I have a superpower: I can see things other people can’t — the very stuff that can transform a small local business that’s just getting by into a seven-figure powerhouse or deliver breakthrough sales results and shareholder value for an enterprise.
And guess what? The secret to my superpower isn’t so mysterious. If you know the fundamentals of marketing, you’ve also got what it takes to make your business a seven or eight-figure success.
But having what it takes and doing the work, are two different things. It’s like Iron Man having the suit but never bothering to put it on. And who would do that? Well, lots of business people. Consider this:
1 in 4 new businesses FAIL within their first two years in business.
That’s right: according to the Small Business Association (SBA), around a quarter of new businesses fail within the first couple of years. And only about half make it five years.
And, as CB Insights found, the top three reasons startups fail are they run out of cash, there’s no market need, or they get outcompeted.
All challenges that smart marketing can solve.
Because I’m so passionate about being a force for positive change in people’s lives (it’s literally my Ikigai), I have the marketing 101 conversation multiple times a week with entrepreneurial types I meet on my journey for free and for fun:
- My Starbucks barista, an aspiring rap star (who now has over 25,000 views on his latest YouTube video).
- The tour guide who showed my wife and I around Sydney, Australia on our last trip (I helped her double her bookings).
- The spiritually inspired esthetician I just visited.
Let’s focus on the spiritual esthetician’s story as an example of using the principles of marketing 101 to design demand for her business.
The Basic Challenge
I’m a huge fan of self-care. As a forward-obsessed entrepreneur who’s pushing 40, I’m always searching for the new anti-aging, stress-obliterating experiences that I can find. Thanks to my avant-garde sister-in-law, today’s story is about an incredible small business owner, a detoxifying facial, and an unforgettable sound bath experience (a meditative experience where people are “bathed” in melodic sound waves).
The spiritual esthetician, who I’ll call Sarah, mentioned that she heard I helped people design demand for their businesses and was wondering what that entailed. I love situations like this because the best way to see what I do is to experience it. (Kind of like seeing Tony Stark suit up.)
So, as my skin was literally glowing and my stress level was down about 100 points after the service, I said, “How about I show you?”
Sarah seemed excited, so I immediately asked what her ultimate business goal was.
“I want to be a millionaire,” she said.
Now, first off, I love her honesty and aspiration. As far as a business goal, it’s a bit nebulous (and if we really got to the root cause of it, that’s actually not her goal). So, we had to dig.
As I told Sarah, there are essentially two ways to grow a business:
- Increase the lifetime value of the customers you have (by selling them more frequently or other products/services).
- Acquire new customers.
With nearly 400 active customers for a one-person shop, Sarah had plenty of buyers. So, we quickly deduced her path to being a millionaire (plus) would be to sell them more goods and services.
We then proceeded to do the math.
That quick number crunch helped put Sarah’s dream into perspective. With 300 active clients, all she has to do is sell them $3,333 worth of products and services or get them in on a monthly subscriber basis.
A good start, but now we’ll need to go deeper. Let’s dive into Sarah’s greatest asset: her community.
Who Are You Serving?
Again, this sounds so fundamental, but I found a significant opportunity for Sarah in about two seconds. And it might not be what you think.
Sarah had done enough work to know her audience: 30–50-years-old, upwardly mobile, into practices like yoga and pilates, care about their health and well-being, and are open to alternative wellness (like sound baths, which Sarah was focused on further building out as a service.)
Naturally, I wanted to know how she managed her clients and communicated with them — understanding preferred touchpoints and identifying appropriate triggers is a vital part of working with your audience. But when I asked Sarah if she had a CRM or another tool like that, she looked at me like I was from Mars. She pointed to her big physical appointment book and mentioned that she was pretty analog. While it’s said the best tools in business are the ones you use, it was clear she was missing some major opportunities by not having her scheduling digitized or in the cloud.
Next, I asked Sarah how she communicates with her clients, and she said text. SMS and MMS marketing, when done properly, can be a goldmine, and it felt authentic to her local style.
Audience 101: meet your customers where they are.
So, three recommendations came quickly and easily:
- At the very least, start using an app like Community or Twilio to build community via automated text.
- Consider a more robust option CRM like Hubspots’ Operations Hub or Active Campaign to improve the customer experience and automate marketing/customer management. (SMS marketing automation may well be included with the CRM).
- Automate the scheduling process and offer online prepayments with an app like MindBody for a time-saving, convenience-boosting service that benefits Sarah and her clients alike.
The Possibility Pivot
One of my go-to tools in helping clients design demand is something I call the possibility pivot. It starts by looking at their sawdust — byproducts of their business that can be turned into bounty. By being smart and opportunistic, there are often tons of ways to increase revenue by recycling, reusing, and remixing what you already own. This is one of the staple approaches I use as part of what I call my “Connected Curiosity Toolkit.”
So, for example, Sarah had an extra room where she gave sound baths. Again, in a few short minutes, I had brainstormed all sorts of things she could do to come up with new revenue streams:
- Add/combine: She was already using the room to do sound baths — how about adding light therapy, too? It’s a complementary healing modality that fits well with both the sound baths and the skin care services Sarah offers. She could presell a light therapy package before committing to buy the equipment — If enough people prebook their light therapy treatments, then it’s worth the investment. If not, then she knows more about her audience, and her risk is minimized.
- Repurpose: Because her sound bath equipment is easily portable, it’s not a big deal to move it and offer the space to other related businesses, such as a massage therapist. Instead of rent, Sarah could charge a fee per appointment. That way, any time a practitioner refers their client to Sarah for a sound bath or facial, she can discount the fee.
- Sell: During the holidays, Sarah could stock the extra room with loads of gift ideas by bundling products she already sells with gift certificates for her services. All it takes is a low-cost investment in some gift bags and bows to turn her regular product line into holiday gift baskets.
- Partner: Invite owners and teachers from local yoga studios to experience a sound bath with Sarah. Send them off with coupons to share with their clients, including an affiliate code, so they are rewarded for each referral.
- Surprise: Sarah could bring in a musician friend to record a sound bath session. Then she could upload the music to a Patreon or Gumroad account she creates to sell sound bath music and either offer it to her customers right after they finish their sound bath or even give it to them for free as a thank you. (This does double duty: potentially bringing in more revenue and/or reminding customers of how much better an in-person experience is).
Now, the question is, how do you pick your pivot?
Optimize Your Impact
The reality is it doesn’t matter if your marketing team is one or one hundred people. Time and talent are always scarce resources, so the superpower here is driven by making smart decisions about what to do first.
There’s a super simple way to do this: a 2x2 effort vs. impact matrix. Here’s how it works:
- Make a grid: the X-axis is effort, and the Y-axis is impact. (The number of post-it notes and cocktail napkins I’ve done this on cannot be quantified easily…)
- Chart your list on the graph based on how much effort and impact each item promises.
- Look for what’s the high impact/low effort and put a box around those key actions. This is the best place to start, and then you can prioritize from there.
- Voila! You can now make some informed decisions about innovations that can help move your business in the seven-figure direction.
Well, it is in some ways. But when marketing isn’t what you think of 24/7 like me, it’s easy to forget the fundamentals. The day after I riffed on ideas with Sarah, she sent me a text that said this:
“🤯 Thank you so much. What you shared blew my mind and is really helping me get closer to where I want to go.”
I’m passionate about giving small-business owners and startup founders the competitive edge to help them win. Most of my clients now are venture-backed startups or large brands, but once in a while, I pick someone’s story to help out.
Problems I’ve helped small business owners solve recently:
- Transformed a pandemic-crushed restaurant with a new contact-free subscription revenue line.
- Transformed a struggling artist into a Crypto Queen with NFTs.
- Helped a local jewelry store expand from a small location to a global internet enterprise.
- Doubled a local spa’s average order value.
The techniques may be marketing 101, but the superpower means using them for good to spot invisible opportunities for growth. And like I said, once a month, I love to help small businesses find new ways not just to survive but to thrive.
Share your story with me here for a chance to win a Connected Curiosity Session.
The ultimate marketing cheat code is using connected curiosity to unlock game-changing possibilities and uncover unconventional paths to growth. I just explained to you how I do it — what’s your secret to breakthrough marketing? Let me know in the comments.