After more than a decade as a marketing consultant I’ve noticed that the things that don’t seem to be about money usually produce the most money. A lot of times they require little to no ad dollars of yours being spent. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy ad budget well strategized and spent can grow a business enormously. But it’s usually something far simpler that makes those ad dollars exponentially powerful.

I normally begin relationships by asking the question, “what is it that you’d like for me to accomplish?” Most business owners usually respond with an answer that will result in more money in their bank account. And that’s great. It’s how Roy Williams set up the entire compensation structure of Wizard of Ads partners. We only make more money when you make more money. I’ve learned, however, to follow up that first question by asking what gets you excited, what you’ve always dreamed of doing and what’s gotten you to the place you already are. That’s where the secrets to unlock your business growth reside.

A Small Business With a Tiny Ad Budget Left to Spend

This became super clear to me recently with a new client of mine. They’re a small, husband and wife plumbing company with a remarkable story, a ton of drive and a huge future in front of them. But being small and spending most of their current ad dollars on AdWords and SEO to make the phones ring has left them with little to spend on mass media advertising. Sound familiar? You want to grow, but your focus on getting calls now is preventing it.

When we asked them what they could give us to work with, they replied $800/mo. That’s not much for a town of 100,000, much less the 2 million+ metro area where their business is located. I remember seeing the look on my partners faces when they told us that number. “How are we ever going to help them grow with that?” I read in their eyes.

Business Growth with a Previously Tiny Budget

Not too long before I met this plumbing couple I began working with an even smaller company. A financial advisor (mine in fact) hired me to help grow his business. His ad budget was small like these plumbers’, so I put together a plan that utilized the assets he already had. I found out why his best clients did business with him in the first place and asked if he wanted more clients like that. Then I created messaging that demonstrated how much he cared for his family, which in turn would win the hearts of more people who wanted to use their money to take care of their families.

I remember walking into his first summary, where I presented this strategy, not expecting too much. It was, after all, a tiny budget, and we’d only be reaching 2500 people or so. His response blew me away. “I can’t tell you how happy I am with this. This is exactly what I needed. Man, having a plan takes so much pressure off of me. You’ve captured who I am, and I’m so excited to start doing it!” I needed his help scraping my jaw off the floor.

Since that time we’ve begun sending out his postcards. As with most long-term branding, his first postcard didn’t yield a ton of business, but got a great response from the people he knows who’ve seen it. His revenue, however, is booming. Up 63% this month, which beats the 27% YTD growth he was already seeing. I’d love to say that I’m responsible for that, but I know I’m not. He is. Isn’t it amazing what motivation will do for someone who’s really good at what they do. “You know what I love about this? I love that you see me as being even more successful than I see myself,” he told me.

Are You Underestimating Yourself?

I love it when people underestimate me. It’s no good, though, when I underestimate me. I underestimate the power of me believing in my clients, doing everything I can for them and coming up with a plan that they get excited to execute, no matter how small it is. Have you been underestimating your impact on your business? How long has it been since someone has helped you get excited about your business?

When I thought about that story in relation to the little plumbing company who hired me, I smiled. “We’re going to put together a great plan for them using what they have. You’re going to be surprised at how excited it gets them.” I mean, here is a couple from opposite sides of the world who are attractive, smart and do great work. They care deeply about their family and their one current employee. How hard is it to make people like that a success?!

Putting Together the Plan

We figured out their core values and offer strategy, crafted their message and researched delivery options that would fit or come close to fitting their budget. One of their biggest needs was a better recruiting ad, which required little to no budget. Postcards to nearby neighborhoods fit their budget. We also negotiated a radio buy that reached a lot more people than the postcards but came in just over their budget.

They were ecstatic with all of it. One of the origin stories we wrote for them made them cry. Instead of choosing either postcards or radio, they decided to go with both, starting radio now and using our postcard strategy for the first 6 months while the radio branding picked up steam. I didn’t even present that as an option. That’s the power of believing in and getting on the side of a client, understanding their story and putting together a plan that works with what they have, rather than an ad budget I would want.

The Most Powerful Business Asset

The most powerful asset that any business possesses lies within the owner. A motivated owner will get her or his team excited and put all their energy and passion into their business. No marketing in the world can help a business as much as that. But when they also believe in the marketing strategy, they tend to find ways to invest more in it than they first said was available. Not only does that tend to reach more customers faster, it unites the business owner with the marketing team. And when the marketing team gets motivated, well, I think you know that that’s also a good thing.

If you’ve stopped being excited about who you are or what your business does, find someone who believes in you more than you. Someone like that might expose some blind spots that you wish they wouldn’t. But they can also uncover the commitments you used to have that have lain dormant. And if you recommit yourself to being who you were made to be, it’s worth more than all the money in the world.