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  • Writer's pictureJacob Curtis

Your Marketing is Wasted If You Don't Do This

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Zig Ziglar famously said, “Money isn’t everything… but it ranks right up there with oxygen.”

Yup, it's true. Nothing kills a business faster than a lack of oxygen (aka money).

Your quilt shop is a business, and it needs money. Why? There are a few reasons.

First, almost no business problem can’t be solved with more money as long as you manage it wisely. This is handy because nearly every business I know of has problems. Money helps you solve many problems that make a quilt shop stressful and frustrating.

Second, when you’ve taken care of yourself, you have a chance to help others.

If you didn’t go into business to make money, you’re lying to yourself or have a hobby (I hope you’re ready to pay taxes now that most of your business deductions are no longer allowed). And before you start on about delivering value, changing the world, and so on, ask yourself how much of that you can do if you’re broke. How many people can you help?

When you board an airplane and the airline attendants are going through their safety procedures, they will inevitably say something like this:

Should the cabin experience a sudden pressure loss, oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and pull the straps to tighten. If you are traveling with children or someone who requires assistance, make sure that your own mask is on before helping others.

Did you catch that? Why put on your own mask before helping someone else? Because if you are slumped over in your seat suffering from a lack of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else, and even worse, we now have to deploy scarce resources to come and help you; otherwise, you’ll be dead soon.

If you started a business, your goal should be to get more money so you can fulfill your ultimate purpose behind your quilt shop. You need to know what to do. You need to stop wasting your time and money on marketing activities if you do not have a marketing plan.

The statistics vary on what percentage of businesses fail within the first five years. But I’ve never seen it below 50 percent. So, being optimistic, you have a 50/50 chance of surviving at least five years after opening. But this does not account for all the businesses barely keeping their heads above water, just scraping by month after month.

Have you ever wondered why most small businesses plateau after a mediocre level?

At one end of the spectrum, there’s Pete, the plumber who works sixteen-hour days, including weekends, and never takes a vacation while barely making enough to keep his head above water. At the other end of the spectrum is Joe, who runs a plumbing company with twenty plumbers working for him. It seems like his primary business activity is counting his fat stacks of cash that keep rolling in.

It’s very common for small businesses to never grow past the point at which they generate enough for the owner(s) to make a modest living (if they even get to this point). And then, no matter how hard they try, they don’t get to the next level, which is very frustrating. They get disillusioned or accept their fate that they just created a low-paying job for themselves.

The reality is that many business owners would probably be better off just finding a job in their industry. They would have less stress, work fewer hours, and enjoy vacations.

On the other hand, a few business owners seem to have it all figured out. They work reasonable hours, have less stress, and enjoy amazing vacations, all while enjoying fantastic cash flow and growth.

Most would blame the industry. It’s true industries do die or change as culture and technology change. However, the industry is rarely to blame; after all, others in the industry are doing very well. So, the obvious question is, what are they doing differently?

Many small business owners fall into the trap described in Michael Gerber’s classic book, The E-Myth Revisited. They are a technician, for example, a plumber, hairdresser, dentist, accountant, quilter, and so on, and they are really good at what they do. They have what Gerber calls an “entrepreneurial seizure,” and they start to think to themselves, “Why should I work for this idiot boss of mine? I’m good at what I do–I’ll start my own business.”

This is one of THE major mistakes made by most small business owners. They go from working for an idiot boss to becoming an idiot boss! Here is the key point–just because you’re good at the technical thing you do doesn’t mean that you are good at the business of what you do.

So, going back to our example, a good plumber is not necessarily the best person to run a plumbing company. An accountant is not necessarily the best person to run an accounting firm. A quilter is not necessarily the best person to run a quilt shop. This is a vitally important distinction to note and is a key reason that most small businesses fail. The owner may have excellent technical skills but lacks the business skills.

This is not meant to discourage you from starting a business. However, you must resolve to become good at the business of what you do–not just the technical thing you do. A quilt shop can be an amazing vehicle for achieving financial freedom and personal fulfillment–but only for those who understand and master this vital distinction and figure out what they need to do to run a successful business.

If you are a good creator, designer, or quilter but feel like you could benefit from some help on the business side, then you’re in the right place at the right time. The whole point of what I do is to take you from confusion to clarity–so you know exactly what to do to piece together financial freedom.

Professionals have plans. Look at any profession where the stakes are high, and you’ll see a well-thought-out plan being followed. Professionals never wing it.

Doctors follow a treatment plan. Airline pilots follow a flight plan. Soldiers follow a military operation plan.

While no one can guarantee your success, having a plan drastically improves your chances of success.

Just like you wouldn’t be on a plane where the pilot didn’t bother with a flight plan, you don’t want you and your family relying on a quilt shop without a plan. It’s more than just your ego on the line, so it’s time to “go pro” and create a plan.

If you want success, you need to start paying attention to and expanding the things that are making a big impact. There are various areas in business where you could start looking to make an impact, from negotiation skills to operations. But by far, the biggest impacting activity in any business is marketing. If you get 10 percent better at marketing, this can have an exponential or multiplying effect on your bottom line.

So, what is “marketing”? I think Allan Dib said it best in his book The 1-Page Marketing Plan:

Here’s the simplest, most jargon-free definition of marketing you’re likely to come across:

If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Showgrounds on Saturday,” that’s advertising.

If you put a sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion.

If that elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed and the local newspaper writes a story about it, that’s publicity.

And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.

If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions, and, ultimately, they spend a lot of at the circus, that’s sales.

And if you planned the whole thing, that’s marketing.

Yup, it’s as simple as that–marketing is the strategy you use for getting your ideal target market to know you, like you, and trust you enough to become a customer. All the stuff you usually associate with marketing is tactics.

I love that definition of marketing. Now, it's important to understand that the fundamentals of marketing have not changed. What has changed is the technology and how we apply those fundamentals–the tactics have changed, but not the strategy.

Strategy is the big-picture planning you do prior to tactics or prior to doing marketing activities. If you were building a house, you wouldn’t just order a bunch of wood and brick and construction supplies and start building, would you? No, you would review the blueprints with an architect and hire a general contractor to create a building plan. That is strategy.

Once you have a plan or strategy in place, you execute the plan–you hire excavators, cement workers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, bricklayers, and others. That’s tactics.

Strategy without tactics leads to paralysis by analysis. Tactics without strategy lead to “shiny object syndrome.” You need both strategy and tactics, but you create a strategy first so you know what tactics to use.

If you think having a superior product is all it takes, you’re wrong. Throughout history, superior products have lost to better-marketed products. A few examples include Betamax, The Newton, and LaserDisc.

Good, even great products are simply not enough. Marketing must be one of the major activities if you’re to have a successful quilt shop.

However, you cannot copy the big stores for two major reasons. First, you don’t have their budget unless you have millions to spend on marketing. Second, you don’t have the same marketing priorities. Large companies must please a board of directors and shareholders, satisfy their boss’ biases and existing customers' preconceptions, win awards for creativity, and make a profit.

But your only marketing priority as a small business is making a profit so you can help even more people.

Large company marketing strategies are complex and often cover multiple years. They are expensive and have many objectives and hundreds of people at their disposal to execute the strategy.

However, an effective marketing strategy for a small business is trackable and measurable, uses compelling headlines and sales copy, targets a specific audience, makes a specific offer, demands a response, includes multi-step, short-term follow-up, and incorporates maintenance follow-up of unconverted leads. I know that sounds like a lot, but it fits all on just a single page. The one-page marketing plan is designed to get you results.

As a curator of proven concepts, I’ll share with you over the next few weeks, the nine elements of an effective one-page marketing plan so you know what tactics to use and aren't wasting your time and money. As a small business owner myself, I’ll walk you through the questions and steps I use to ensure I have a sound marketing plan and know how to execute that plan with confidence.

But tell me, what do you think is the first element of a marketing plan? Email me at and very soon you’ll find out if you are correct!


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