8 ways to market a small business

When it comes to marketing a small business there are a lot of options, but how do you know which is right for your business What are the best ways to market a small business? Where do you begin?

To find the most effective way to market your small business, you really have to begin with understanding your ideal customer and the best way to find and engage with them, but I explore that concept in detail in this post.

Today’s post is about providing you with a handful of ways you can try with your business that work, to some degree, in just about any business.

The 8 Ways to Market A Small Business

1) Create lead generating website

Many small businesses out there have a website. If you’re amongst those that don’t, it’s time to get one built. Your website is the hub of your online marketing efforts and if you don’t have one everything else is a lot harder.

If you do have a website, or are about to build one, you want it to work hard for you to capture leads, and drive sales. To do that, you need to ensure it has these 11 essential elements of a small business website.

There are loads of options out there for building one. You can DIY it on platforms like SquareSpace, Wix, or Duda, or you can hire someone like me to build one in WordPress or even custom code it.

The important thing in that process is to start with strategy and understand how you will use your website to attract and engage your ideal customer.

2) Social media marketing

Social media marketing for small businesses can be a powerful tool for reaching potential customers and building a community around your business.

Again, here it’s important to understand which platforms your ideal customers are on and target those. If you’re just getting started, or looking to restart your efforts, my advice is to pick one or two platforms tops and focus on those.

Many small businesses try to do too much and be on every platform and it’s just too much work. They get overwhelmed and stop doing everything.

The other thing to remember about social media marketing is where it fits the customer journey.

For most businesses, social media is not going to be about lead generation and that’s because the algorithms that control who sees what are making it harder and harder to get non-paid content found. For example, Facebook engagement hovers around 5.20%. That means roughly one in every 19 fans sees the page’s non-promoted content.

Basically, if you want to be discovered you have to run ads. But that doesn’t mean social media has no value.

Where social media helps small businesses is by showing their personality. People will turn to a business’s social media after they become aware of a business to get a sense of them before they make a purchasing decision. That’s why it’s critically important to post more than your latest special or motivational quotes. Show prospects your personality, let them get to know you.

I explore these concepts a little deeper in this post about mapping the customer journey, and this one about building the ultimate marketing strategy.

3. Develop a content marketing strategy

Creating and sharing high-quality, informative content, such as blog posts, videos, and infographics, can help attract customers and establish your business as a thought leader in your field.

To be most effective in your content marketing, you need to work from a calendar.

Start with quarterly themes; then break those down into monthly topics; and finally into weekly or bi-weekly sub-topics. Map that out over six or 12 months and you will have a calendar you can work from to keep you on track and not scrambling to create something each month (and more often just not getting it done).

And focus your content on being useful to your ideal client. Think about the questions they have during different stages of their customer journey and try to answer those.

4. Invest in search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO can help improve your website’s ranking on search engines like Google, making it more visible to potential customers.

To break it down, SEO is really about three things: how your website functions; what content is on your website; and what other sites are pointing to you. To manage this is a big job and can get pretty technical, you’re probably best off hiring a pro to help you here.

For local businesses (if your customers come from your area) there are some specific tasks and I talk about those more here.

5. Use email marketing

Email is one of, if not the, most cost-effective ways to market your business. And it can be used in a variety of ways.

Email marketing can be an effective way to stay in touch with customers and promote special offers or new products.

You can use email to nurture prospects who aren’t ready to buy, but have shown an interest in your products or services.

Email can be part of your sale funnels and lead funnels and you can learn more about those here.

To do any of this you need to capture those email addresses first. That goes back to your website and making sure you have something there that someone will want to give you an email address in order to access, like a checklist, or ebook.

6. Network and build partnerships

Networking and building partnerships with other businesses and organizations is a powerful way to market a small business. It can help expose your business to new customers and increase your visibility.

I call these strategic partnerships. Businesses that serve the same ideal customer, but in non-competitive ways. You build a network of strategic partners who all refer to each other.

If you’re a landscaper, this may be a roofer or contractor. For a business coach, it could be an accountant or a printer.

There are also organizations like BNI that are built to do exactly this in a more structured way.

7. Offer promotions and discounts

Offering promotions and discounts can help attract new customers and encourage existing customers to continue doing business with you.

Of all the ideas to market a small business, this one is probably the one that will drive the most immediate sales, but be careful not to use this too liberally, or you will train your customers to wait until you have a sale.

And remember, it’s always easier to do more business with existing customers than it is to go out and find new ones, so give some thought to what you can do to encourage them to do more business with you. This, of course, starts with delivering a great experience with their initial purchase.

8. Get involved in your community

Participating in local events, sponsoring community organizations, and supporting local causes can help build goodwill and attract customers who share your values.

Communities can also be digital. Are there Facebook groups that cater to your target market? For businesses serving other businesses, Alignable can be a great platform to connect.

It’s important here, though, to participate in a way that adds value to the others in the group. Be helpful. Don’t just sell.

These are just a handful of the many ways to market a small business. Try some of them and see if they help, and remember to track your results. Know what your goal is and have a way to measure the impact.

To really know which of the ways to market a small business will be most effective for you, you need to really understand your ideal customer and have a core message that speaks to their needs and wants. That means starting with strategy.

If you’d like to learn more about how to do that, download the 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success or book a free consultation and let’s talk about how to grow your business.

4 Steps to Build the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Strategy

If you cast a net (and by that, I mean do a Google search) for how to build a small business marketing strategy you’re going to get A LOT of results. In fact, you’ll get about 2.15 billion results. I know because I just did it.

If you comb through those results, though, what you’re going to find is a mixture of one-off tactics – like how to master TikTok, or how to build a great website, or Facebook ads – and really technical, complicated approaches to marketing a small business. Neither of which is really going to help most small business owners.

Grabbing the latest tactic of the month only serves to frustrate and have you throwing money at something that may or may not be right for YOUR business.

Meanwhile, those deep dives into marketing theory, while grounded in solid research, are going to leave most business owners confused and spending time they just don’t have trying to figure out how to implement it in their business.

I’m here to tell you that, while marketing strategy isn’t about random tactics, marketing a small business doesn’t have to be that hard. What I’m going to walk you through in this blog post is a proven strategy that anyone can implement, that I use in my done for you marketing system, and that will set you up to attract and convert more of your ideal customers.

4 Steps to Building the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Strategy

1. Narrow your focus to your top 20%

2. Promise to solve a problem

3. Create an end-to-end customer journey

4. Make content the voice of strategy

Step 1 – Narrow Your Focus to the Top 20%

The first step to creating your small business marketing strategy to attract customers is to narrow your focus to the top 20% of your clients. This is a two-part process.

Part one is making a list of your top 20%. And I would suggest that you define your top 20% based on two criteria: profitability and referrals. Meaning that they are both your most profitable customers and they refer the most business to you.

I’m not asking you to do this because I want you to ignore the other 80% of your customers, but there’s a reason that a customer is more profitable. That reason usually relates to the fact that they were a good fit for the problem you solve. They were willing to pay full price, even a premium. We want to find out why.

Take a sheet of paper and actually make a list of the customers that fit that criterion. I have a workbook for this process you can download, but you can also just use any old piece of paper.

Once you have a list of at some of your top 20% it’s time to figure out what makes them tick. This is part two of this step.

Create three columns: Must Have; Nice to Have; Ideal.

Into these columns, I want to you write down the characteristics of those top 20% you just wrote down.

Under must have, you could have things like lives in my town, owns a home, has a car. Whatever those things are that they must have in order to need your product or service.

Under nice to have are those things that make them more inclined to want to do business with you. For example, if you’re a landscaper, maybe you’ve found that your ideal customers are couples who both work, so they’re busy, and like to entertain in their backyard, so they need it to look nice.

In the last column, list the ideal characteristics of your top 20%. These will vary for every business, but we’ve all had conversations with a customer where they’re explaining their problem and we’re just listing, thinking, yes, I can totally help this person. What are those things for your business?

Fill out your three columns or, again, grab the worksheets I provide for this process.

Step 2 – Promise to solve a problem

Step number two in creating your small business marketing strategy is promising to solve a problem.

And not just any problem, but the problem your top 20% wants solved. And it may not be the one you think it is.

Too many small business owners talk too much about themselves. The hard truth is that nobody cares about what we sell. They just want their problem solved.

To find out what that problem is for you, you need to talk to your customers and ask. Get on the phone or get together for a coffee and ask them questions like:

  • Why did you choose us?
  • Why do you keep doing business with us?
  • What do we do that other companies don’t?

You’ll have to probe them and ask follow-up questions because most of them will say something obvious like you give great service. If you get that, ask a follow-up like “tell me more about that?” or “tell about a time that we gave you great service.”

If your business collects reviews on Google or other industry-specific review sites (and if you don’t, you should start) these can also be a gold mine for the problems you solve.

Read your reviews carefully and look for common themes. What are people saying? What are the common phrases or these that come up over and over?

Once you find the problem you really solve, this becomes the basis for your core message. The thing that makes you stand out in the marketplace. What you can say that will grab the attention of your ideal customers and show them that you understand them and can offer a solution.

Step 3 – Create an End-to-End Customer Journey

If you want to create a marketing strategy to attract customers you have to focus your efforts on an end-to-end customer journey. To get that core message you create in front of the right people at the right time. But what exactly does that mean?

I will suggest to you that it doesn’t mean the typical marketing funnel that you have seen all over the place for years. You know the one, where you dump a whole bunch of prospects into the top through ads, or SEO, or any number of tactics, and a certain number of them work their way through to the bottom and come out as customers.

There are two problems with this model. Number one is that is assumes that we have control. We don’t. The customer is in complete control these days. And their journey is anything but linear.

small business marketing strategy - customer journey

The customer journey today

They bounce around; maybe they see an ad, maybe they visit your website, or read a Google review. Perhaps they call some friends or put a message out on Facebook. The customer journey starts to look more like this:

The second problem with the funnel mode is that it ends when someone becomes a customer.

If any of you reading this get any percentage of your business through referrals, it won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that this is not the end of the journey.

So, I’d like you to think about marketing today as more about organizing behaviour and helping your ideal clients work through their own journey. The one they want to go on, not the one we want to send them through.

So, how do you do that?

Well, I use a tool called the Marketing Hourglass, created by Duct Tape Marketing.

marketing plan for small business

Source: Duct Tape Marketing

The Marketing Hourglass organizes the customer journey into seven stages that are really different behaviours.

  1. Know – I have a problem and in looking to solve it, I find out your business exists
  2. Like – in my research I go to your website, maybe check out your social media channels and decide I like what I see
  3. Trust – this is critical, I must decide I trust you before I will do business with you.
  4. Try – is that step before they are willing to jump in with both feet. It could be a free trial, or even just a phone call.
  5. Buy – this is when the magic happens. But what does that experience look like for your customers? You don’t want buyer’s remorse here.
  6. Repeat – If someone is happy with their decision to purchase, they’ll do it again next time they have the same problem.
  7. Refer – is that part of human nature that makes us want to tell other people about a good decision we made and to help them solve the same problem.

To create your end-to-end customer journey, you need to go through each stage of the hourglass and write down all the ways potential customers come to know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer you. What are the things you need to be doing at each stage to be there when they arrive?

I’ll give you some examples. For Know, it could be things like ads and showing up in a Google search, or getting referred. For Like, it may be your website experience, seeing a strong core message on your site, or your personality in social media. Then for Trust, it’s things like reviews, testimonials, etc.

You have to go through all seven stages and write down what that is for your business. I have detailed this in much more detail in this post about how to turn customers into buyers with customer journey mapping. You can also get the worksheet I use for this process as part of the workbook available for downloading.

Step 4 – Make content the voice of strategy

The final step in creating the ultimate marketing strategy for a small business is to turn the content you have or create into the voice of your strategy. The good news is that, of you do this correctly, you’ll actually have to create less content than you are now.

And when we’re talking about content, it’s not just things like blog posts or white papers. Emails are content. How you answer the phone is content. How you ask for referrals is content.

The goal now is to figure out what type of content you need at each stage of the journey to help guide your ideal clients through. To do this, we go back to the Marketing Hourglass and brainstorm each stage.

So, some examples.

Creating a a customer journey map

Source: Duct Tape Marketing

Those are the four steps to create a truly effective marketing strategy for your small business:

  1. Narrow your focus to your top 20%
  2. Promise to solve a problem
  3. Create an end-to-end customer journey
  4. Make content the voice of strategy

If you follow these steps and work through each one, you’ll develop a marketing plan that attracts and engages more of your ideal clients, with less content, and give you a real competitive advantage.

Don’t forget, you can download a collection of worksheets that will help you with each of these steps.

These four steps are taken from a larger coaching program I run built on the proven Duct Tape Marketing System. If you’re interested on getting some help working through this process and developing a detailed marketing action plan for your business, you should check out that small business marketing coaching program.

And if you’d like someone to do that for you, book a free consultation and we can talk.

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Growing A Small Business

Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy. According to statistics, they account for more than half of all private sector employment and generate about two-thirds of new jobs. So it’s no wonder that so many people aspire to own their own small business.

The problem is that most small businesses don’t make it past the five-year mark. In fact, according to research, only about one-third of small businesses survive more than five years, and only half make it 10 years or more.

Growing a small business can be a daunting task. There are so many things to think about, and it can be easy to make mistakes along the way.

10 Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make When Growing

In this article we’re going to explore 10 common mistakes owners make when growing a small business. They’re not the only mistakes, but they’re ones many make and that can be avoided with a little forethought. We’ll look at:

  1. Neglecting their existing customer base
  2. Failing to differentiate themselves
  3. Not investing in marketing
  4. Growing a small business too quickly
  5. Not having a plan
  6. Not doing enough market research
  7. Failing to set realistic goals
  8. Overlooking the importance of cash flow
  9. Not investing in your team
  10. Trying to do everything yourself

1. Neglecting their existing customer base

In the rush to attract new customers, small businesses often forget about the people who have already been supporting them. It’s important to nurture your existing relationships as you try to grow your business.

This not only risks losing some of these customers, but overlooks them as sources of potential growth.

Your existing customers are a great source of referrals for new business if you know how to ask. It’s also much easier to get more business from a happy customer than it is to bring in a new one, so think about additional products or services you could offer that would be of value to them.

2. Failing to differentiate themselves

With so many small businesses competing for attention, it’s important to make sure that you stand out from the crowd. What makes your business unique? What can you offer that others can’t?

If you haven’t defined your ideal customer and your core message of difference, you’re going to have a tough time knowing how to attract more of them.

3. Not investing in marketing

Marketing is an essential part of growing a small business, but it’s often one of the first things that gets cut when budgets get tight. Investing in marketing will help you reach new customers and grow your business.

Want a quick way to evaluate your marketing program? Answer these 10 short questions and get a free report back detailing your weak spots and how to fix them.

4. Growing a small business too quickly

Growing a small business too rapidly can be just as damaging as not growing at all. Small businesses need to be strategic about their growth and taking on too much too soon can lead to problems down the road.

5. Not having a plan

Probably the most common mistake made when growing a small business is failing to plan for their growth. Without a clear vision and goals, it’s hard to know where you’re going or how to get there. Take the time to sit down and map out your plans for growth, and you’ll be much more likely to achieve success.

When you’re mapping out that plan, make sure you’re asking yourself what’s preventing your growth right now?

6. Not doing enough market research

Before you start pumping money into marketing and advertising, make sure you know who your target audience is and what needs or wants your product or service meets. Maybe you’re looking to grow into a very small or competitive niche when there is a much larger, underserved one that could really benefit from your product or service.

Do the leg work upfront and save yourself rework and lost efforts down the road.

7. Failing to set realistic goals

It’s important to have ambitious growth goals, but if they’re not realistic, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Make sure your plans are achievable and that you have a clear path to reaching them.

Aim for SMART goals : Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

8. Overlooking the importance of cash flow

To grow, most businesses need access to capital, whether it’s through investments, loans, or lines of credit. But if you don’t have a handle on your cash flow, you could find yourself quickly sinking into debt. Make sure you have a solid plan in place for managing your finances as you expand.

If you have one, speak to your accountant and let them advise you on the financial aspects of your plan. Have a good look at your cash flow statement and make sure you understand it.

9. Not investing in your team

Your employees are your most valuable asset, so if you’re not investing in their development, you’re not doing everything you can to help your business grow. Provide coaching and training opportunities for your team members and create an environment that supports creativity and collaboration.

Get them not just ready for growth, but equip them to deliver amazing experiences to your existing customers that will help fuel that growth.

10. Trying to do everything yourself

As a small business owner, it’s natural to want to be involved in every aspect of your company, in the early stages it’s even necessary. This can lead to overwhelm and burnout. As you expand, delegate tasks to employees or subcontractors whenever possible to free up your time to focus on more important things.

Learn to let go and trust that others will do a good job in carrying out your vision and leverage systems to help set them up for success.


Every small business is going to face unique challenges when they try to grow to the next stage. Some of these challenges you’re just not going to see until you get there, but you can prepare for and avoid the common ones we’ve talked about here and that’s going to dramatically improve your ability to grow.

The important thing to remember is to not do it alone. Lean on your network, on your internal experts, and on your strategic partners like a good CPA, coach, or small business marketing consultant who can help you navigate and shorten your path to success.

Why small business owners need to own marketing instead of renting it

Odds are this question has crossed your mind at one point in time if you’re a small business owner: “Should I hire someone in-house for marketing or continue to seek outside help?”

So many small business owners are afraid to hire marketing people internally. Where do you even start? And is there something wrong with keeping your marketing in the hands of an outside consultant?

Not exactly, but there comes a point in time when you need to stop renting marketing and own it internally. Here’s why.

The difference between owning and renting marketing 

First, let’s define what owning marketing vs. renting marketing really means.

Renting marketing is when you’re seeking outside help from a consultant or an agency to market your business.

Consultants are usually your strategic partners. They can help you with high-level strategy, things like defining your ideal client, crafting core messages that set you apart, sharpening your brand identity, optimizing your website, or building your blog. 

Owning marketing is when you hire a marketing person internally to handle routine things like writing content for your blog, creating social posts, getting reviews for your business, managing your communities, public relations, working on referral programs, and more depending on your industry.

There’s a time and place for both. And there’s a sweet spot smack dab in the middle where ‘owning’ and ‘renting’ will work hand in hand. But more on that later.

Why you can’t abdicate your marketing

It’s common to delegate what you can as a small business owner. Marketing is one of those things that gets delegated most of the time. But when delegation becomes abdication—then you’ve got a problem.

Too often businesses have ‘someone looking after their marketing’. But when you look beneath the surface, it’s less about having someone effectively run their marketing and more about being a convenient opportunity for business owners to check the marketing box and turn their attention elsewhere.

When you’ve just abdicated and hired random people, you limit your bottom line results, and you aren’t building a long-term internal asset. 

Consultants can’t be your entire marketing department. They can only carry so much on their plate, and they won’t have the opportunity to know all of the intricacies of your business as well as someone internally would. If you want to get your business to the next level, it’s time to start building an internal team.

How digital channels add complexity

There are so many digital channels out there available for you to use today—which makes managing them all so much more difficult. It’s nearly impossible for one person to do it all alone.

Not only are you responsible for the strategy for each of the channels that you choose to use, but without help, you’re also in charge of the implementation and execution.

Small business owners need help with marketing, but they often don’t want to hire. 

Why small business owners don’t hire for marketing

Business owners are often skeptical about someone coming in to help with their marketing—whether it’s in-house or even on a consultant basis—so much so they don’t hire marketing people for reasons like:

  1. They don’t see marketing as a priority—few business owners have a marketing background, and while great marketing can deliver, most don’t want to spend their time (or money) on it.
  2. They’ve been burned before—a lot of times small businesses have had a bad experience with a marketing guru of some sort or they’ve hired a marketing person who ‘knew’ how to manage social media, but didn’t have any broader direction when it comes to marketing strategy. (And that’s because there often isn’t a bigger strategy.)
  3. They can’t justify the cost—small businesses often have limited resources. Hiring is a commitment. It’s an upfront cost, and the ROI isn’t instantaneous. But your costs should pay for themselves quickly if you hire the right person.
  4. They don’t know how to hire or train the right person—business owners (usually) aren’t marketers. They often don’t know what to look for, where to find talent, or how to get someone up to speed successfully.

But small business owners can only do so much on their own. There comes a point in time when even the skeptics need to re-evaluate and consider getting help if they want their business to continue to grow.

The natural progression of a mature business

When a business matures, growth becomes stagnant, and sales slowly begin to decrease.

This is when it’s time for your business to be shaken up. You hit a certain threshold where you can only grow so much, and you can’t do it all as a business owner. You’re already spread thin. If you want to take it to the next level, having an internal marketing team is key.

You can combat slowed growth by upping your marketing game. Whether it’s researching ways to reach new audiences, creating new product offerings, building referral programs, focusing on new platforms, you need to refresh your growth in the marketplace.

And with stronger marketing efforts and an internal person dedicated to taking care of those things, you can do just that.

Get help but plan to make marketing an asset

When an outside consultant or advisor is your entire marketing department, you can only reach a certain level of growth. 

I mentioned earlier that there’s a sweet spot smack dab in the middle where ‘owning’ and ‘renting’ marketing work magically together, hand in hand. Where you can really win is when you marry an internal marketing hire with your strategic partner. 

A marketing consultant can help you with the strategic component like the plan, the operations of the plan, the analysis of results, and ensuring you remain on track on working towards your big goals.

Meanwhile, the internal marketing person who knows the intricacies of the business (or soon will) can be directed by an outside resource—like a Marketing Consultant—to execute on this plan and craft messages that align with your strategy. This is how you get the best of both worlds.

By hiring internally, you end up building an asset for your business. But that still brings us back to one of the biggest blockers for small business owners—how do you find, hire, and train the right internal marketing person?

Well—we’re creating a program to solve this exact problem. 

We’re using the proven Duct Tape Marketing systems to build a Certified Marketing Manager Program. The program comes with an experienced consultant armed with a proven marketing system and a personalized training program based on your business for your marketing team (even if that’s just one person). 

We will teach your team how to build, run and implement a custom marketing system tuned to evolve as you grow. We can even help you find and hire the perfect internal marketing manager or coordinator.

It takes the daunting task right out of your hands. And this is exactly what you need to get to the next level.

So, this all sounds great, right? But you might still be wondering how exactly these 3 roles work together and who’s responsible for what. We’ve created a visual ‘What’s Your Role’ Map that shows you exactly how the business owner, in-house marketer, and your marketing consultant’s roles and responsibilities work together in the Certified Marketing Manager Program.

Stop Running Recruitment Ads, They Don’t Work

Pretty much everything has changed since March 2020. Why would hiring people be any different? But some people still haven’t gotten the message.

Many years ago when I was working in a corporate marketing role for a behavioural assessment company, I wrote a blog post espousing that HR had to become more like marketing if companies hoped to compete for top talent.

Fast forward many years and we find ourselves in a market where employers are struggling to fill openings. Employees are resigning in large numbers. And the old ways of hiring just aren’t working. Let’s look at some numbers that paint a picture of today’s environment:

  • 44% of employees are currently seeking a new job
  • Less than 15% of job postings get filled by people who applied through the job board
  • 50% say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation – even for a pay increase
  • 79% of candidates use social media in their job search
  • 92% of consumers will visit a company’s website for the first time for reasons other than making a purchase
  • 71% of employees would accept a pay cut for a better work experience
  • 89% of employers think employees leave for more money
  • Only 12% of employees cited this as their reason

My point back then was that HR needed to engage people through social networking and build relationships that would open the door to having high performers consider a job with the company when the opportunity aligned. This became known as social recruiting. This was at the time already a core marketing strategy. The idea of building engagement with your audience on social media was growing and the influencer boom was about to hit.

Since then, a lot of smart people have drawn even more direct lines between marketing and recruiting and how using the same tenets we use to attract customers can be effectively used to attract and engage with prospective employees.

Author, speaker, and marketer, John Jantsch has recently been talking about this a lot. He’s made a pretty compelling case for how the Duct Tape Marketing system that he invented and we use with our clients can also be effectively used to attract and engage with your ideal employees.

The point he makes on this topic, and I agree with, is that people aren’t candidates or consumers, they’re both, there’s really no distinction. They may buy from us or they may work for us – often both. The reasons they decide to do either are influenced by the same things because they are the same people.

But we seem to treat candidates as an entirely different class of buyer. We just write an impersonalized job description and run some ads to fill up the employee pipeline. These are marketing tactics we’ve known don’t work in a vacuum for years. News flash, it no longer works for recruiting either.

The problem is one of strategy. Too often businesses think they can solve their marketing problems by buying some ads or investing in some SEO. Their problem is usually one of strategy and the same is true with attracting and retaining top talent today. That’s why the same process we use to attract and engage customers will work for companies struggling to attract and retain quality (or any) staff.

Let’s take a look at how Jantsch breaks this out.

3 Steps to an Effective Recruitment Strategy

There are three primary steps to developing an effective recruitment strategy:

  1. Narrow your focus to your top 20%
  2. Promise to solve a problem
  3. Create an end-to-end journey

Narrow Your Focus to Your Top 20%

The first step in the process is to think about who you want to attract. Most companies would rather hire top performers. Those employees who will deliver the most value. In marketing, we talk about narrowing your focus to your ideal customer, and you need to identify your ideal employee when you’re recruiting.

  1. Look around. Who are your top 20% of employees? Once you identify them, start answering these questions:
  2. What does their current work/life situation look like?
  3. What do they enjoy about their job?
  4. What frustrates them at work?
  5. In what work environment do they excel?
  6. What factors were involved in their decision to work for you?

Go out and speak to your top 20% and ask them these questions. Or have their managers do it, or maybe even send out a survey. Once you have the responses, start to look for common themes.

Promise to Solve a Problem

Nobody who ever walked into a hardware store and bought a power drill needed a drill. They needed a hole. The drill was just one of the solutions to their problem.

That’s a cheeky way of saying people don’t want what we sell, they want a problem solved. It’s not about us, it’s about them. When you’re recruiting your ideal employees you need to make it about them. What’s the problem you can solve for them? What problem are you solving for your customers that will excite them?

If you don’t know then go out and ask your customers. Ask your employees. What is it that they really value about working for you? About being your customer? If your company collects Google reviews, read those. A lot of these reasons will be in there. If your company is rated as an employer on sites like Glass Door, look at those reviews, too. What ideas keep coming up?

Create and End-to-End Journey

A core concept of the Duct Tape Marketing system that we employ with our clients is creating an end-to-end customer journey called the Marketing Hourglass. This breaks the buyer journey into seven stages: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, refer. Every customer your business has goes through the first five stages of this at their own pace (lots never make the last two and the fault for that lies with the company, or their marketing agency).

This same framework can also work as an employee journey with a tweak to two of the words because employees are also customers. You can shift this to know, like, trust, try, hire, retain, refer.

Source: Duct Tape Marketing

When I use this for a marketing client I walk them through the stages and we brainstorm all the places they may come into contact with their ideal customer at each stage and how we need to show up and what the message is. That makes it very simple to fill a customer journey with engagements that speak to the ideal customer. You can do the same with your employee journey. Here’s what that might look like:


  • Employer branding
  • Social media
  • Job sites
  • Advertising


  • Your core message
  • Who they meet first
  • Fast follow up
  • Ease of finding out more info


  • Mentions
  • Reviews
  • Employee stories on website
  • Values in action


  • Application process
  • Phone screen
  • Follow-up
  • Clear expectation


  • Interview
  • Onboarding
  • Manager
  • Current employees
  • Training plan


  • Respected
  • Development plan and growth path
  • Co-workers
  • Recognition
  • Pay & benefits


  • Friends/good relations with co-workers
  • Trust your process
  • Trust in leadership
  • Incentives

None of this just happens. You have to work at creating this process. You have to map out what you will do at each stage of the journey to deliver the right message to your new hires. But having this all mapped out and knowing what your ideal candidate is looking for is a huge step toward becoming an employer of choice.

What if your recruiting message, and everything you did in your company, was about helping people move from where they are to where they want to be? What if every step in the employee journey was filled with experiences that made them feel respected and that you understood their needs, what the problem is they are trying to solve? How much easier would it be to attract and retain great people?

You may still have to run the occasional ad to let people know you have an opening, but all these elements in place mean the rest of the journey engages your ideal candidates and creates long-term employees and brand ambassadors.

Hiring a Marketer?

If you’re hiring a marketer for your company, download this helpful checklist to create an effective job ad and ask the right questions in an interview.

And if you want that new marketer to really make a positive impact on your company, consider the Certified Marketing Manager Program. In it, we train them to develop and execute a custom growth strategy for your business. See more details here.


Mastering Lead Funnels for Your Small Business

If you can master lead funnels for your small business, you’re going to have a powerful tool at work driving new business through your door. To help, I’ve co-written a book showing you exactly how to do it.

It’s a guide to help small businesses add one of the most powerful marketing tools there is to their work in growing their business. The book is called Mastering Lead Funnels for Your Small Business.

This has been a group effort from five small business marketing experts and I am honoured to have been a part of the project. I’ve written in this blog before about the importance and value of Lead Funnels, but this collaboration takes those ideas even deeper and provides a roadmap for any small business to build their own lead funnel.

For those unfamiliar with lead funnels, imagine a salesperson out in the field, working hard to bring in qualified leads and turn them into customers. Now imagine that this salesperson worked 24/7 365 days a year. And even better, never asked for a raise. That’s essentially what an automated lead funnel is.

It automates the process of attracting your ideal customers, getting them to opt-in to an email marketing funnel and nurturing them to the point where they are ready to buy.

There are a ton of different types of funnels, and we explore many of them in the book. We also show you, step-by-step, how to build your own funnel and how to improve it and optimize it over time so it just keeps getting better and better.

So, listen, if this sounds like something you could put to work in your business download a copy today. It’s FREE and I promise you, you’re going to come away as excited as I am about funnels and ready, willing and able to build your own!

I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think.

Download your FREE COPY today of Mastering Lead Funnels for Your Small Business.



3 Things to Improve Your website

Your website is (or should be) the hub of your marketing strategy as a small business. When it’s working properly, its and engaging your ideal clients, converting them into leads, and in the case of an eCommerce site, turning browsers into buyers.

So it’s important you do what you can to make it work hard for you. But a website is also a lot of work, requiring constant monitoring and tweaking sometimes you just don’t have the time or resources to really put into it.

Tell me if you’ve ever said or thought this: “the leads I get from my website are never any good so I don’t put too much effort into it.”

Anytime I hear that, I know the sentence is backwards. What they should have said was, “I don’t put too much effort into my website so the leads I get from it are never any good.”

But if you have limited time and resources and can’t take on a major website overhaul, I want to give you three things you can do right now, today, to improve your website. Make these small changes and I guarantee you your website will bring you more leads.

3 Tips to Improve Your Website

1) Stop talking about yourself

So many websites I see read like a corporate bio. “We do this, we excel at that, we’ve been in business 100 years.”

I’ll let you in on a secret: nobody cares.

You might think that when someone visits your website they want to learn about you. They don’t. They want to hear about themselves. They want to see you reflect their problem back at them and show them that you understand what they’re going through.

Change the language and write about your ideal customer, their struggles, what it will feel like if they solve their problem, how you can help them on that journey.

2) Improve Your Lead Capture

If the only way your website has to capture a lead is that someone fills out a contact us form, or calls you on the number listed, you’re losing out on potentially a ton of leads.

Think about your ideal customer and the problem they are trying to solve by being on your website. Now, can you think of something you could provide to them that would help them out?

Maybe a checklist, or a short video, or a tips sheet?

Great, now create it, or dust it off if you already have it, and put it on your website as a free download when they enter their email address.

You can keep your contact us form, but give the majority of people who aren’t ready to have you calling them a reason to give you an email address so that you can market to them.

Based on what they download, create a follow-up sequence that nudges them to the next logical step after checking you out. Maybe that’s a phone call, a quote, or a purchase. Don’t lose the lead because they aren’t ready to buy the moment they are on your website.

3) Get some video on the site

Videos make your site more interactive, and they encourage people to stay around longer. Even a 30-second video can keep people on your site longer, which is a signal to Google that people find value on your site, increasing the chance of you showing up in search.

Videos also provide another channel to deliver your message to your ideal client for those who may not like reading.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can shoot it with a smartphone, upload it to YouTube and post a link.

Most of these simple fixes can be done by someone with little to no website development experience. Especially if you’re using a tool like Wix, SquareSpace, or Duda.

If you follow them, you’ll see a noticeable change in your website’s performance as a sales tool.

For more tips to improve your website you can also download our free Website Essentials Pack and get a complete set of planning tools, checklists, and templates to design a successful website.

Improve your website


How to Grow Your Business: There are Fewer Ways Than You Think

If I were to ask you how to grow your business, how many ways would you say there are?

I ask this of a lot of small business owners I speak with. The answers vary, usually falling somewhere between a few dozen and several hundred. I can see their eyes start to gloss over as they run all the options through their minds.

It’s no wonder that so many small business owners feel overwhelmed with how to grow a business. So many options. So many choices. It’s enough to make anyone throw up their hands in despair.

But what if I told you the answer to that question – how many ways are there to grow your business – is not dozens or hundreds. In fact, it’s three.

How to Grow Your Business: The Only 3 Ways

  1. Get more people to buy from you
  2. Get people to buy more often
  3. Get people to spend more on each purchase

That’s it. Those are the three levers you have to grow your business. Doesn’t that seem a little more manageable than hundreds?

Where to start will depend on your current situation. It’s almost always easier, and less expensive, to get your existing customers to spend more than it is to bring in new ones. That said, all businesses will lose a percentage of their customers each year and they need to be replaced.

Ultimately, you want to make progress on all three levers and get them working together to create real momentum. But even starting with one can help deliver significant growth.

Let’s have a look at how to grow your business one way at a time in a little more detail.

1) Get More People To Buy From You

This won’t be news to anyone running a business. Getting more customers will grow your business. You’re going to need to spend some time on this just to keep your business at current levels because you will have churn.

Getting more customers starts with identifying your ideal customers. While it may seem like growth to take on any new customer, if the customers you are bringing on aren’t a good fit it can actually hurt you. I break down the process to identify your ideal customer in more detail here, but below is a brief summary:

To find your ideal clients follow these steps:

  1. Identify your most profitable clients.
  2. From that group, identify those that refer you business.
  3. Find their common demographic characteristics.
  4. Take some time to understand the behaviour that makes them ideal.
  5. Draw a fully developed biographical sketch to use as a marketing guide.

Now, create a message that differentiates you from the competition in their minds. Make it about how you solve your ideal customer’s problem like no one else can.

Once that’s done, map out all the ways you might encounter these ideal clients based on what you now know about them. This is your customer journey.

Now you’ll have a list of where you need to be to engage with these potential customers and what to say to attract more of them.

2) Get People To Buy More Often

Whether your business is looking to get people to come back to a store or order through your website, getting customers to buy more often is a powerful way to grow your business. Presumably, having bought from you once, they have already convinced themselves that you/your product is of value to them. Now help them see it can be of value again.

First, focus on delivering a great experience. Make sure that experience exceeds their expectation. Then nurture them. Use email, social media, events, bounce-back offers, and retargeting ads to remind customers of what a great decision they made the last time they purchased. Believe it or not, consumers don’t spend their days thinking of you. They need to be reminded, rewarded, and invited to repurchase.

If your product/service allows you to set up an automated repurchase cycle, like a subscription, that is a powerful way to increase the frequency of purchasing.

Return to your customer journey map and look at the ways you may encounter an existing customer at the repurchase phase and what you can say to influence that decision.

local seo

3) Get People To Spend More On Each Purchase

When I talk to small businesses about this lever to grow their business, they usually jump immediately to raising prices as the solution. It’s true, this is the easiest way to get people to spend more, but it also carries risk.

If you raise prices too much, you could reduce the number of visits or lose a customer entirely. That may be okay as long as the increased spend compensates for it (this also works in the inverse; if you lower your prices you may attract enough new customers to compensate for the lost revenue). When looking at pricing, it’s important to take a big picture look at your value proposition and your ideal client to be sure you understand what the market will bear.

There are other ways to boost this spend. You can upsell customers to a more expensive item during the sales process. Or cross-sell them on additional products and services related to their initial purchase.

If your transaction takes place online, make sure your checkout process has upsells and cross-sells built-in, such as “related products”. If your transactions take place in person, be sure staff are trained on these processes.

It’s also important to know your average revenue per purchase for each purchase type if you have multiple. Then track the impact your efforts have on this number.

And those are the three ways you can grow your business. Three, not 1,000. Just three. That’s a little more manageable.

As I said at the beginning, a successful, growing business will be working all of these levers in harmony, each contributing to the success of the other two. To start, you may want to choose the one you think will have the biggest impact on your business and test some things.

The important thing to remember is to start with strategy. Get to know your ideal clients, your core message of difference, and how you can reach your customers and prospects during their journey.

Those three things will help you narrow your focus even more and target your marketing efforts for consistent results. You can explore them in more detail in The 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success, a free download.

How COVID-19 Has Forever Changed Customer Behaviour

There’s no question that what we’ve all been through since the start of the pandemic that COVID-19 has changed the way we behave. New research is showing customer behaviour may have changed for good as a result of COVID-19.

Let’s explore what this research tells about changing customer behaviour and what businesses need to do about it.

I was in line at the bank the other day – yes, I sometimes still visit a physical branch – and my mind started to wander, as it does in times like that. I started imaging scenarios of what would have happened if I had walked into a bank branch pre-COVID wearing a mask. Piercing alarms. Tackled by armed security guards with little regard for social distancing. Now I can’t get into a bank – or anywhere – without a mask and it feels pretty normal.

Among the big changes that have occurred in customer behaviour is how we shop. There was a study released recently by the folks at Facebook that highlighted some important lessons to be learned by marketers and businesses that I think are worth exploring.

The study claimed that 81% of consumers have changed at least one shopping habit since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s not that surprising. We’ve all been in various stages of lockdown for nearly two years and have had to adapt. What I find interesting, is that 92% of those of us who changed a habit expect to continue with the new habit even after life returns to normal.

local seo

That’s worth noting. If you were sort of hunkering down and just waiting to get through this, it may be time to shift that thinking. In many ways the consumer we knew before the pandemic may be gone for good.

For me, there are two really big takeaways from this research that I think businesses and marketers need to pay attention to.

The first is the rise of digital impulse shopping. 60% of online shoppers said they have purchased products because they happened upon them while browsing or consuming other content (that number is 49% in Canada). If that’s not a signal that digital advertising is becoming increasingly important to grow your business, I don’t know what is.

The other big takeaway is the confirmation of the importance of influencers and content creators to businesses. There’s a ton written about influencer marketing, but here are a couple of interesting stats from the study I want to share:

  • 51% of consumers get ideas for purchases from influencers and creators
  • 62% of millennials would buy directly from a video from a content creator

Those right there, point to the need to find the influencers important to your ideal customers and build a relationship or advertise with them. They don’t necessarily need to be massive, star-level influencers. There are thousands of “micro-influencers” and small content creators who are already engaging with your ideal clients.

You can use tools like Buzzsumo and SparkToro to find out who they are and then build some bridges. Before you do that, make sure that you’ve properly documented who your ideal client is and what makes them tick.

The key message for me is not to assume things will go back to normal when … things go back to normal. Everything I read and watch is telling me that the change in customer behaviour isn’t a blip, it’s a sped-up evolution that we’re not coming back from. It’s time to adapt and meet your customers on their terms.

How about you? What are you seeing change with your customers?

Want some free tools to help you adapt to this new customer? Check our these free Booster Packs for SEO, website, and content.

The Winning Marketing Strategy Most Businesses Miss

If the numbers from a CallRail study of small businesses’ marketing activities is to be believed, three-quarters of those small businesses are ignoring their best source of quality leads.

Now, I realize you have to take studies like this with a bit of a grain of salt. This one surveyed 600 small businesses in the US. So, not huge and I wouldn’t be comfortable extrapolating the results to represent all small businesses. Still, 600 is a decent-sized number for a business survey and I think we can safely talk about broader strokes from the results.

The number that got my attention was part of a question about what marketing strategies these small businesses currently used. Here’s the list, see if you can guess which one jumped out at me:

  • 57% use social media marketing
  • 49% have a website
  • 43% use email marketing
  • 35% publish a blog
  • 32% issue a newsletter
  • 29% create campaign-specific landing pages
  • 28% gather reviews and testimonials
  • 26% have a referral program
  • 20% use customer relationship management technology
  • 17% use paid search or PPC (pay-per-click)
  • 15% engage in SEO or local search optimization
  • 6% do not do any marketing at all

Now, that over half of these businesses don’t have a website in today’s market is pretty mind-boggling, but the number that REALLY jumped out for me is the 26% that have a referral program. That means that three-quarters of small businesses have no program or plan for getting referrals.

Why am I so worked up about that? Let me explain.

If I think about all the small businesses that I speak to, I’d have to say that 70-80% of them tell me that referrals are where most of their business comes from. If I just count B2B that number is in the 90s.

And it makes sense. Referrals are much easier to close than a lead you get from paid advertising, someone who found your website on Google, or even someone who saw you speak or reads your blog. Why? Because they come to you with an endorsement that takes right to the third stage of the customer buyer’s journey: Trust. Someone they know and trust has already vouched for you.

And yet, most of those businesses tell me that they have no formal referral program, which is in line with the CallRail results. They just let it happen “organically.” Here’s the thing: if you don’t ask for a referral chances are you won’t get one. Even from a truly happy customer.

More than twice as many small businesses are using social media to attract leads, according to the CallRail study. So, rather than spend time and money cultivating leads from people who already trust them, they are spending time and money on raising awareness with strangers through social media.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great marketing tool and it has its place in nearly every business’ marketing program, but instead of a referral program? Not a chance.

As a small business, you have got to have a referral program. You need to get new ideal customers from the ideal customers you already have. As I said earlier, they’re more likely to buy and more likely to spend more money. But don’t take my word for it. According to data from the Wharton School of Business, companies with formalized referral programs experience 86% more revenue growth compared to those without.

Okay, have I convinced you that you need to think about a referral program for your business? I hope so. Here are a few parting tips on how to start building your own referral marketing strategy:

  • Identify the type of client you want to get referred to you – write it down so you can describe them to other people.
  • Create a core talkable difference that will make your business memorable. What do you do, or can you do, that will stand out and make people want to talk about you to others?
  • Ask your customers. Don’t just wait for it to happen, explain to them the type of person you would like to have referred to you.
  • Choose an incentive. This doesn’t have to be monetary (although it can be). You can also incent people to refer you business by showing them how they will be helping others by letting you serve the people they refer. Altruism is a huge reason people refer other businesses.
  • Create a Strategic Partner Network. A group of businesses that serve the same ideal customer. You can refer business to each other, but also create joint content like webinars that add more value and introduce yourselves to each other’s audiences.
  • Deliver on your promise once you get a referral. How well you serve a referral customer is likely to get back to the person who referred them. Do it well, and they’ll refer even more people.


This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start. If you want to talk more about a referral program for your business, schedule a free call with me. If you’d like to do a little more reading on your own, I highly recommend The Referral Engine by John Jantsch.