There are some businesses that have piles of marketing dollars behind them.
You know the ones—those huge corporations that pump out new products or services with carefully-crafted ad strategies. The ones that do things by the book, and keep on succeeding because they’ve figured out their marketing machine.
But then there are businesses that seem to succeed despite all odds. Their marketing budget is tiny. Their team is tinier. But they pull ahead in their niche and put a stake in the ground that the big businesses can’t seem to cross. Others try to copy them, but can never seem to beat them. And year after year, their profits grow.
What makes these companies different?
This is what I’ve realized:
You can have the clever, engaging copy.
You can have the beautiful website.
You can even have a world-class marketing team to back you up.
But if you don’t have a core message—a central idea or story that binds together everything you do—your reach will find its limits. And you won’t be able to push past it.
And by the same token, a strong core message is the key to real, sustainable business growth.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a soap brand or a solopreneur. Here’s what I mean:
Coach Tulin is THE plus-size fitness motivator. She preaches that fit has no size. Not something you hear every day, is it?
And the way she got there? Sharing her own life journey on Instagram—going from broke, homeless and unable to move her body easily to finding exercises that worked for her, learning to love her body, and finding the joy in the journey.
Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project is out to help freelancers become #unfuckwithable so they can “Ditch the work you hate, so you can do what you love, and live the unfuckwithable life you deserve.” Her message is about badassery, owning your thing, and not taking shit. Her story? She grew up in a trailer park, was orphaned as a young adult, and started her business journey in the back of her car. Today, her tenacity has led her to become a wildly successful CEO.
But it’s not just rags-to-riches stories that capture the imagination
Adam Braun was on a college trip in India when he asked a boy there what he wanted most in the world. The answer? “A pencil.” That became the spark for the incredibly impactful non-profit Pencils of Promise that offers safe, accessible education to kids in underserved populations across the world.
&yet is a creative technology agency that could better be described as a collective of creatives. Their big thing is that they’re about people. And they don’t just say that. Take a look at their about page and you’ll see faces and profiles of its members. They are selective about the clients they take, based on how interested their team is in the project. And their chief of strategy Sarah Avenir is constantly (and publicly) sharing her thoughts on digital spaces, community, and creating real connections online. Her book, Gather the People, explores this topic in depth.
The way to beat the big guys? Put your flag in the ground. Stand for something. Associate yourself with an important idea. Then double down on it.