What’s Old is New Again

by Aug 5, 2020

Small business owners and operators fill every role and have experts in everything, particularly for startups. Marketing is no exception, and most small businesses try to handle all the marketing needs on their own.

For most of the last 70 years or so, large corporations and established brands have had a leg up on small businesses in terms of marketing and advertising. This isn’t only because large businesses have larger marketing and advertising budgets, although that does play a role. Larger companies also have internal marketing, advertising, and sales teams that work exclusively on one business or product. Outside marketing firms are more expensive with less personalized service. Outlets for marketing are more easily accessible to larger firms with paid media buyers who get discounted media buys when they purchase multiple spots over longer periods.

The advent of digital marketing and social media platforms has leveled the playing field somewhat for small businesses, providing platforms that are accessible to small businesses with prices they can afford. But, that doesn’t solve the problem most small businesses face of having to outsource their marketing efforts to an agency that gives them just a few hours of work and can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars, or continue putting in the extra hours at the end of an already long week to do it on their own.

Small businesses scrambling for solutions

Freelance service provider companies like Thumbtack, Fiverr, & TaskRabbit offer professional services at competitive rates that small businesses can afford. These websites are databases of professional entrepreneurs and freelancers looking for work. Business owners create a project and wait for available professionals to bid on the job or submit a proposal. Because the pros understand they are competing against other unseen proposals, the costs are usually much less than hiring an agency.

For very small businesses with limited budgets, freelance service websites seem to be the best way to go, especially for the low price point. As their name suggests, Fiverr charges in $5 increments for project-based work. Thumbtack, TaskRabbit, Bark, and others are similar in pricing and, depending on the project, will start much higher than But, the scope of work is narrowly defined from providers on Fiverr and Thumbtack. You can hire a professional to build a website for under $300, but they choose the layout, they don’t create or edit your content, and they can’t create a marketing strategy to go along with your website. To do that, you also have to hire a marketing strategist, a content writer, a graphic designer, a security expert, and a sales team manager. Oh! And they won’t promote your company either, so you also need a social media manager and digital advertising specialist.

If you’re okay with hiring seven different people do create one project, you can use one of these sites for all your marketing needs. It’s tough to create or stay within a budget this way, but it can be done. The bigger drawback to this model is working with someone of unknown quality, experience, and professionalism. There is no requirement to prove your ability, education, expertise, or professionalism in order to register as a professional on these sites. Businesses seeking help are locked into a contract even if the work provided is not up to the quality standards desired.

Everything old is new again.

So, why are small businesses reinventing the wheel? Small businesses need to go back to the way their predecessors operated: relying on quality referrals from people they trust. A century ago, the business was done by handshake agreements and introductions of old friends to new friends. Bargains were struck on the golf course, at the barbershop, or around the BBQ on a Saturday afternoon.

Small businesses supported other small businesses and created a community of support with more strength than the largest companies. Integrity and honesty were implied when doing business with a friend of a friend. There was an implicit trust in the quality of work one would receive when it came from a referral. This is why businesses offer referral discounts and incentives to new and existing customers. Dental offices, cell phone companies, and yes, even your local barbershop, still offers rewards for referring a friend or family member. And we trust the referrals from our friends and family.


We’ve all seen the changes happening over the last few months. More people are working from home. More people are unemployed. More people are finding unique and creative solutions to the current situation and planning for an unknown future. More small businesses, independent operations, and co-op businesses are popping up in response to the catastrophic changes and societal shifts we’ve experienced in 2020. Large marketing agencies are probably outside the budget of most small businesses. But, there are smaller agencies operating as loose co-ops of professionals that understand how small businesses operate and what they need to succeed. You won’t get lost in the corporate shuffle because they are also a small business and tend to treat you more like family. You get personalized service and they really invest in you and your company’s future. And the best part is, most of them are open to negotiating their terms to fit within your budget…just ask!