We should totally, like, engage.

We should totally, like, engage.

Unsubscribing from yet another email list, I realized “marketing” encompasses two very different things: Marketing To Sell vs Marketing To Engage.

Maketing to Sell

If you spend your time installing tools to examine conversion rates on your web site, A/B testing alternate versions of your home page to gather visitor statistics, and endlessly tweaking and refining your blog posts to hit the keywords that Google AdWords research tools recommend, then you are Marketing to Sell.

This is not a bad thing. It’s just a thing. When working in a highly competitive market, every percentage point of advantage is going to be reflected in your bottom line, and will show you as the better choice for the consumer than your competitors. Especially in manufacturing industries.

Maketing to sell is a dog-eat-dog world of reading between the lines of every blog post from Matt Cutts, subscribing to every SEOMoz and HubSpot and HootSuite newsletter, endlessly dumping data into Excel pivot tables and swishing it around to glean hidden insights, and then throwing in a significant amount of intuition and fairy dust to interpret all that information into actionable steps.

I don’t do this. (I have, but I don’t do this for my clients any more.)

Marketing to Engage

On the other hand, if you blog about things that are not necessarily directly related to your business, if you have a photo of your dog on your About page, if you are a sole proprietor who can only serve X number of people a week, if you answer the phone or emails yourself (and maybe even sign them with just your first name), you are probably Marketing to Engage.

This is not necessarily a superior methodology to Marketing to Sell, nor is it even appropriate for some businesses. If you are in a neck-in-neck battle to the death with a competitor, then every conversion from “viewer” to “customer” is a marginal win.

But if you are a small business owner, working every day with clients and customers, plying your skills to help them through whatever hurdles they have, then Marketing to Engage is – in my opinion – your only choice.

And this is what I do for my clients.


They key is differentiation. If you are Coke and Pepsi, your products are largely indistinguishable from each other. The only way to win in that race is to funnel customers through a sales pipeline that bars the possibility of making another choice. This is time-consuming, requires a lot of expertise from outside your area of speciality (and probably a full-time staff), and provides measurable results that can be quantified and tied directly to your marketing staff’s salaries.

However, if you are a massage therapist, there are only so many clients you can possibly see in a week. Physiological and emotional depletion dictate that seeing more than about 30 people a week will diminish your health as well as the quality of the service your clients receive. It’s just unsustainable.

Your only opportunity to fill your schedule – and to do so in a way that keeps you healthy both physically and emotionally – is to engage your clients with who you are, on a deep and personal level. Then you become their massage therapist, rather than a massage therapist. Shared interests, common beliefs, and that intangible bit of emotional umami is what will differentiate you from other massage therapists, and will, in the end, be the reason that a client chooses to see you instead of someone else.

The New (Old) Way

Stop. Just stop. Stop reading every book and article about SEO or Facebook Ads. Stop tweaking out about how many times a day you are “supposed to” Tweet, or post to Facebook, or the optimal number of pins to have on your board in Pinterest.

Just stop. And get back to your business. Pick up the phone when an unknown number calls. Respond to emails as soon as they come in. Write a blog post about something you care about. And give your next client 100% of your attention.

For centuries people have purchased products and services from the people they know and trust. Trust is not something you can earn when you Market to Sell. Trust is only available to those who Market to Engage, because trust is not an on/off switch. It is a gas that escapes an untended container.

Tend to your clients, earn their trust, speak truth to them, and engage with them 100%.

That is the only sustainable path for us small business owners.

And the most rewarding one, as well.