A small fish in a small pond

The problem with the media - especially social media - is not the time we spend on our screens but that it sells us a dream we obsess over. We want that ideal life. A big life! And so we chase it and, in the process, often commit self-harm.  Because, in chasing dreams of a big life, we easily tear the fabric that keeps us happy - family and friends. We choose the big stuff and sacrifice the small connections around us.  Someone asked on Twitter whether it is better to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond. It's cliched, but it made me realise that I'm a small fish in a small pond! I run a small business in a small market at the southern tip of Africa. But what if small allows us to be genuinely connected? If small can mean being deeply in touch with our environment and part of the fabric of society - then small is strong! This strength is not only relevant to our social lives but business too. Maybe being connected is more important than the size of the po

Embracing second order effects to unlock business growth

The challenge with building a marketing engine inside an entrepreneurial company is that it requires the business to start managing second and third order effects, and most aren't geared for it.   Up to a point, a company can afford to grow only through what I call first-order effects. It makes stuff, then sells it, with people doing things directly related to the making and selling. It's a straight line. But at a point, to break through a growth ceiling, you need to start introducing complexity to leverage exponential effects. One way to do this is to manage a brand that proactively shapes reputation and run promotions to influence market behaviour. In short - build a marketing  function .  When a business starts taking marketing seriously, it pulls on the strings that influence the actions leading up to the sale.  Marketing, specifically the  communications part,  is one removed from sales. Herein lies the challenge! Managing first-order effects can only grow a business so mu

Why owner-managed companies must use the good times for strategy

I see many owner-managed businesses on the verge of collapsing. It isn't so much the economy that is bad, but rather that a bad economy exposes poor management practices. The fact is that without the cushioning of a strong economy, most owner-businesses are exposed as badly managed. They simply aren't competitive.  As I consult on business development, I see nepotism to the point of incompetence, zero evident succession planning, owners being treated as gods, and no healthy debate to challenge the thinking. Things become stale.  To be fair, this is the natural path of all owner-managed businesses unless intentional countermeasures are taken. All owners are treated like gods - they often started the business from scratch and now provide a livelihood to staff. No wonder they are revered. Nepotism is standard practice and an accepted, effective tool to manage risk - it's not all bad. The problem isn't so much the existence of these factors, but that left unchecked, they b

What should the marketer inside your business do?

I've encountered it twice in the past week. Business owners default to social media and require the internal marketer, often a junior employee, to post relentlessly to platforms such as this in the hope of generating awareness, which is a mistake. We all know Marketing is not Sales. And when I say "Marketing", I mean Marketing Communications, although the field of Marketing is much broader than a pure focus advertising. But that aside, there's no doubt that marketing should enable sales, but the two functions are fundamentally at different ends of the purchase funnel. Why harp on this difference? Because owners take the Sales mindset over to Marketing when establishing the latter as a function inside their business. They think that, similar to Sales, where the salesperson' salary ties into the physical activity of selling (visiting customers, taking orders), the same applies to Marketing, as in "I pay the marketer to do marketing". It doesn't work li

Time for certainty

I grapple with many straightforward marketing questions despite years of education and experience in the field. It's frustrating. Will this ever end? Will I never feel I have a solid understanding of this subject that I've turned into my career? And it's not just me - it feels like a common issue for many marketers. Take, for example, the concept of a brand. A more central idea in marketing hardly exists, yet, ask ten experienced marketers to define the concept, and each has a different version. Most marketers need a paragraph to describe their interpretation of a brand instead of using a standardised, short, sharp definition. And so, here I am on the back of a career spanning 20 years, two marketing degrees, multiple short courses, hundreds of books and articles, thousands of hours, and I am still, like many, unclear of even the seemingly basic. What is a brand? Uhm...well, here's my definition...(which is likely different from my last one). I work in a field of almost

The art and style of independent consulting

Something they don't tell you when you start on your own as a consultant: there are no rules to it - you make it up as you go and as you gain confidence. It's up to you how you want to do it. It's more art than science. I find it quite amazing. There's no right or wrong way to consult, especially as an independent. Take, for example, the near cast-in-stone rule that diagnosis should precede strategy. Although true, I'm finding that I often do diagnosis and strategy almost at the same time as I interact with business owners and marketing directors. Since I only focus on small and midsized clients, I tend to work with organisations with flat structures where decision-makers still have front-end contact with the market. Information is often already in the room - it just needs to be sorted.  One could argue that this is taking shortcuts, but I've found delaying the strategy discussion "till next time" ignores the reality of the moment where a certain insig

Change the marketing language

In my conversations with company owners, executives and entrepreneurs about marketing, these are the words that they use most:  Social media Website Content Cost Likes Comments Views Data Logo Leads Time Effort This vocabulary reflects a desperate search for results through activities. It corners marketing into the expense column of the income statement and fills any senior manager or owner with dread - "where must I spend my money?". However, after paying careful attention to the way the client describes their requirements, I try and introduce a new set of words: Market share Customer value Brand reputation Objectives Messaging Meaning Effectiveness Efficiency Timelines Budget Resources Results These words shift the conversation from "marketing as the colouring-in department" to "marketing as a growth facilitator". It moves the mindset from expenses to investments, from tactical activities to strategic momentum. I recently bought a house and was amazed at