I believe that one of the key things that keep small businesses small is that the owners maintain a small business mindset. For many, being small is just fine. They don't ever want to be anything more than a mom and pop operation. But others dream big and want to see big goal accomplished but continue to struggle to "make it big." They can't ever seem to get over that hump that propels them out of small-time territory.

If you don't want to be a mom and pop operation, or you want to be more than the small business you are, then it's time to start thinking not like the small business you are but like the bigger business you want to be.

The first place to start is with your online marketing campaigns.

With a few exceptions, online marketing has leveled the playing field significantly for the small business. However, as more companies make the move into online marketing the playing field is becoming slanted again. Bigger companies with larger budgets, better recognized name brands, and a larger team of people to manage multiple online marketing campaigns are gaining an advantage. It's becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses to make headway into competitive fields against this onslaught.

But that's not to say it can't be done. There are still plenty of opportunities for small businesses to succeed, even against well-financed competitors. But to do so it requires some clever thinking and swift moving; two things which big businesses are generally not too good at.

Think smarter than a big business

Online Marketing and SEO success is not always about achieving number one rankings. Over the years I've learned to quickly determine which of those businesses that come to us are serious about their success. Those who "want to be #1" are looking for a quick fix. Those that want to build visibility and improve conversions and sales are looking at the bigger picture. Rankings are a means to an end, not the end itself.

Are #1 rankings still possible? Sure. Are they wise? Depends on the phrase, the targeted traffic it draws, the conversion rates it achieves, and the amount of time and money it takes to get it there. There are a lot of great #1 rankings that can be achieved that will do wonders for your company, yet many business owners focus on getting #1 rankings for the keywords that don't give them a good return on their investment.

Even if you already own the top positions, so long as you have the small business mindset you're going to find yourself disappointed. You can only hang on to the tops spots so long with a budget of a few thousand a year, when some upstart comes along and throws tens of thousands of dollars a month at their online marketing campaigns. Enjoy the success while you can, but don't expect to hold onto that forever. Rankings change.

Success is always relative. A small business does not have to spend $10,000 per month in order to do well online. Most small businesses, even if they had such a budget, are not set up to handle the same kind of success as large businesses. You have to grow into that. But every small business owner investing in online marketing needs to keep their expectations in line with what can be done and what kind of success they can handle. Budget doesn't always make or break success, but it does play a role in it. The key is to find the areas where your budget will see the most return.

Organize time like a big business

As a small business owner, you need to determine how your own time is best spent. Do you have time to do it all yourself? Or is it time to think outside the small business box and hire someone to handle certain jobs that you don't need to be doing?

Most small businesses hire help as needed but when it comes to their online marketing they want to "save money" by doing it on their own. Why is the marketing any different from the other jobs you hire for? Would you try to do everything yourself? And if you did, would you be able to grow your business as you want? The answer is likely "no."

Part of thinking like a bigger business is being willing to not do everything yourself and put it in the hands of those who can really bring you the most success. Let skilled people do the jobs they are good at so you can focus on the job you're good at.

Move more swiftly than a big business

While the small business can't always hire everybody it wants for every job there is, they do have one advantage over the big business that can work in their favor. That advantage is adaptability. Big businesses often move too slow, but as a small business you have the luxury of being able to adapt and move fast.

You can have a big business mindset but take advantage of your small business position. Moving swiftly into new areas of marketing can reap huge rewards as you invest in areas your competition is overspending and underperforming, without having to go through layers of approval and red tape.

This is where outside consulting can come in handy. Having someone take a strategic look at your online marketing efforts and help you identify your own and your competitor's weaknesses can really open up your eyes to new opportunities. Of course, you then have to be willing to do what it takes to invest in those opportunities.

Small businesses have to stop letting the small business mindset keep them from performing big. You don't have to be a big business to win in the online marketing game, but you do need to get out of the mom and pop rut.

Be willing to take risks, but do so wisely and well-informed. And like big businesses, be willing to fail a little here and there if it teaches you how to succeed bigger later. You don't have to spend like a big business, but you won't go far so long as you keep thinking like a small business.

November 3, 2009

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.



Excellent article. Two areas I focus on with prospective clients is whether they really want to grow and where are they wasting their time on tasks that someone else should be doing.

Many small biz owners say they want to grow, but I have had enough experience to know that many will subconsciously sabotage a marketing campaign. I think this occurs because they are already working insane hours and more customers would just mean more work. That's why I hit on what they spend their time doing.


I think you made a good point in saying that one way to be successful is not doing everything in your own hands but assigned it to other experts instead. I agree with this, by delegating other task or functions to others you can save time and cost and you can use these savings to focus more on the main process of your business.

Great article Stoney. As you rightly point out, the key advantage for the small business owner is the flexibility to move and adapt at the flick of a mouse button. The ability to launch new SEO-friendly landing pages or Adwords for new products is a decision made and acted out in minutes without the need to get board approval and all other constraints that tie the hands of the corporate marketeer. The small business owner must play to their strengths and not lose sleep over what the competitor giants are planning.

Stoney, you made excellent points. Often, small businesses want to grow, but when they do put into practice the concept of growing larger, they often are not prepared for the growth and thus they leave themselves in a position to give unsatisfactory customer service. At our machine shop we have tried to forcast what we need to do first to handel the increased growth before that growth took place.

I watched a video conversation between Anthony Robbins (no, I'm not a big fan of his but in this area he was very insightful) and a couple of web marketers. The key thing he said stuck in my head. It was his contention that really what holds back a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs is that they really don't believe they can succeed. It sounds like a lot of self-affirmation mumbo jumbo, but I find myself often thinking that way. I may believe I can grow 15 or 20% but I hesitate in my belief that I could double, triple or 10X my business.

I agree. I make it my business to keep abreast of new technologies and opportunities I think will help clients. Small businesses really do have to be smarter and wiser about where they spend their money because the reality is there is just not that much to go around. Additionally, there is usually a very narrow window of opportunity for them to truly capitalize and gain market position. Working with a good consultant that understands their business and can demonstrate the value of a particular technology or opportunity is worth its weight in gold. A good consultant will show a small business owner how to take advantage of an opportunity and move ahead of the pack without having to break the bank. Where funds are currently allocated is usually where I look first. Then I demonstrate how the pie can be cut differently to allow for new opportunities to be explored.

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Outfox, Outsmart and Outgrow Your Big-Business Competition