The Only 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Do Digital Marketing and Social Media

Most small business owners want:

  • More publicity
  • More sales
  • More leads and
  • More new customers

Some businesses need them desperately.

Business owners hear you can get these things from social media… or digital marketing… or Facebook ads or Google ads, and they want it NOW.

But many discover the hard way that it’s not that as easy as it sounds.

In my keynotes, I speak to groups of retailers, franchisees and other small business owners , giving tips and advice based on 20 years of digital and social media work, spending millions of advertising and marketing dollars for clients…

I realized last year that I had been making a big mistake.

I had been leaving out a very important piece of information!

99% of business owners can’t do digital marketing and social media themselves.

Not effectively.

Digital marketing and social media, done well, where you get the kinds of bottom-results that business owners want – like sales, store visits, leads, profits and new customers – is a serious and complicated profession that takes years to get good at.

In the meantime, people waste a lot of time and money.

Without thinking about it, I went along with the idea that everyone can learn to be an expert marketer.

The idea that every business owner can quickly become a brilliant digital marketer is a pipe dream sold by salesmen selling online courses and tools to entrepreneurs desperate to get rich quick.

But the truth is…

Business owners need help with digital marketing. But there are a lot of pitfalls.

A lot of people say they’re Facebook ads experts, or Instagram experts, or whatever experts… but aren’t.

They may honestly think they are, or they may just want to sell you something, but they won’t help you.

A lot of young people know how to post on social media but can’t market for a real company- at least not yet.

There’s a reason why most of the digital marketing job descriptions on sites like ask for at least 3 years of experience… because it takes that long to learn how to be effective.

It takes at least 3 years of experience to be good enough to reliably get bottom-line results for businesses. Even that may not be enough time.

So if you’re a small business owner, you really only have 5 options with digital marketing or social media.

Here they are:


  1. Do nothing.
  2. Do it yourself.
  3. Hire an inexperienced employee.
  4. Hire an experienced employee.
  5. Hire an agency.

That’s it.

Ok, maybe an alien could do it for you. Or magic. Or an alien with magic.

But I didn’t include those.

Let’s go through them in a little more detail:

OPTION #1: Do nothing.

Technically not really an option…

You’d be living in the 1980’s with dot-matrix printers, dial-up modems, and, well, phone books.

And the 80’s weren’t all bad, but…

Your competitors would get ahead, and you’d eventually go out of business.

OPTION #2: Do it yourself.

Like you don’t have better things to do!

…like run your business or do sales or manage people.

To do digital marketing yourself and do it well, you’ll have to sacrifice at least 10-20 hours a week… probably more.

You’ll need to invest in training courses, which are not free.

You’d better like learning and detail-work and writing and testing and math and data and analysis. Sounds like fun, right?

We have a client who is a former rocket scientist who does pretty well at understanding it. He’d agree: digital marketing is not rocket science. It’s worse.

And it will take you one to three years to learn to get reliable results, unless you’re a very lucky outlier.

We have worked with some outlier business owners, like Dr. Eric Berg, who can not only run their own businesses but also create a ton of their own content and even run their own ads for some time- and get results!

But they are the exception. And he is a doctor.

Even with someone like Dr. Berg, when he wanted to find revenue and profits in a new area like Facebook ads, it took our agency’s experience and expertise to help him do that.

So, if you’re not a scientist or a doctor… and even if you are, I wouldn’t recommend it.

OPTION #3: Hire an inexperienced employee.

Maybe you want to go cheap.

Maybe you think “young people” are magical.

Some people have experience posting in social media but don’t have any expertise in marketing businesses for bottom-line results.

They may lack the kind of digital marketing experience where they’ve driven store visits, leads or sales repeatedly.

That means- no matter what other strengths they have- they’re incompetent at digital marketing, at least right now.

You’ll have to train them (paid training courses) and wait 1-3 years to get reliable results.

And of course, as was said before, they had better like learning and detail-work and writing and testing and math and data and analysis.

Or they might be the wrong person for the job.

I can tell you from experience that it’s really hard to hire successfully for digital and social marketing solely on the basis of talent, because these jobs require a rare combination of talents (left and

right brain) and drives (OCD analysis and creativity and diligence).

You’ll find a number of people don’t have what it takes, and you will waste time investing in them, so it’s smarter to get someone who’s already stuck with it for some time and had success.

OPTION #4: Hire an experienced employee.

This is the first viable option so far.

Pay $40,000+ annually for someone with 3+ years of experience.

The only consideration here is that you may need:

  • Google ad expertise
  • Facebook ad expertise
  • Google Analytics expertise
  • E-commerce expertise
  • Content marketing expertise
  • And more…

And each of the above is a separate job descriptions. Each merits at least $40k annually.

So, it may be tough to get everything you need from one person. You may need to grow an entire internal marketing department.

A less committed version of this option is hiring a freelancer from a site like Upwork. Just look at lots of them and vet them thoroughly.

OPTION #5: Hire an agency.

This is the other viable option.

Pay $30,000+ annually for an expert marketing agency.

An agency can be more affordable than hiring employees.

You may get more expertise and access to more people overall. Possibly more experience across more companies and industries. That’s not always true- just make sure find out and compare when considering employees, freelancers and agencies.


Now we conclude things…

If you want to be assured you’ll grow your business, revenues and profits, then, as soon as you can afford it, hire a freelancer, employee or agency!

That’s your best insurance against wasting money and time.

Invest in expertise and experience.

Choose results.

When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business

By Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

A lot has been written about the Millennial generation in the last ten years or so, and to be frank, a lot of it is really not helpful, especially in a business context. So, why is the focus of our new book squarely on the Millennials and the way they might be changing just about every aspect of how we learn, lead and grow in organizations? They just happen to be at the right place at the right time. The Millennials are entering young adulthood at a unique point in our history, where society is poised for a tectonic shift, particularly around business, leadership, and management. There is a “perfect storm” of trends converging in a way that will generate an actual revolution in business – affecting organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Yes, a revolution. Our approach to management has been stuck in a rut—not just for the last few years, but for the last several decades. We have been running our organizations like machines, and today’s lack of engagement and lack of agility to meet the shifting needs of customers, members and employees are indications of how our machine approach to management is crumbling. Add to this the shake-up that the social internet has brought to business and society (that we wrote about in Humanize), and you’d think the revolution would have happened by now.

But it hasn’t. We needed another element, a catalyst that could connect the dots in a way that would bring a much needed management revolution to fruition. That catalyst is the third front in our perfect storm: the Millennial generation.

As the Millennials ascend into management positions over the next several years, they will simultaneously become the largest generation in the workforce. While the Millennials won’t formally “take over” (no single generation ever runs things on its own), they will serve as a kind of “secret decoder ring” for all of us, helping clarify what the future of business will look like, post revolution. Change is coming, and smart organizations will start making the necessary adjustments today to stay ahead.

Our newest book, When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, provides exactly that kind of guidance. We studied organizations with remarkably strong cultures and conducted interviews Millennials who had been in the workforce for some time. What emerged from our research and feedback from our clients were four organizational capacities that we think will prepare organizations to be successful, both today and into the future:


The companies we found with ridiculously strong cultures had built these capacities into the heart of their operations and philosophies, and the Millennials we spoke to could not understand why these capacities were not woven into every organization to begin with.


Digital is about perpetual and exponential improvement of all facets of organizational life using both the tools and the mindsets of the digital world. Digital in the Millennial era has an unrelenting and disciplined focus on the customer or end user—including the employee. Millennials are the first generation to have only known a digital workplace, and they are used to being able to leverage that power on an individual basis. Digital organizations break through the assumed constraints of the previous approach to managing organizations, unlocking new value continuously in areas like internal collaboration and even human resource management.


Clear is about an increased and more intelligent flow of information and knowledge that supports innovation and problem solving inside organizations. Millennials have always had access to more information than they could possibly handle, and they are confused by organizations that control it tightly. Clear organizations make smarter decisions that generate better results. They will successfully build a transparency architecture that makes more information visible to more people to enable better decisions.


Fluid is about expanding and distributing power in a dynamic and flexible way. Fluid in the Millennial era is about systems that enable an integrated process of thinking, acting, and learning at all levels of the organization. Since the social internet started distributing power across traditional lines, the Millennial generation now does not expect organizations to task the higher levels with the thinking and deciding, and the lower levels with the implementation. Fluid organizations serve customers more effectively and are more nimble in both strategy and execution. They may still have hierarchies, but they are created and maintained in a different way.


Fast is about taking action at the precise moment when action is needed. Fast in the Millennial era is about systems that can learn and adapt while still maintaining the efficiency and productivity of the previous era. Beta testing has become normal and expanded outside of the realm of software. We may call the Millennials “entitled” for wanting things right away or expecting more authority, but remember: That’s all they’ve ever known. Fast organizations leap ahead of the competition by releasing control in a way that does not increase risk. They go beyond efficiency and productivity to find the key variables that unlock true speed.

What This Means For You

This is not speculative, theoretical content—this is happening in the world today. One of the case studies in the book is the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, an association in Chicago that has embraced the digital mindset fully, not only investing more in technology than some for-profit companies its size but also redesigning its workspace around the needs of the employees. ASSH and the other companies that we profile are all tremendously successful by traditional measures, and their cultures are so strong that nearly all of the employees we spoke with could not even imagine working somewhere else. These are the positive deviants. They are role models that are showing us that the management revolution is indeed possible.

It is up to you now to continue leading this revolution in business. If you want to become more digital, clear, fluid, and/or fast, then take a hard look at your organization, particularly your culture. You’ll need to make a solid connection between what drives the success of your organization and what is truly valued internally—not the fluffy values statements, but what gets the attention, what gets the resources, what gets people rewards. When you can align what’s valued at that level to what drives your success, you have a better chance of creating a culture that makes sense in this new, Millennial era.