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“When furious get curious.”

This quote from Paul Saginaw, co-founder of Zingerman's Deli out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been swimming around in my brain for the last several months.

Whenever marketing suggestions were made I would, in one way or another, scoff and dismiss the idea.

A social media post, a new blog, a PR release, an ad campaign, a billboard, an event, or an influencer, it all felt the same. It costs too much, we don’t have anyone to do it, we don’t know how to do it, and it probably won’t make much of a difference even if we did.

At some point I decided this was not productive behavior and things needed to change.

I’m a brand guy.

I think I’m pretty good at it. How to build a brand that people like is intuitive to me. Our brand building strategy from day one has been to make a good product, be nice, and do it in a way that is approachable.

I thought that was all there was to “marketing.”

Our efforts were focused on putting our carts in cool places with fun people, introducing the product in a very consistent, but slow way to new people and cultivating a loyal fan base.

We built the brand this way, but as we’ve expanded to new markets through franchising, it has become clear that this strategy on its own is not enough. We need a playbook to increase awareness and interest in a specific area.

Unlike brand building, marketing isn’t intuitive to me.

From the friendly confines of my desk, it’s easy to imagine that when I hit "send" on a witty or informative social media post, that it will be carefully read and absorbed by the intended audience.

This obviously isn’t the case, but there is a great mystery when it comes to where and how often a message needs to be put out there. And that only matters after you’ve landed on the most important part — the content.

I’ve been talking to a lot of colleagues about this. My friend Michael Tavani, of Switchyards fame, observed that I was in an important phase right now.

“You’re feeling around in a dark room.”

He urged me to embrace that discomfort, but it has been hard.

I’ve tried my best to lean into the unknown.

During my explorations I’ve read a bunch of new marketing books. Flirted with new marketing software. And I purchased the 8-Day Campaign from my friend Manu Muraro at Your Social Team.

I did my first campaign with this methodology, and it worked well and felt on brand, but trying to fit our entire marketing strategy into the 8-Day campaign framework has left my head spinning.

So here I am. The first workday of a new year, and my new years resolution is to figure out how to do improve our marketing.

How to create content I’m proud of.

And how to make our set of amazing offerings more successful.

It’s a challenge I’d love to delegate, but as a small business owner it’s one of those things you have to figure out for yourself first. 

Here's to figuring things out.