing small businesses need to know to succeed at marketing

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

How to Find Honest and Exceptional Marketing Help

Comes a time in every company’s life cycle that they need to find a good marketing firm. Maybe you’re just starting out. Maybe you’re current firm isn’t really doing the job for you anymore. You have new needs or your current firm is incapable of doing what you need them to do. Whatever the case might be. Everyone at some point in time, every business of every size is gonna find themselves in the hunt to find a new marketing firm.

Before you begin. If you haven’t listened to the episode totally hyped called The One Thing. Make sure you do that because the concept in that episode is vital to the decisions that you’ll be making. And, uh, it’s vital to the success is well. In all the episodes you’re gonna hear in Totally Hyped, one of the most common concepts that I talk about is to be sure of your objective and know what needs to be true in order to consider that objective complete.

Now the reason that’s important is because you’re going to be sold a lot of services. You’re going to be sold a lot of hype. A lot of you know, quite frankly, their dog and pony shows when you’re looking at marketing firms, could be quite impressive and can get you really jacked up. But at the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with the fact that you’re going to get the result that you need and your result better be something in the line of improving your business. For example, I have a current customer who believes that their sole objective is to drive leads, and that’s fine and I’m in agreement that, in fact more leads would be great.

But there’s an understanding that needs to happen in regard to how do you get a lead? And they expect that every single marketing or advertising effort should then just suddenly magically produce all these leads. They’re not really understanding the full life cycle of what it takes for someone to consider their product. Make a decision and then purchase their product and the effort that needs to go into aligning all of those things so that you could bring a customer from, you know, the kind of the research phase into. Is this right for me? What is this like compared to other products? And then all the way down to taking the product out for a test drive. On that note, if you’re selling something small like a trinket or an oil change, that process isn’t all that long. You need an oil change. You go get an oil change. You might look for a place near you or something like that, but otherwise it’s a pretty quick, and easy decision to make. If you’re gonna buy a small trinket, you don’t need to research competitors, you don’t need to. You’re probably just gonna look for the convenience factor. How can I get it in the way that I want to get it? And how can I get it as quickly as I want it? How can I pay as much as I want? Those types of things, but it’s not a very long cycle, at any rate, when you’re buying something smaller.

Take though, for example, buying a car on average, it takes a consumer roughly 108 days to buy a car. We can all relate to buying cars I think. 108 days to buy a car from the time someone considers that hey, maybe I need a new car to the time they actually purchase, more than three months pass. Now, remember that average factors in people whose vehicles whose vehicle breaks down and then they need to get a new one right now. Maybe it’s the same day purchase all the way through. People are gonna take a lot longer than 108 days. So, on average, it takes 108 days to buy a vehicle, and there’s a number of steps that need to occur in there in order to convince somebody that you have the vehicle. If you’re a car dealer that is perfectly suited for them.

Now that might come down to price, might come down to features that it has that you need what have you, But it takes about 108 days to do it. So, you have to consider your product and what it takes in order to get people to buy from you and what does the lead look like? A lead for a car dealer is when somebody calls up and wants test drive a car or their enquiring about a price or something of that nature. But that happens way down the line. They’ve already gone to Edmonds and auto traders and all kinds of different places. To look, manufacturer websites, what have you. They’ve already done all this online and even some referral searches of friends who might own a car that they might be interested in. So, there’s a lot that goes into that buying cycle, and you need to understand what that is, and so does the marketing firm you might be considering. So, one of the things that you have to consider is can this marketing firm understand what your life cycle is? And are they capable of achieving the result that you want? And we’ll talk about this a little bit more in just a few minutes, but it’s important to for you to be able to look beyond these great sales pitches in these great dog and pony shows and feel comfortable that that this marketing firm, uh can The marketing firm that you’re looking at can actually achieve those results. That is somewhat of a comfort level that you might need to have, and it might be in the work that they’ve done on, and that that you know that in fact, that work has has achieved the result for another company, and whether that company is similar to yours or not is somewhat irrelevant. You just need to be able to feel comfortable that whatever your objective is that that company can actually achieve that objective for you and make sure that you’re buying the objective and not services. Again, we’ll talk about all of this as we go forward here.

So, I touched on a little bit. Do you want a marketing company that is well versed in your industry? Or do you want a marketing company or a marketing firm that’s just great at what they do? And I have mixed feelings on this. Now, my firm over the years, whether we’re marketing or whether we’re building products for people building, uh, web applications and what have you. We never niched, we never just did n industry. We never just, uh, niched in anything. We kind of took on all kinds of different projects, and we’ve been able to work for all kinds of companies like Honda Corporation, Kohls Corporation, GE, Tetra Pak Global. We’ve we’ve been able to work with a number of really great brands and a number of mom and pop shops over the years, but we never niched and so there’s a beauty that comes from that and that we have this huge swath of experience that we can bring to the table in any project.

Where a company that specializes only in an industry might suffer a little bit is that they only know and only have tools for that industry, and they can do what they can do rather than do anything that’s possible. So, I guess at the end of the day you have two way, those two things out. I have mixed feelings on it. To be honest with you, I think that there are some companies out there that specialize in industries that are just fantastic. And then I think that there are some companies out there that specialize in industries that air just super limited.

So, you really have to kind of take a look at your industry in the marketing firms that can do a good job for you and and make that call. Now this is going to sound like an over sales pitch from my consulting services. It’s not, it’s I just want to bring up the fact that if you’re struggling with this decision, which marketing firm should I retain? It might be a good idea to bring out a consultant.

Um, and just real quick understanding what a good consultant is whether you hire me or any company for that matter. A real consultant doesn’t sell services. A lot of sales people will call themselves consultants and it sounds good, but they’re only gonna be able to consult you on the things that they’re selling. A real consultant doesn’t sell services at all. A real consultant sells results like I’m gonna come in and I’m gonna say, hey, in order to get these results, these are things that I believe you should do. Whether you do them or not, it doesn’t it doesn’t affect my bottom line. Whether you do those things that I recommend and then you achieve those results. That’s what matters to me. I don’t make any money. If you buy the services that I recommend or not, none, I only make money based on is my plan solid.

Good consultants are never gonna cost you more money. In fact, I guarantee a good consultant will save you money. They will help you avoid all the pitfalls. They will help you understand what a service should cost. Whether services even valid for you or not, or if it’s just somebody selling the thing that they sell. So, at some level bringing in a consultant to help you find that right marketing firm is probably a really good idea. If you’re feeling at all hesitant in whether you’re going to pick the right firm for your needs or not.

Beyond that, it not even beyond that, uh, in line with that or in the middle of that, a good marketing consultant can take a look at what any proposals that have come in and also even help you create an RFP so as you can get good proposals. So, at some level, a marketing consultant, I know that this is what I sell, so I’m consulting you to buy my service. But I had some level that it’s the unbiased nature of a consultant that is the value. They can bring in a lot of experience and they can say, Okay, this industry expert marketing firm, um, is missing this this and this element and maybe they could bring that to the table or maybe they can’t. Or this non industry expert isn’t gonna be able to provide these tools that are necessary in your industry. So again, uh, marketing consultants, um especially me are amazing. Just kidding. But you really can consider a marketing consultant, and we do the first hour up up front for free, so you can get an awful lot of information in the first hour. Um, and I don’t get mad at you if you’re trying to take advantage of me. I really just want you to kick good marketing. At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about. So, make sure to look at, ah firms, body of work and not just the work that specifically related to your business. Look at everything they’ve done and you have to make a decision. Do you feel like the work that they’ve done aligns with the company’s brand? Is it does it feel like it should? For example, maybe a marketing firm does all kinds of different works and work, and they do banks as well as local sports teams, for example. You should be able to look at the local sports team, and it should feel like a local sports team and should get you excited about a local sports team as well as when I look at their bank client. Does that feel like a bank does it make me want a bank there? You should be able to look at their body of work and see that they, in fact, are, um, driving the marketing results that that particular company would likely need.

One of the other points that you should be aware of is, ah, marketing firm size. Size matters and size doesn’t matter. I just I’d like to say size matters because it makes me giggle a little bit. Anyway, um, a firm size really isn’t indicative of what they could do. A lot of companies that are looking for marketing help believe that, well, if I could just get that really big marketing firm, all my problems would be solved. And that’s just not necessarily true. I mean, they could just beam or expensive, and a smaller firm could bring you those exact same services for a lot less money because they don’t have the overhead and what have you?

I would just say this. You really just at the end of the day need to feel comfortable with what can this firm bring to the table, the services that will get the results that I want. And remember, the results you want aren’t improvement in your business. You’re gonna sell more widgets, and you’re going to sell more widgets in line with what it’s like for customers to buy widgets from you. So, don’t make a decision based on a firm size. Um, when you are buying services from a marketing firm, be wary of a few things.

If they go into the sale and they’re telling you, Hey, we could try a few things out here to get things rolling. You don’t need to do up front experimentation. You need to set your foundation, and there’s a difference between experimentation and dialing in your initial efforts to optimize those results. So, make sure that you’re really understanding that they’re not experimenting on your dime upfront. You never want to experiment upfront. Experimentation comes after you have this foundation set and that your marketing is on a steady role and it’s providing you the results that you want. Once that’s done and everybody’s feeling comfortable with that, that always needs to be optimized anyway. But once that foundation is set, um, now you can start saying, Hey, what if we tried this? What if we tried that? Let’s try to dig into the market a little bit deeper by doing this. Those are the times to do that. But make sure that that’s not the upfront sales pitch. Um, the other part of that, uh, sales pitch can sound a little like, and this really bothers me when this happens with marketing firms. It sounds like what we could get you going on this while we work out the larger plan. Let’s just start here. Let’s get you these basic things that everyone needs while we build the larger plan, and that is bullshit.

That is to just get you locked in. And the reason that’s bullshit is because until you have the larger plan, you don’t know what any of those things should be in the first place. You don’t know if you need social media help. You don’t know if you need to improve your SEO. You don’t know if you need pay per click. You don’t know any of those things that they want to get you started on until you have the larger plan developed.

It’s just a fact of life, and if they try to tell you that they know right up front, and let’s just start here. Even those efforts need to be steeped in the understanding of what the whole plan is the messaging needs. You don’t wanna even do an SEO campaign. Uh, if you don’t understand what the messaging is and what the landing pages should look like. So, when people say, let’s just start with SEO, or let’s just start with pay per click, bullshit. Just call bullshit on that. You don’t need to start anywhere. You need a plan and you need to believe in the plan. Another red flag when you’re looking at marketing firms is that there’s too much focus in the plan on specific services. Usually what that means is these are services that they’re really good at these are services that bring ah higher profit margin when there’s a focus on. Unless the only way you would ever know this is if, in fact, there are, um, results that you can see that show that in fact you need to focus right here, they’re typically aren’t upfront. Unless, of course, they’re one of the services that specialize in your industry. There typically aren’t, uh, knowns up front. You have to try things out. Does this work? Does email work? Does SEO work? Does digital work?

What have you? So, at some level, most firms don’t know up front what’s going to work and what’s not. You have to be careful because a lot of the buzzwords and what as soon as they say them, they can get your blood going a little bit and you might get a little, uh ah. little excited to hear some of these things where I’d love to see myself in social media. Stop. Don’t do that. Just listen to the whole plan. And that whole plan should feel very realistic to you and should match up with where you believe your customers are and how you believe your customers would react. So again, watch out if somebody is just like, Hey, we’ve got to get you on social media right away. They don’t know right away, unless they again are well versed in your industry. They just don’t know right away.

Remember also that when you’re making a purchase from a marketing firm. That marketing is an investment, and I’m defending the marketing firms here a bit. Marketing is an investment improving your business. It’s not just a necessary evil. You remember, marketing is an investment improving and improving your business, Not it’s not just this necessary evil. Henry Ford, uh, say what you will about his moral compass. A lot of people have a lot to say about that, but regardless, I mean, the guy obviously did well in business, and he had this great saying, and I’m probably not going to get a perfect, but it’s just a wonderful saying, he says. “Stopping marketing or advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” It’s just a great thing. The money that you’re spending a marketing better be making you money and you better feel it.

I guess at the end of the day, that’s what I’m talking about. It shouldn’t ever feel like that. You should almost feel like, Oh, shit. If I stop marketing, I’m going to lose business. If you feel like, well, if I just stop marketing, I’ll save some money. You’re you’ve got a disconnect and you’re doing something wrong there.

So, this is meant to be a short topic, and I’m going to just recap everything we’ve talked about here. There is a lot of detail that goes into this high-level conversation I’ve just had with you. If you want more information again, free consultations you gotta You can always listen to all the podcast at and those are free. But at some level just understand that there is a better way to do marketing If you’re not feeling comfortable with the way you’re doing marketing right now. Alright, to recap everything we’ve gone over, it’s just four short bullet points.

All you need to remember is, you got to know your objective and feel comfortable that the plan that the marketing firm is presenting to you can achieve that objective. Otherwise, don’t buy. If you’re waffling and you’re like I’m not sure is this right? Maybe you didn’t get the right proposals. Maybe you didn’t do the right RFP. Again, I would be remised and and again, even if I didn’t do this, I would tell you to get a consultant. Ah, completely unbiased. No skin in the game, consultant. By no skin in the game, I mean that they can’t make money from the services that they recommend.

Next bullet point is don’t be swayed by whether a marketing company specializes in your industry or not. Be swayed by whether you believe they could get the results and check with some of their clients. Call, ask for a few clients and they don’t have to necessarily be related to what you do. Just check with their clients. What was it like to work with them? Did they get the results that they promised? Again, bring in a consultant if you feel a little bit if you had any of these decisions, it doesn’t have to be me, but you can go to Level Logics, fill out a quick form, and I’ll I’m there to help you out.

Feel comfortable with the relationship with marketing company that you’re about to choose. You are going to be spending a lot of time with them. There’s going to be a lot of collaboration. You’re going to have to feel comfortable that a they could do the work. Be that that work is gonna be in line with what your companies like. Can they really bring out your brand? Can they really sell your widgets?

Anyway, that’s all I have to say on this topic for right now. This is again very high level, I understand that. If you want more detail, give me a call and there will be other episodes related to this, so there will be more detail forthcoming. Hope you enjoyed this little brief moment. And if you’re in the middle of trying to find a marketing firm and you need a little bit of help, feel free to give me a call. I won’t charge you a penny for some initial consultation and collaboration. All of my contact information will be available at with this episode and other episodes. Thanks for listening. Visit for a categorized listing of all episodes.

The Uber-Important Difference Between Marketing and Advertising

One particular problem in the Marketing industry is the confusion between what Marketing is and what advertising is. It sounds funny and I am deliberately making fun of people when I say this but most people calling themselves marketers typically cannot articulate the difference between marketing and advertising. In fact, we’re all guilty of using the terms interchangeably. But there is a huge difference between marketing and advertising.

So, I am going to start with this.

Here’s the difference between Marketing and advertising… Marketing is the understanding of a marketplace and the resulting strategy involving the four P’s.

  • Product, also services
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

Advertising is the part of the promotional execution of a marketing strategy. It involves using market knowledge and branding elements defined in the marketing strategy to promote your product or service.

You might be wondering why it matters – the difference between marketing and advertising. It matters because when you buy marketing services you should know what you’re buying. Knowing this difference can improve your odds of success dramatically.

There is a real difference. The problem in understanding the difference is exacerbated because companies that call themselves marketing companies sell services completely out of order. They’re typically selling mostly advertising without any real marketing effort, at all.

Think of what you are sold – Google Rankings, Social Media, Radio, TV, Print – They’re all forms of advertising – not marketing. Marketing would tell you which mediums, tactics and approaches you should use and how to use them. Good marketing firms may already have a handle on a particular market, and they seek out companies within those markets. Most of what you are sold as a small business comes from companies with no real market knowledge. What they do have is some experience in advertising tactics like SEO, Social Media, Digital and what have you.

In fairness small businesses in particular rarely want to spend the money on real marketing. They are much more willing to buy advertising. It’s immediate, it’s right now. Advertising is far more tangible than marketing and marketing feels expensive because it results primarily in a plan and not execution of the plan.

The water gets even muddier because companies now split digital and traditional marketing, which is also a complete fail in the understanding department. More on that in another episode. Regardless of how services are sold to you, you’ll hep yourself to know that SEO, Social Media, PPC, video, print, tv, radio and every other thing your being sold, are advertising channels and tactics that, when properly done are born from your marketing plan.

Most small businesses are fairly confident that they know the marketplace as well as anyone and want to develop their brand on their own. If you’re in business long enough there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get it right. Besides, doing something is better than not doing anything, right?

I am a firm believer in empirical knowledge but having been involved in a number market research projects, I can tell you that they are far from perfect and the differences between winning and losing with even the best market research comes down to how it is used. Therein lies the rub.

Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of excellent firms out there that do excellent work but finding a firm that gets great data and knows how to use it, is more of a challenge. The most successful projects I have been involved in use separate companies. One does research and one uses the data to formulate a plan. My takeaway has been that when the same company does the research and creates the plan, they tend to draw a conclusion first then they seek out data to support their theory. In other words, if the same company does the research that provides the service – there is a high likelihood the research will find that you’ll need the exact same services the company offers. It’s a crime.

At the end of the day good market research will identify and help you understand

  • Customers
    • Where they are
    • What they want from what you offer
    • Any gaps in service or supply in the marketplace
    • Demand for your product or service
    • Segments
    • Trends
  • Competitors
    • Who they are
    • What are they good at and what do they lack?
    • Pricing
    • Positioning – any gaps in positioning
  • Suppliers
  • Economic conditions and trends impacting your business
  • Industry trends, regulations

A good marketing plan, rooted in solid marketplace understanding will help create elements like messaging, tone and imaging that will be used to exploit opportunities, identify challenges and work within your strengths, limitations and budget.

All of the advertising and promotion of your business will use that information to position you in front of prospects and customers in a way that is more likely to convert them to a new customer or a better customer.

I’ll do future episodes on how to get good market research and good interpretations of good market research.

But for now, let’s assume one of two things – you either A.) have done and understand market research or B.) you’re like most small businesses and will move forward with your gut’s understanding of the market you’re in.

In either scenario, let’s also assume the info you’re acting is good. It’s time to put yourself out there. It’s time for advertising.

Since this episode is about the difference between marketing and advertising, I want to clear up one more thing.

By today’s standards there are a number of other confusing buzzwords like:

  • Social Media marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Traditional marketing
  • Inbound marketing/outbound marketing

Most of this terminology started between 2009 and 2012. In my opinion, and it is my opinion, it primarily started because it was the tail-end of the great recession and everyone who lost their job started fragmenting the marketing landscape by becoming a social media expert or an inbound marketing guru.

The confusion started because it worked. It was something that companies who could still buy marketing services were eating it up. These approaches were hot and were good at getting to where prospects and customers were.

So, the spineless marketing agencies of the world, who were also still licking their wounds from the economic disaster, jumped in and started using the same terminology. While it created a ton of confusion that still exits, you can blame us – it worked, and it kept the lights on.

I will argue with anyone at length and annoyingly loud manner that these are not new marketing disciplines or techniques. These are new tools we can use while executing our marketing strategy.

Simply put these platforms are new additions to the tools we use to advertise. just like print, radio or TV. Even though not completely accurate, the most savvy today call them marketing channels.

I’ll have a whole series on choosing the right channels at but for now let’s get back to defining advertising in contrast to Marketing.

As far as advertising goes we see ads on TV, web pages, we hear them on the radio and see them in magazines. Those are ads. Ads shouldn’t just happen, they should be derived from the marketing plan and include all of the branding elements defined from the research – tone, messaging, imaging. The context of an ad should be defined both by the opportunity or consumer need outlined in the research – and by your organizational goals.

When ads are properly derived from plans everything feels like it should. The ad feels like the company, product or service and when a customer engages with the company it also matches. That’s when things are done well. Think of McDonald’s commercials. In the course of a day you can see or hear many ads on TV, hear them on the radio or whatever. They may each have different focus but they feel the same, they look the same and when you stop by a McDonald’s it feels the same there, too.

To me the best reason for a small business to do market research is to make everything match the organization and the consumer’s needs and created in a manner that is most likely to convert customers and prospects to customers and better customers.

Sure, you can advertise without all the market research but expect to pay for and spend time in a learning curve. The bottom line is marketing and advertising are better when they work together.

To make your ads more likely to succeed, you need an understanding of the marketplace. You’ll also need to understand how to apply the knowledge of your marketplace to create effective ads.

Social Media Marketing 101

Knowing these basics will save you money and get real results.

I want to start this podcast by saying the topic of social media is very complex. This episode is not meant to answer all of your social media questions. It’s intending to put things in perspective and increase your odds of succeeding with a realistic baseline of understanding.

In the interest of full transparency, you should know that I may have a reputation for being anti-social media. I am not. In fact, in a recent, very successful project, the primary driver of the whole success story was social media. The reason I have that reputation, I think, is because most people passing themselves off as experts and selling the service or idea of social media are putting businesses in a bad position with their embarrassingly naïve understanding of social media and marketing in general. So, I try to help protect the business and make them aware of the realities. That means I am often talking them out of or right-sizing their social media perception because it is the most oversold, over-hyped marketing tactic out there.

The first part of this article will reinforce the notion that I am anti-social media. The second part of this article will balance that out.

So here we go.

You can spot an amateur marketer immediately because they focus too much on social media. The first words out of their mouth are – “We gotta get you on social media!” or “So what are you doing on social media?”

Not every business should use social media. For starters, the value social media offers B2C businesses is completely different from the value it brings B2B businesses. As funny as it sounds, people, including marketers and small business operators, are so enamored with social media that they completely forget to consider whether there is a viable audience there or not. The conventional wisdom is something like, “Everyone’s on social media, so my audience must be there.” They might be there in some capacity, but being there and the likelihood of conversion are two different things. One must always consider which mediums or channels provide the best result and return on investment.

For argument’s sake, let’s say your audience is there; standing out in social media can be like a needle trying to stand out in a stack of needles. Furthermore, the amount of time your post will have a chance to be in front of anyone is a matter of minutes, maybe hours, if you’re lucky. That means in order to find the needle you want people to find, they have to be there to look through the stack of needles during those minutes, AND you have to be the most noticeable needle in the stack.

If that’s not enough, here’s another challenge. If you have the resources to post frequently enough and hit home runs with your messaging much of the time, you also need to be there to respond to comments. You must be there to respond to good and bad comments. By the way, responding or acknowledging is not enough. Responding well, especially to negative comments, is crucial. Poorly handled communication has nearly wiped out some of the world’s largest brands. Do you really have what it takes?

Some of the “experts” will also tell you – you need to build an audience. That is ideal, of course. However, it’s not as easy as it seems. Getting people to follow you is easy-ish but getting the right people to follow you is quite a bit more challenging. It takes time and a lot of credibility, authenticity, and integrity to prove that you are worth the clutter in their feeds and notifications they’re signing up for by following you.

Sure, there are plenty of automated ways to build an audience on social media platforms. Maybe you’ll get a bunch of followers, but they won’t notice when you post, and they won’t impact your business.

Of course, if I could forego the female anatomy and the marriage to Kanye West, I’d love to have Kim Kardashian’s audience. But I bet if you asked her, she’d tell you it is a lot harder than I looks, and it took a lot of time and care to build that audience and build their trust.

I know what you’re thinking – Man, Cale really does hate social media. Nope. I hate the way it is over-sold and oversimplified. I hate that everyone thinks they’re an expert. Finally, I hate that businesses get misdirected and lose focus of their real mission – all based on the notion that they are gonna kick ass on social media.

That’s what I hate about social media. Here’s what I like and like about social media.

One of the great things about social media is that once you find the best fitting platforms and understand how to get posts to cut through, you can get straight to the audience most appreciative of your content. Nothing works as fast or as directly as social media. When done well, the ripple effect of a good post can be life-altering, or at least make your day.

We’ve all heard the stories of over-night social media sensations. Whether by accident or through a well-conceived plan, the reason it worked for them is that the stars aligned. These are the stars, that when aligned, will crush social media

  • Star 1: Content complemented by the platform, like media (videos, audio or images) on Instagram, quick-hitting information, and links on Twitter, compelling B2B headlines and content on LinkedIn. It needs to match. If it doesn’t, you’ll be doing a lot of work for no good what so ever.
  • Star 2: Finding the right audience on the right platform. Retail plays well on Instagram, Etsy, and Facebook for example. B2B connections are more likely on LinkedIn. Consider seeking out and joining groups that align with your product or service
  • Star 3: Your product, service or information is easy to consume from social media platform. It must be consumable on the platform itself or just a click or two away from a sale or a demo. That’s it. Once those stars align and you get those things all in a row for yourself, you’re going to be in business.

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, but if your posts are well crafted, social media can be an excellent medium for staying top of mind. In other words, being a regular fixture on social media can be an immense tool in the awareness game. However, and it’s a big however, if you are not careful or do not have a good plan, you will get lost in or become part of the noise that no one pays attention to. When you need to say something, you may have already been lost in the noise or have lost credibility. Top of mind awareness is a noble and proper marketing goal, but your audience may become numb to your posts if you’re not careful.

Small businesses with little to no budget can use social media to promote their business. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but you must have a good game plan to avoid the pitfalls. Assuming there’s a solid plan in place, social media can provide a platform that costs nothing but someone’s time. If following a sound plan, a DIYer can perform as well as anyone or any other channel or medium.

The final word on what I like about social media (by the way, there are more things I like and dislike, but this is enough to make the point) – the thing I love about social media is the ability to measure results. Each platform its own analytics package, and if used correctly, you can measure any conversion coming from social media. For the record, there are two types of small and medium-sized businesses. SMBs that analyze everything they can and those that won’t be around much longer.

Who should use social media and who shouldn’t?

If you are open-minded and have the time (day to day time and time to get results), you can learn a lot from which posts work and which don’t. Over time you can become adept at driving awareness and conversions through social media and learn a lot about your consumers at the same time.

If you have resources and access to expertise that can devise and work a well-crafted plan, social media can be a good option. What I mean is, if you have the time and money to determine which platforms are right for your situation, craft impactful posts, and respond to the good and bad replies, you have a good shot of driving business through social media.

You should stay away from social media or consult an expert if any of the following are true:

  • You’re not 100% positive you know what it takes to create an impactful post
  • You’re not 100% positive you know what drives your customer
  • You do not have the time or resources to manage social media efforts
  • You’re not 100% sure where your audience is most likely to be on social media or which platforms to use

In those cases, stay aware or consult an expert. It doesn’t mean social media is bad for you or you should stay away all together, it just means you need more information.

In summary, if you have a solid handle on what moves your audience, where your audience will be, and you have a plan to communicate effectively, social media can be an excellent platform to promote your small business.

If you’re not sure, you can do more harm than good. Wait until you can spend some time or money to do the job well.

What’s this all about?

The goal of this program is to simplify marketing for small businesses. You don’t the time, the money, or the patience to mess around. When it comes to marketing you’re sold a bunch of garbage that sounds great but rarely improves your business the way you expect. I’m here to put things in perspective.

Upcoming Episodes

  • Reputation Management with Karl Robe (January 21, 2021)
  • Today’s Marketing – What Works and What Doesn’t (January 28, 2021)
Questions & Suggestions

Please enter your email, so we can follow up with you.