How to harness the power of people outside your business to help it thrive

- September 4, 2020 4 MIN READ

Have you ever thought about how you might approach your business differently if the internet did not exist? This idea sprouts from the anti-marketing discussion I occasionally have with people who feel overwhelmed by ‘all the things’ they feel pressure to show up for in their marketing activities for a business in the digital age.

When I studied Marketing at university, there were 5 Ps for a product based business and 7 Ps for a service based business.  It was the mid 1990s when I graduated from RMIT with a Bachelor of  Business, Marketing. Content marketing was not yet a thing (it became popular later that decade) and we did most of our assignments on my friend’s Apple computer (do you remember the one that was an all in one unit?). General Assembly shared a vintage picture of this recently, which made me smile.

This was a time when we got our assignments bound and printed at the university’s print shop and email was only just starting to emerge as a tool for how we communicated.

In many ways it was a much simpler time. And while the emergence of online based marketing and the internet has connected communities globally, giving consumers greater (and perhaps too much) choice, it has also added a high degree of complexity to the marketing process and fragmented audiences in many industries.

When I am speaking with potential clients who may have been in business for more than 15 years and are only just starting to embrace their online presence, they feel confused about where to start. They’re very aware of the pressure to be more active online (even though they’ve run successful businesses without much of an online presence before this). It’s normally because they want more clients or more of a certain type of client, that they begin to explore developing a stronger online presence. 

Many begin by trying to fix their websites or they hire a social media resource to help them create content and post more regularly on their chosen social media platform/s. Inevitably this can become frustrating for them because these service providers may talk in an unfamiliar language, when they just want to do the work and get new clients. 

They miss the days when they could just renew their Yellow Pages listing and wait for the phone to ring.  When they originally set up their business it was a different time. It was a time when the majority of people watched free to air TV and all you really had to do was update your Yellow Pages listing once a year!

Can we return to Kansas? There’s no place like home.

It would be easier if we could go back to placing a Yellow Pages advertisement each year and wait for the phone to ring. Actually – I’ve never placed a Yellow Pages ad, but do remember the iconic television commercial, when Jan forgot to place the ad. Do you remember he one? “Not Happy Jan”. Watch it here.

If there’s one thing I have learnt from running a small business, it’s that you can not do it all alone. It helps to carefully think about who you’re surrounding yourself with and make sure they are elevating you. It’s also very useful if these people have some of the skills you don’t, and can help you develop a plan for your business in these current and somewhat crazy times.

The best way to get focused is to:

  • identify your strengths and know what you do well in your business
  • identify the gaps (yes – your weaknesses!) and think about who you know who can help you
  • ask these people for help (and even consider contra arrangements, and calling in favours if you are on a budget)

You know your business, you know your clients and you know who you and your team does their best work with. Focus on this, and then call in others to help with all the other things. But please don’t do it all at once. I find it’s much more manageable and productive to just focus on improving one key element a month for either your sales / marketing / operations / systems / technology / human resources that may need your attention. Trying to tackle them consecutively can lead to overwhelm and then nothing gets done!

Your knowledge of your business, clarity on your strengths, asking for help and tackling projects in monthly chunks can be a powerful combination. Especially at the moment when the world’s a bit topsy turvy and your plans may need to change as your industry or the government restrictions in different states changes. You’ll also need to do some work to cultivate your thinking, and maybe even download a marketing planning resource from a trusted source. I personally recommend Cath Connell’s Wholehearted Marketing Business Essentials and have used a version of this and Cath’s Marketing Planning Retreats in my business every year for 10 years.

For those of you who are willing to do the work and have surrounded yourself with people who elevate and support you, the vital next step is to map out a plan for your marketing and online activities. Start at the beginning, accept that Rome was not built in a day, reputation is not built overnight, be comfortable that nothing is more certain than change and keep going!

Chip away at it by setting weekly and then monthly, evenly quarterly goals for getting ‘all the things’ done, and then get on with it. Try not to bite off more than you can chew with these ‘on the business’ tasks. The best use of your time may be to focus on doing great work, thereby delighting your current clients. Respond to new enquiries promptly and make sure anyone’s experience with your business is a positive one they’ll want to tell others about. A strong recommendation from a happy client is by far the most powerful arsenal you have in your sales and marketing toolkit right now.

Doing this work is how you’ll build more momentum in your business. It’s also a great way to engage your team better and ensure you have the right talented local service providers around you to help grow your business and achieve your professional goals.

I’d wish you luck, but you don’t need it. You just need to trust yourself, surround your self with good people, make a plan and chip away at it. You can do it!