Running A Business

Hone Your Small Business Marketing Skills

Jan 30, 2013 • 3 min read
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      Earlier today I stumbled upon some important marketing tips Seth Godin shared via a few email conversations with’s Geoffrey James. I’ve been a big Seth Godin fan since his Permission Marketing book, and thought I’d share his tips and why they resonate so much with me. James used a question format in his article, and it makes sense so I’ll do the same:

      What marketing mistake do most small businesses make?

      “They believe in the mass market instead of obsessing about a micro market,” says Godin.

      Even though I think we all understand that our business can’t be everything to everyone, we still try to be. Wildly successful companies are looking for unique problems with a pervasive need and develop solutions that people are willing to pay for. Most small business owners don’t have the capital to jump feet first into the mass market. Godin suggests, “It’s the small, the weird, and the eager that will make or break you.”

      I recently stumbled upon the rebirth of a classic brand that will probably never gain a lot of mass appeal—but I bet it makes a ton of cash. Last week I wrote about PF Flyers and my desire, as a kid, to run faster and jump higher. Although they disappointed the 10-year-old version of myself, when I found that they were revived as a brand, I jumped in with both feet. I doubt this new version of a very retro and hip sneaker will ever rival the likes of Nike or Addidas, I have my first pair of PF Flyers in 40 years headed to me on a UPS truck from California as I write. They should arrive tomorrow. I have to admit, their niche approach to making a very unique (and nostalgic) sneaker convinced me to drop a little cash.

      What’s the right mix for social networking?

      “Comment less, contribute more, retween none. We need you to be generous, not Dan Rather,” says Godin.

      I think what he’s trying to say is get off your keester and be a creator, not just a sharer. Successful small businesses are sharing their thought leadership, not simply “sharing” what everyone else is saying. I think it’s good to share ideas that are meaningful, but not at the expense of sharing your own thoughts (and yes, I’m very aware that I am sharing some of Seth Godin’s ideas right now—but their not all Seth Godin’s ideas).

      Why are most marketing messages so dreadful?

      “Because marketing is an artifact of the industrial age, and the industrial age is about mass and volume and average stuff for average people, produced in bulk,” he says.

      I’ll go one step further and argue that most marketing is crap because too many small business owners (and the marketers they hire) care too much about how long they’ve been in business, who their founder is, and what the competition might be doing than effectively communicating the value their product or solution delivers to their customers. Honest, your customers don’t really care about how long you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. They do care about whether or not your product or service will solve a problem they struggle with or make their life easier.

      How can marketing and sales work more effectively together?

      Godin suggests, “The Gordian knot disappears the moment marketing commits to making remarkable products that sales finds easy to sell.”

      I think Godin has certainly answered a part of the question, but I’m not convinced he goes deep enough. When the product, marketing, and sales are all on the same page, with the same objectives, and are in concert with how they present the solution to their customer, and less interested in protecting turf and pointing fingers at the holes, marketing and sales will work very well together.

      It doesn’t really matter what type of business you’re in, honing your marketing skills is a critical step to making your small business a success.

      Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty also shares his passion for small business every week on

      About the author
      Ty Kiisel

      Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon.

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