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Bare Minimum Marketing

In 2004, my friend and roommate had finally gotten a job offer in the tech field – essentially the first one after the 2001 dot-com crash.
It was an interesting offer: the job was fixing computers, but payment came in two options:

    1. Be an employee. Fix computers for a small fixed salary plus a bonus for each computer actually fixed.
    2. Be self-employed. Fix computers for a much higher hourly rate, and pay a referral fee to the business instead of them paying you. No guarantees of income, but (contrariwise) the possibility of much higher income if you can drum up some business on your own.

I urged my friend to take option 2, and start his own business. After much deliberation, he did so.

8 years later, that friend is now my husband, and we’ve been running a small business through seasonal fluctuations, more business than we can handle, months with only $300 income, a housing boom, a housing crash, a recession and the start of a recovery… a roller coaster complete with ups, downs, and moments of utter terror.

Through all of it, I’ve noticed a couple of consistencies in almost every small business environment:

One: most small business owners feel pretty helpless with regards to marketing. There are a lot of questions about how to do it, what should be done, what’s important, what’s a waste of money, and how do you tell the difference? Most small business owners aren’t comfortable with marketing, and aren’t sure what to do about it.

This is hardly surprising. It’s sub-branch of the E-Myth : very few small business owners start up because they’re good at running a business, and marketing is one of those “business things” that they’re not good at. But…

Two: there are very few resources out there on marketing for small businesses. Almost all marketing education assumes that you have a million-dollar marketing budget, and are trying to reach an audience of millions across 6 continents. That you are making billions and are looking for 1-2% growth each quarter. That your primary concerns are with market share and share price.

Even in business school, as I was earning my MBA, my professors ignored the obvious fact that there are only 500 slots for Fortune-500 Chief Marketing Officer, and that small businesses are becoming more and more important in this economy. That odds are good that many of us will end up self-employed, or catering to those who are self-employed. I had to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to work projects for businesses with 1-5 employees, and a marketing budget of a couple hundred to a couple thousand.

Furthermore, the marketing resources that do exist for small businesses are mostly scattered and unfocused: they assume that you already have a marketing background, and are just looking for a couple new techniques to add to your grab-bag. Guerilla Marketing is a fantastic book (and highly recommended), but there’s no overview, no feeling of comprehensiveness, no help putting all the pieces together into a coherent picture.

I want to fix that.

This book assumes that you own, or are considering owning, a small or micro-business . That you’re really good at what you do – when you’re able to convince someone to hire you. That you’re kind of intimidated and overwhelmed by this whole “marketing” thing, and wish someone would just tell you what to do.

I can’t tell you exactly what to do, because the Correct Answer varies so much from industry to industry, business to business, owner to owner, season to season, year to year. (Obviously there’s no One Great Secret to marketing – if there were, the person who discovered it first would have All the money, and also rule the world.)

But what I can do is help you to understand what marketing is, how to do it and why, so that you can make intelligent decisions about your own business and your own situations. This book covers:

  • What is marketing? (And why yours is probably better than you think!)
  • The differences between what Coca-Cola does and what you need to do
  • Marketing ethically
  • What is branding? (And how to get it)
  • Bare Minimum Marketing: the stuff you have to have
  • How to decide which media and channels are right for you
  • Incorporating marketing into your business day-to-day and month-to-month

With action steps and ideas for anyone, ranging from the quick-and-dirty to the OCD.

Ready? Let’s get started with the basics….

To be Continued..

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Bare Minimum Marketing, which will be launched on Kickstarter in August. If you’d like more, sign up for updates to get all the latest information.

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