Kara Vanskike

Dear Business Owner, You’re Doing It Wrong!

By: Kara Vanskike | August 24, 2016 | 

Small Business Marketing Means Planning and Getting HelpIn my past life, I worked for a company that designed and built exhibits for museums and other organizations that had stories to tell.

After seeing behind the curtain so to speak, I can’t see an exhibit and not critique how it was built and wonder which firm created it.

I constantly look beyond what the average visitor sees.

I look for the details that set one exhibit apart from others.

Here, at Arment Dietrich, I find myself doing the same thing, particularly with small business marketing plans (or lack thereof).

As a marketer, I’ve always looked a websites and billboards and commercials and magazine ads differently.

My dad and I used to pick apart commercials and my mom used to laminate my favorite magazine ads for me to hang on my walls.

But, since working here, I’ve become even more critical.

I find myself yelling (in my head) “You’re doing it wrong!” or “It could be so much better!” when I look at websites, blogs, and social accounts.

Hey, Small Business Owner

A friend of mine is a private investigator.

He started his own agency a couple of years ago and built a website.

(Thankfully he did not rely on Facebook.)

I looked at it last week and thought there was so much more he could do with it.

It could be sleeker, his domain is not user friendly (it’s not the name of his firm), and he could start a blog.

He also needs to optimize his keywords for SEO as he does not come up in search results for anything related to “private investigator” and his domain authority is very low.

He, in effect, does not have a small business marketing plan. At all.

Domain Authority

Wait. What?

Are you asking what domain authority is?

A site’s domain authority predicts where it will rank in Google search results—the higher the authority, the better the ranking.

Your domain authority is connected to the quality and amount of content produced and how much of that content is shared and searched for.

It takes a great deal of work and strategy for a site to increase its authority, it doesn’t just happen.

But it’s doable!

Think of Forbes, Harvard Business Review, or Inc.

You know when you visit those sites, you will be presented with quality content.

They are authorities in their subject areas.

Am I comparing my friend’s site to Harvard Business Review?


But I am suggesting, with a solid small business marketing plan, he can increase his ranking by strategically using keywords and developing quality content which will boost his rank.

(I am NOT talking about keyword stuffing!)

If he compares his authority to those of his competitors, he’ll have an initial goal for where he needs it to be.

Not Just Word-of-Mouth

My friend relies on word-of-mouth for his business.

He said he doesn’t want a client from Google; he just wants referral clientele.

On one hand, if you can build a business with little marketing effort, great, but in most cases, that’s shortsighted.

Even those word-of-mouth clients are going to look you up somehow.

Why not stand out and differentiate yourself?

Become a thought leader in your field.

(Insert eye roll.)

Yes, the terms “thought leader” and “expert” are overused, but why did you start your company?

I’m sure to earn money and not work for someone else were two strong reasons, but a desire to do something differently than everyone else was probably a factor, too.

Talk about that reason.

Let people know what truly differentiates you and your business from your competitors.

Build on it.

You’ll need a small business marketing strategy which should include content creation, interviews, speaking engagements, and patience.

It’ll take time.

Don’t expect sustained success to happen overnight. Be persistent.

What Do I Do?

As the avid readers I know you are of this little ol’ blog we call Spin Sucks, you shouldn’t be at a complete loss as to what to do.

However, if you want a small business marketing guidebook to kickstart your strategy, buy Gini Dietrich’s book Spin Sucks.

(Seriously. This isn’t a plug for brownie points. You’ll thank me later.)

For the rest of you who have a handle on what you should be doing, but aren’t because you don’t feel like you have time, go through your routine and figure out something you could stop doing in order to fit this in.

It’s important!

Then take our Modern Blogging Masterclass (launching on September 9, so more information coming soon!) and learn how to develop content which uses the PESO model.

If you have ideas for what you want to write, but aren’t the strongest writer, hire a freelance writer.

Every business should have a marketing budget, no matter how small you are, so fitting in content creation shouldn’t be prohibitive.

Small Business Marketing Help

I have another friend who’s an instructor at the University of Illinois (ILL – INI!!!).

He teaches a business consulting class and I’ve worked with his students on five or six different projects throughout the years from marketing plans to consumer research—all for free.

Seek opportunities like that to help build a content strategy or some initial quality content.

Will it take time and oversight on your part?


But so would hiring an intern, or a freelancer, or a professional firm.

You’re the expert of your content.

Without your guidance, whoever you hire will need to rely on that in order for them to do their job well.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “All this talk about content is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. I’m doing just fine.”

I can guarantee you’re the one who needs the most help.

Hire a coach, or a writer, or a full-service firm.

Your small business marketing plan will thank you.

image credit: shutterstock

About Kara Vanskike

Kara Vanskike is the Account and Earned Media Manager at Arment Dietrich. Friends with Gini since their first meeting in 2009, she eventually made the switch from client to coworker. When not perfecting her mind-reading skills and researching media outlets, she can be found exploring travel destinations on her bucket list, hanging out with family and friends, and catching up on whatever is saved on her DVR.

  • I will be your contrarian. Gini loves me for this. Be very careful using blanket statements. Not all businesses need to create content nor be on social media nor blog. It really depends on your business and how you want to get customers and your business type.

    There is a place called All American Burger in Massapequa NY where I grew up Place is a money machine. People drive out of their way on the drive back from the beaches in the summer just to go there. They do nothing with social or a website or content. Yet that business is raking in the cash and has been for 40+ years.

    Yes they can use a remodeling. But their menu hasn’t changed ever. Their fries are hand cut and still to this day as I approach 49 years old…the best I have ever had in my life.

    I will agree with your PI friend needs a nice website. But maybe WOM works or he is like me and prefers the direct sales approach vs marketing and lead gen. Doesn’t mean he is doing customer acquisition wrong…..just differently than the way you do it or the way you are comfortable with.

    I find for content marketing often people afraid to ‘sell’ directly like that method. But CM is really bad for SEO vs lead conversion for most forms of business. So your PI friend will never be on the first page of Google unless he spends so many costly hours and so much time his business dies. Adwords would be much faster and cost effective.

    Blogging has to have a reason. If the goal is just to create content hoping people find you online don’t blog. If you blog so that when someone comes to your website as a way to show your smarts and what you do SEO be damned….blog away. I wasted so much time and money in 5 years blogging and should of stuck with my expertise which is direct sales. 2-3 posts a week at most would of been much more effective than when I was posting 3-4 times a week.

    Just remember every business, every industry, every person is unique and never does any one tactic fit them all.

    As for HBR and Forbes beware real business people like me with finance degrees and people on wall street view them more like People Magazine than real business publications. Choose your examples wisely!

    Welcome to the Jungle!

    • And I had to add! Totally forgot this!

      I totally forgot!

      Never tell anyone they are doing something wrong in person.

      It truly makes them dig in even if you are right. Say things like ‘I notice you do this can you tell me why? And is it working?’ and if not then say ‘Well we do it this way and it works and here is how’. Especially if the business is already successful like All American Burger is…chances are they are doing everything right even if you feel differently.

      I could have had a drawn out Q&A with you here to showcase this.

      Why do you feel they are doing it wrong? Is their business dead or suffering? Why do you feel this is for every business and can you give me great examples to prove this? Here are examples of businesses I disagree need this tactic….show me how you feel they can so that my finance degree and research can crunch the numbers to see positive ROI vs just wheel spinning and money spending.

      In marketing/social/PR often advice is meant to steer clients towards more billing hours vs helping clients make more money. Not Gini or A-D because if that was true I wouldn’t be such a supporter and Gini’s friend because I wouldn’t be able to buy in to what she is doing.

    • Some good points sir.. and you beat me to it. I was gonna comment that I’ve read pieces in HBR, Inc. etc w/ which I very much did not agree. Heck, I’ve reblogged some guest posts from Forbes b/c wow did I feel they had it wrong. So.. MMV as always.

    • Hi Howie! I haven’t seen you around for a while and now you’re my first comment. I must have struck a nerve.

      Yes, I agree, not every business needs a blog or to be on social networks, but they do need a plan. What works for a burger joint likely won’t work for a private investigation agency. My PI friend has a blog, sort of, so I was more focused on that piece of the plan because it could be really interesting as most people don’t really know what PIs do. Does he have time to build it himself? Probably not. (Although when you’re sitting on a house waiting for a claimant to move and you’re stuck there for eight hours or more, writing a blog or two would probably help pass the time.) So that’s where external help could be useful.

      In today’s world, any new business has to consider Google. Maybe, AdWords is good for some, but you can move up and not spend a dime by optimizing your website. I did it at my last job for the majority of the keywords we wanted to rank for. It didn’t happen overnight, but, with some monitoring, we ended up with many first page placements. It’s a great place to start when there isn’t a budget.

      I used to read your blog. The combination of marketing and finance was interesting and I appreciate your unique perspective. I once worked at a firm where the billing was supposed to be based on a formula. It wasn’t. It was based on whatever the CEO thought he could get out of the client. So, I understand your negative feelings toward traditional PR agencies. We’re not all like that though. That’s one of the many reasons why I’m here.

  • Kara you make some great points about developing a smarter small biz plan, about how marketing and real SEO are part of it, and about the value of hiring a professional. Like you, I see ads and stories and SM accounts and KNOW I could do such a better job if only my resume would be considered. Sigh. 🙂

    Still have to tip to Howie’s comment and circle back to the ‘why.’ Why is this guy needing more, what’s in it for him? I’m a struggling/failed consultant in part b/c I didn’t do all these things well enough and in part, b/c it’s not what I wanted. It’s the life vs work, and wanting my time spent doing better work, not running my business better.

    IDK if I’m explaining it well enough. My head has ideas to brand/build a PI practice – but maybe that’s not his PI business. His smarter plan is yes, a little better on the website and a lot better on building a referral program for the kinds of clients he wants. FWIW that was always, always the real trick I never mastered.

    • Thank you! Yes, everybody is in business for different reasons and how they want to run their business has to work for their lifestyle. My main point is every business needs a plan. And that plan should certainly take into account your lifestyle.

      My friend doesn’t necessarily need more, but what he’s doing could be improved upon. No matter what industry you’re in, once you’ve been in it a while you look at things differently.

      I have a marketing background in the museum world, so not only do I experience museums completely differently than your average visitor, but also I view websites and ads and blogs and social media differently, too. Just as you mentioned, we look at what companies are doing and rather than thinking “Oh, I like that” or “I don’t get it” we think “Oh! They should do this, this, and this!”

  • Great comments already. I will just add that in these examples — and Howie’s burger place — online reviews are a component of marketing often not included in the official “marketing plan.” There are ways to encourage and generate more positive reviews from happy customers, and even though we all know to question the validity of online reviews, they still carry quite a bit of weight.

    • That’s a great point, Tara. Online reviews certainly guide many of my decisions, especially when I travel and definitely when I shop (Hello Amazon). True, not all are valid, but we can’t ignore them.

  • Corina Manea

    This is a great post, Kara.

    It’s a shame some business owners don’t see nor want to see the value of the content marketing and how it can help their businesses in the future.

    And to disagree with Howie, even if your business is doing awesome right now, it does not mean it will forever. Let’s remember Kodak, just to give one example.

    The online world is not the future, it’s a reality and it’s been for a decade now (if not more).

    The future of businesses depends on how fast business owners adapt and embrace new business world realities. Yes, it does not make sense for everyone to be on all social networks. But if you’re a retail business, you’ll want online reviews, especially if your products/services are so fabulous as in Howie’s example.

    On the other hand, blogging or vlogging not only helps you with SEO, but sharing your expertise is a great way to educate your audience, change industry’s perception and bring you business in the process.

    Yes, it takes time and it takes work to succeed. Just look at Spin Sucks.

    There are many that look only at what a successful blog it is today.

    Nobody wants to know how many years Gini blogged by herself, every single day and fought to bring it to what it is today.

    • Really good points, Corina. And I tend to agree, I see content marketing as a slow build — laying a foundation for future recognition and success. To Howie’s point, for a relatively new business with little traction, pairing a modest content budget with Adwords is often a great combo!

      • We all have to start somewhere and the firmer the foundation the better!

        • Laura Petrolino

          And THAT’S the name of the integration game. Paid, owned, earned, shared….all work best when applied together and their roles transition depending on the lifecycle of the business.

    • Well said, Corina. Being able to adapt to the ever-changing landscape is a must for success. It’s a marathon, not a sprint which is easily forgotten when people get frustrated. It’s a slow process, but one that’s well worth it. Create a plan and see it through. Revisit it often and make changes as needed, but stick to it.