How to save a struggling small business? Stop. Put everything down. Breathe.

This isn’t a silver bullet – there is no such thing. There are a myriad of reasons your business may be struggling, or not reaching the heights you believe it can reach. This article can’t possibly dive into every possible scenario, but trust me – this is a great place to start.

Calmly close your eyes and take a deep breath and think for moment:

  • Why did you start in the first place?
  • What do you hope people say about you after a purchase or after encountering your company?
  • How do you want to be remembered after you’re gone?
  • How can you make someone’s day just a little brighter by having chosen your business?
  • What problem are you solving? Are you solving it as well as you can?
  • What kind of opportunities are you creating in your community or within your organization?
  • Why should anyone choose you over the competition? What’s the difference?

That’s business. That is why people buy from you and refer you and keep coming back.

Counter this with the onslaught of advertising sales and would be guru advice raining down on small businesses everyday. They want you to focus on the latest shiny objects and before you know it your mind is clouded with bullshit:

  • What’s the best way to engage people on Facebook?
  • Where are the eyeballs now? Is it Twitter? Instagram? Vine? Pinterest? Periscope? YouTube? LinkedIn?
  • What can I post today that will get the most likes? What should I write about?
  • Do you have all of your profiles up to date?
  • How can we get to the top of Google? Should we launch a PPC campaign?
  • Do I need a CRM system? What about email capture?
  • What type of sales funnels do I have in place?

Small businesses are taking their eyes off the ball. They are distracted by all the people trying to sell them something – most of which depletes the most precious resource we have: time. Most of these shiny objects won’t do anything but distract you from doing the work you set out to do in the first place. It’s become a shortcut for people who don’t want to master their craft, deliver something truly remarkable or worth talking about and so forth. They want to get a bunch of followers or magically drive buyers via some unicorn infested rainbow horseshoe mixture of a communication platform that turns lemonade stands into global franchises overnight.

You’re taking your eyes off the very foundation upon which your dreams are being built. You’re taking your eyes off your core purpose and the very reason people will miss you someday when you’re gone.

I meet with entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses every single day. They don’t have time for this shit. They are suffocating. Seriously. Gurus will preach from mountain tops about digging deep and all the things you should sacrifice and do if you “really want it”. It’s crazy really. Tell that to the mother of two working a part time job to pay the bills while building a dream on the side. It’s ludicrous.

If you want to breath again you need to focus on why you started in the first place. Focus on the customer in front of you right now. Focus on making the experience better, more unique, memorable and worthy of being shared.

You see all the other stuff is great IF, and only if, your foundation is strong and getting stronger. Pretend there was no social media, no texting, no internet. I’m not talking to SAAS companies or online training gurus here – I’m talking to main street business. How would you WOW customers and bring them in the door. How can you deliver what you set out to deliver in the first place?

If you get this right – the rest magically takes care of itself.

There’s been a shift over the past few years which is building with each passing day. I shy away from putting tags on things, but it’s how we communicate so there really is no easy way around naming it. For now lets call it reputation marketing. I love this. It’s businesses as it should be. It’s technology used to share experiences happening in the real world.

Companies who would be buzz worthy without all these shiny objects will thrive in a world with them. Not by using themselves, but because they are available for people who LOVE you to use and spread the word.

It’s about “you won’t believe the experience I had with Joe’s Plumbing!” instead of “you won’t believe the experience you’ll have with us at Joe’s Plumbing!”

You can post as much about your expertise and knowledge and greatness. You can set up online courses and do webinars. You can follow online gurus who have the latest and greatest technique for crushing it on the latest and greatest platform.

But if customers don’t vouch for you – your efforts will fall on deaf ears. And if they do vouch for you, your dreams will be well on their way to being realized.

And the only way for customers for vouch for you is to deliver all the things that exist in the real world and can never be duplicated anywhere else.