In September, I am speaking at an online conference sponsored by Missinglttr called Uppercase. The conference boasts that over two weeks, it will host 100 free talks by industry leaders to help you “learn, grow, and transform your business.”

In my years working with small businesses, I have never worked with a business owner that did not want to grow his business. (Despite the tactics put forth in my article on how to keep your small business really small.) However, some entrepreneurial mindsets are more effective than others.

So before you enroll in one of the 100 workshops offered, (or one of the many presented during Denver Startup Week September 24 – 28) consider cultivating the right CEO mindsets, so you can get the real value from any new information you learn about growing your business.

1. Choose Success Over Being Right

If you (and by you, I mean your ego) want to be right more than you want to be successful, you will limit your success. Just as there are 250 ways to wash dishes, there is rarely just one way to approach a challenge. When you dig your feet in on something, ask yourself if you want to be right or successful. Surely, there are many ways to approach the problem you’re struggling with.

2. Choose Culture First

Your company values and culture should guide all of your company decisions. Who should you work with? What kind of work should you do? Let your company values and culture guide your initiatives. This isn’t easy. This takes deep thought into what you want your company to be and commitment to those ideals, but the clarity it brings is priceless.

3. You’re Still In Training

A growth mindset is far more likely to produce the results you want than a fixed mindset. A growth mindset looks failure in the face and says, “I learn the lessons that propel me forward when I make mistakes, so let’s dance, failure!”

4. Process Is My New Best Friend

Always be thinking about how to make your efforts a repeatable, trainable process. Processes are critical to building a sustainable business. You need a repeatable sales process to train your team. A client onboarding process will increase your client satisfaction. A marketing system will help you get more leads faster. (I’ll be focusing on marketing processes in my talk on How to Add Marketing to Your Strategy and Get Higher ROI on Your Marketing Dollars. You can Register here.) Go braid each other’s hair, or down some brewskis together, but do whatever it takes to make process your best friend.

5. Let Go To Win

If you’re trying to control everything, you are doing more of the actual work than you should and you’re headed for CEO burnout. No one will measure up to your expectations and nobody wants to be micromanaged, so stop that nonsense. Instead of trying to control how everything is done, your mindset should be, “Train and delegate.” Then just let go and let people do their jobs so you can do yours, which is to grow the company and attend the Uppercase conference.  

Keeping a small business small requires work and a consistent set of behaviors. Not everyone can do it. For some small business owners, these behaviors come easily, and they have no trouble staying small. Other business owners need some coaching. If you’re struggling to keep your business from growing, here are the top five ways to market your business to cap your current revenues. Practice some or all of these habits, and your business can stay small for years to come.

Keep Trying Things

One of the best ways to keep your business small is to keep trying different marketing tactics. (Marketing tactics are things you use to promote your business like your website, online advertising, email, social media, radio commercials, etc.)  When you hear about a marketing tactic that someone is having success with, jump in and try it.

For example, when you learn that your brother-in-law is getting leads from social media, initiate a Facebook business page and start posting. Getting on the social web is fun. Dive in. Once you realize that social media requires daily attention, assign the Facebook effort to someone else. When that person gets too busy to keep posting, make sure they forget about it and abandon the effort. That way, when a prospective customer finds your business on Facebook, and there hasn’t been a new post since 2016, they’ll wonder if you’re still in business. Yes! Revenues maintained.

Hold On To Your Old Website

Your aging website may look a little dated, but it still works. Your name and logo are on it, and visitors can find your location and phone number. They don’t need anything else. A website is an expense and a big undertaking. Put it off as long as possible. It’s always best to save yourself some money and keep your website as-is.

If you feel you absolutely have to update it, you probably know someone–your nephew or a neighbor who build websites on the side who can do it on the cheap for you. Ask them to help you out. It may take several months longer than expected, but you’ll likely get the website that is perfect for keeping your sales and leads exactly where they are now. Thumbs up!

Assign Marketing Tasks to Staff With No Marketing Experience

Another reliable way to ensure that your revenues stay small is to assign marketing tasks to employees who have no training or experience in marketing. An employee who can type and Google information can figure out how to market your business. Do not invest in any marketing experts. Experts will implement strategic marketing that is efficient and measurable. They will not help you keep your business small. Always assign marketing efforts to people who have little to no background in marketing.

Avoid Tracking and Measuring

This habit is easy to maintain, so you have no excuse for not cultivating it. Google Analytics (GA) allows you to see where web traffic is coming from, and what visitors do on your site. When possible, don’t connect Google Analytics to your site in the first place. But if it’s already installed and tracking your site traffic, ignore it. Don’t ever log in to the dashboard, don’t analyze the data, don’t learn anything from it. Not analyzing your web traffic is probably the easiest way to keep your business small.

The same goes for call tracking and customer relationship databases. Don’t install any means to discern how someone found your business or how much the lead cost you.  

Rely on Referrals and Word of Mouth

Referrals and word of mouth have gotten you this far, don’t try to improve on this tactic. Your sphere of influence likely doesn’t go past your friends, family, and coworkers. Keep it that way. Internet marketing can expand your customer base, but that won’t keep you small. Stick with personal networking and relying on your salespeople to find new leads.

If keeping these habits up seems daunting to you, don’t get discouraged. There are plenty of other small business owners who are successfully practicing these habits. With a little practice, you will be on your way to limiting your success in no time!


Last month, we talked about the value of a brand evangelist to your company. This month, to ensure that you don’t spurn the affections of your fans, here are seven ways to appreciate your customers. Show them you care and keep them loyal advocates for life.

Give them a Surprise Discount

It’s always nice to receive a discount on your bill, no matter what the reason is. Let your customers know that you value their loyalty and give them a 15% discount on their purchase for being a regular at your business. They’ll appreciate your generosity and remember the gesture when they return in the future.

Make Your Social Media Worth Following

Ask customers to follow you on social media, and when they do, send them a personal thank you. Then be sure to fill your social media feed with non-salesy content that would be of interest to them. For example, if you have a gym, post fitness tips. If you have a professional service, post about best practices. Think about delighting and inspiring them rather than selling them and create posts that do that.

Write them a Handwritten Thank-You Letter

The art of letter writing has all but died, but a handwritten note still carries a unique value. Getting a hand-addressed envelope in the mail is unexpected and delightful. Write your customer a thank you note that is specific and personal and focuses on the reasons why they are important to you and your business. Your customers will appreciate the time you took to write them a meaningful note and will remember the sentiment when they come back to your business.

I received a card in the U.S. mail from my bank with original signatures from all the tellers on my birthday. It was a pleasant surprise and made me feel valued by them.

Send them a Special Gift

A great way to make your customers’ day is to send them a gift that reflects their interests. Maybe you know your customer is a wine connoisseur or an avid traveler: Gift them a nice wine glass or a fun luggage tag. Your customers will appreciate that you pay attention to their interests. If you’re not sure of your customers’ interests, you can always send a gift card or a basket of fruits or chocolates.

Let Them Know You Value Their Feedback

A simple yet significant way to acknowledge your customers is to let them know you care about their comments and opinions. Keep track of customers and their requests so that you can respond to each one you receive. It’s a great way to let your customers know you value their feedback and that you’re listening.

Highlight Their Achievements

Call out customers on social media just because! Highlighting their attributes and personal achievements make customers feel important and recognized. Having a “customer in the spotlight” section on your social media pages is an excellent way to call out customers and acknowledge their talents and accomplishments. Pick one customer a week and put together a short post about them, what they do, and why they’re essential to your business.

Send a Donation in Their Honor

A unique way to show your customers how much you value their business is to donate in their name to their favorite charity. If you know your customer is an animal lover, donate to a local animal shelter. If you know your customer works in the medical field, consider donating to a non-profit specializing in healthcare, like Doctors Without Borders or St. Jude’s Foundation. It will show your customers that you pay attention to their interests and care about their personal lives.

There are dozens of ways to show your customers you appreciate them. In a world of fast transactions, slowing down to say, “You matter to me” will ensure that your business matters to them.

Recently, my love for a restaurant was scolded by the owner. I was a regular at a local diner, where I ate breakfast once or twice a week for over three years. I introduced friends, family, colleagues, and clients to the place and extolled the virtues of their breakfast menu to anyone looking for a morning meal. I was, in marketer’s parlance, a “brand evangelist” (sometimes also called a brand advocate) for this restaurant. Unfortunately, they did not return my love.

What Is A Brand Evangelist?

A brand evangelist produces the positive word of mouth that brings new customers to your business. Brand evangelists are the holy grail of customers because on average, they bring three new customers to a company . But more than that, they give you “street cred,” and the kind of marketing you can’t buy.

What Does A Brand Evangelist Mean To Your Business?

If you calculate the lifetime value of a customer, a brand evangelist can add tens of thousands to millions of dollars to your balance sheet. It’s not only the business they bring you, but also the marketing dollars you’re not having to spend to acquire new customers because their word-of-mouth is doing your marketing for you. Big businesses like P&G have spent lots of time and money cultivating brand advocates to “talk up just about everything from movies and music to milk and motor oil” because the investment pays dividends in sales.

The Sky Rocketing Value of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

P&G cultivates and rewards brand advocates because they recognize that word-of-mouth is the most valuable form of marketing. In the 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 83% of respondents said they trust the recommendations of friends and family. (Compared to 63% who “somewhat” trust brand advertising.) So, people who will chat up your business are pretty darn valuable. However, it’s much, much harder to cultivate a group of ten brand evangelists than it is to gain 100 “happy” customers. People can like your business and buy your products and services, but not many will go out of their way to introduce others to your brand. The few who do should be celebrated and encouraged to continue.

When An Evangelist Loves A Brand Too Much

So with all that value, why would a brand not love their brand evangelist? In my case, I committed the cardinal sin of sitting at a table on a Monday morning from 8:30 am to noon. I had a meeting with my boss and a potential client from 8:30 till 9:45 and then my boss and I sat there till nearly noon talking. We couldn’t believe how long we’d been there when the lunch crowd started to file in. (It should be noted that there were plenty of free tables available during our stay.) We over-tipped the waitress, recognizing that we’d monopolized one of her tables, and left.

On the following Friday, I walked into the restaurant with a business associate I was meeting for the first time. The owner of the diner came over and confronted me about staying at a table so long on Monday. She explained that the waitress doesn’t make as much money if the table doesn’t turn over to new customers. I said, “Yes, that’s why we left her a $15 tip.” (on a $25 bill). This verbal exchange with the owner happened in front of my new associate necessitating that I explain what happened on Monday to him, increasing my embarrassment.

Once I got over my discomfort, I was angry. How many meals had I eaten there? How many people had I told about the place and brought to their kitchen? My loyalty was overlooked and worse, admonished.

How Does A Brand Earn The Loyalty That Creates An Evangelist?

Why do people L-O-V-E (with hearts and flowers) Starbucks? Why are skateboarders obsessed with Vans sneakers? Why would I adore a diner? Marketingland explains, To achieve brand loyalty, a brand must facilitate consumers reaching their maximum potential. The brand must connect with the consumer’s core values and reflect who they are.” In short, the brand becomes a part of the consumer’s identity as the brand’s values align with the consumer’s.


Brand Advocacy/Brand Evanglism

Why I Loved The Diner

For me, I loved the diner was because it was a place outside of work and home where I could write uninterrupted. The white noise of the other customers facilitated my concentration. The waitresses greeted me by name and often brought me a cup of hot water before I had even ordered it. It made me feel as if I belonged to a community. Like Norm who always sat on the barstool at the end the bar at Cheers, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. By Marketingland’s definition, the diner’s values seemed to align with my own.

When A Company Breaks Their Brand Promise

The diner conveys their values in their brand promise. Their website boasts, “A place for the regulars and newcomers alike. It’s not home; it’s not work; it’s your “third place,” where you’re taken care of. We welcome you to visit and make our food a part of your tradition…”

Except, they broke their promise. It was my third place, and I made their food part of my weekly tradition, but I wasn’t welcomed or taken care of that Friday. Instead, the owner reprimanded me. When I walked out of the diner that day, I knew, sadly, that the brand did not deserve my devotion and it was time to find a new breakfast place.

How To Reward Your Brand Evangelists

When your small business earns a brand advocate, after you complete a happy dance, make sure you let that evangelist know you appreciate them. Reward programs that allow your best customers to earn points toward free stuff are one means of showing your gratitude, and there are many more methods of demonstrating your appreciation. (I will cover ten ways to show your customer’s your appreciation next month.)

How you exhibit your appreciation isn’t important. Making a point to acknowledge your best customers is, and it’s the smartest move you can make. Don’t, and you too could lose your fan base.

Finding A New Brand To Love

Since my diner didn’t love me back, I went out in search of a new breakfast nook. I felt like Goldilocks trying out different breakfast grills till I found the one that was just right. The third restaurant I auditioned was The Sweet Spot in Louisville. I took a seat by a window and ate my usual–scrambled eggs, bacon, and burned hashbrowns. After the meal, I asked the waiter if it was okay if I lingered for an hour and a half or two when they weren’t busy. He said, “Of course.” I recounted my recent negative experience at my favorite diner, and he thrust out his hand and said, “I’m Kyle, the front-of-house manager and you can stay here as long as you like.”

Now that’s how you treat a customer and cultivate a future brand evangelist.

Are you creating brand evangelists or discouraging them? Have you loved a brand that didn’t love you back? Leave your comments below.