As a smaller company, you probably feel like you’re never spending enough on marketing. If only you could afford to do more, maybe you would finally achieve real growth! When you do get a bit of money, you feel obliged to pour most of it back into marketing because, after all, if you don’t pay more for marketing, you won’t have enough customers to survive, much less grow.
While understandable, this is a false mindset. You can spend less on marketing and more on your core deliverables. While there are many aspects to doing this, it all starts with the mindset of leveraging a few fully available principles, even with very limited resources. What are some of these principles?
- Become the center of your industry.
- Practice radical generosity.
- Adopt a non-transactional approach.
- Be disciplined.
- Stay ahead of future needs.
These five mindset principles are your starting point. They enable you to market yourself even if you’re cash-strapped, freeing up more resources for your products and services. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
1. Become the Center of Your Industry
While power can be elusive to attain, we all have influence. No matter how small or resource-starved you are, you can position yourself at the center of your industry in your messaging and establish yourself as vital to the success of your clients. This is a matter of self-definition, not one of being named or appointed by others from the outside. First, decide what industry you’re at the center of. Really think about where you sit and what problems you solve, then define an industry that is broad enough and that has a large enough total addressable market (TAM) that it matters whether or not you’re a vital part of it.
Once you decide on the industry you’re in, you get to choose the criteria that define your centricity. You’re not changing your products and services. Rather, you are creating a picture through your messaging that positions your company as the hub of a great wheel, with everything connected to you in your industry coming out like spokes.
For example, an e-commerce fulfillment company might say they’re in logistics, or they can say, “We make e-commerce possible.” Suddenly, the company has positioned itself as the hub of the entire e-commerce industry. Why does this matter? Because you are largely shaped by what you think of yourself, and that, in turn, shapes how clients and customers see and respond to you. With this self-definition, you speak, publish, and project with authenticity and authority. You can place yourself on the critical path to industry success in all of your messaging. There are a lot of ways to do this, so think broadly.
2. Practice Radical Generosity
Imagine if your company became an open-source platform that was constantly giving in generous ways to partners, prospects, clients, former clients, individuals, and other companies, including frenemies (companies with whom you sometimes compete). In my experience, when you give generously, you get back tenfold sooner or later. Most people like to repay those who have given to them, and as I’ve seen time and time again, they generally pay back more than what you gave in the first place.
Even if you’re small and lack resources, you have a lot to give – more than you may imagine. Maybe you could offer free consultations with clients about aspects of their businesses that have nothing to do with your core service. Or maybe you can point people in the direction of other companies. You might consider partnering with non-competing or even with partially competing companies to share prospects with one other.
Give generously, and don’t keep score. Give without thinking about receiving, trusting that it will all come back to you tenfold in some way—because it almost certainly will.
3. Adopt a Non-Transactional Approach
A transactional customer relationship starts with a lead, which results in a first conversation. From there, you eventually send your first proposal and discuss pricing, which hopefully leads to a sale. That sale ideally produces a loyal customer who will buy from you again in the future.
But what if you rejected this transactional approach and focused on creating relationships with prospects long before you ever had that first business conversation? What if that interaction was more consultative than sales-oriented? Instead of offering pricing, what if you provided solutions, and not just your own but also solutions from other companies you’ve partnered with?
In a non-transactional approach, you focus on building relationships and providing value to prospects, clients, former clients, and even people who will never become clients, not just when they have the potential to drive revenue for you but all the time. Through social media, conferences, and other outlets, you can create a steady flow of valuable content that builds ongoing relationships with people long before they come to you. When you do this, people will notice the difference, and it’s a differentiator that costs you nothing. Moreover, you will be continually planting seeds for business, and because you’re continuously in people’s worlds delivering value, you will always be there as the obvious provider when they germinate into opportunities.
4. Be Disciplined
It costs very little to create disciplined policies and procedures that ensure you’re moving in the right direction with efficiency. However, creating policies and procedures is rarely the problem. Sticking with them is the real challenge when it comes to your mindset.
When you betray your own policies and procedures—when your external behavior goes against your internal rules—you lose moral authority. One common way this happens is when a company states internally that they’re going to focus on a specific target audience, but externally, they try to reach anyone they can. It’s easy to define your ideal client in the boardroom, but the real test of client alignment happens out in the field. When you really need money, it’s tempting to reach out to anyone who will take your hand. Resist that temptation.
Why does this matter? Because phenomenal growth is almost always a product of a clear direction, and moving in a clear direction requires discipline. Whether it’s client alignment or the people you hire, be disciplined and stay focused. Compromise may seem expeditious now, but it can hurt you in the long run.
5. Stay Ahead of Future Needs
If you don’t stay ahead of what your customers need, they will likely leave you behind. To do that, you have to listen closely to what they’re saying and pay attention to problems so you can take action before it’s too late.
If you perceive some future need arising, take preemptive action to stay ahead of it. Look for soft early demand signals and act on them long before they become a present problem, even if you have to take some risks to do so. For example, maybe your existing customers are growing, and your prospective customers are becoming larger and larger so you perceive that they are going to need SAP or NetSuite integration with your software solution at some point in the near future. Don’t wait. Start working on a solution now because most solutions take time, and you’re liable to lose them if you wait too long.
Sometimes, this requires making an educated guess on the evolving needs of your clients and moving on to a solution right away. Don’t drag your feet. Otherwise, by the time you act on the problem, it may be too late. Indeed, your whole industry might evolve beyond you.
A Mindset That Leads to Growth
It may seem bold to claim that just changing your mindset can make a huge difference in the survival and growth of a resource-constrained company, but I’ve seen it firsthand. You don’t have to throw every dollar at marketing just to survive. Become the center of your industry, practice radical generosity, adopt a non-transactional approach, be disciplined, and stay ahead of future needs.
If you do these five things—most of which require truly changing your perspective and mindset on your business and your relationships with customers and other companies—you’ll find you can achieve a lot of growth even with limited resources.