ecosystem_4676d2de2296fFeeding the Small Business Ecosystem

Your business is a system of interdependent parts each feeding on the next to determine your ultimate success

Forgive what may seem like a bit of a theoretical argument today. Sometimes you have to step back and get a sense of the biggest picture in order to understand how all the simple, practical parts relate.


Small business is often held together with sweat, creativity and a heavy use of duct tape. (In case you ever wondered where I came up with the term Duct Tape Marketing.) That's the outer reality of small business. The inner reality, the part that most don't see and even the owner of the business might not understand, is more like a living breathing ecosystem.


I didn't really excel in science in school, but to me the parallel is obvious. In an ecosystem the many parts are dependent upon each other for success. In a small business this is equally true and just as hard to measure and control.


There are lots of small businesses out there that appear healthy and happy on the outside but are being held back by some component of the overall system. The very first thing you must do is acknowledge this idea of dependant parts. If one isn't thriving, isn't even noticed, others will suffer.


It's very hard to have a healthy business if the employees don't feel appreciated. It's very hard to have a healthy business if clients don't know how your business is unique. It's very hard to have a healthy business if your referral partners don't know who makes an ideal client for your business.


There are countless examples of growing businesses that ignore what I'm suggesting, but I wonder if they are fun places to work and do business with?


Thinking strategically about your own small business ecosystem requires understanding who all the players are, the experience you want them to have with your business, and the tools you need to employ to make this integration happen.


First let's take a look at the major players in the small business ecosystem.

You may have some combination of:


  • Suspects - folks you've identified that might need what you do
  • Prospects - those who have responded to your lead activities
  • Clients- someone who has purchases something
  • Advocates - purchases lots and tells others
  • Associates - your staff
  • Vendors - companies you might purchase from
  • Partners - companies that might help you produce a product or co-create services and clients


You can define what each of these is in your business, but the strongest businesses understand that they need to embrace, feed and sell each - sometimes in order for one to thrive. For instance, your clients will become stronger advocates or referral sources the more they feel connected to your community of clients, associates and partners.


One of the ways to create these connections among all of the members of your ecosystem is to have and communicate in no uncertain terms your firm's unique core message. That message should contain a clear statement about your brand and how it's unique and who should care. The goal then becomes finding ways for your clients, advocates, partners, and associates to connect to this brand in a way that feeds them.


Technology and a host of new media tools have made the important task of feeding and integrating all of the parties in a small business world much easier.


Let's cover a few examples:


  • Blogs allow you to produce frequently changing content and interaction with clients and prospects
  • Websites allow you to give access to a great deal of educational content
  • Web apps like Basecamp allow you to collaborate with clients and partners in real time
  • Online meeting tools like WebEx give you the ability to hold instant virtual sales presentations and peer-to-peer client conversations
  • Podcasting can open up doors to new media and give a true voice to the people in your firm
  • RSS technology allows you to create dynamic content that can be personalized to the individual
  • CRM systems give you the ability to track a prospect's education process and know when they need more
  • Social software can give your clients the ability to generate marketing content for you and about you in an environment of trust
  • Autoresponders can provide education and training whenever it's requested
  • Intranet styled offerings and even chat platforms make remote and virtual communication with your suppliers and associates simple and seamless
  • Content management systems can give your firm's employees and clients access to your entire searchable library of documented knowledge
  • Streaming video and video screen capture makes providing simple help and training a snap


I suspect you get the point from the list above, but, of course, technology itself isn't the answer. It is the beautiful way in which you tap the power it possesses to help meet and exceed your client's expectations, build a thriving community of partners, associates, and advocates around your business, and generate and close more deals, more profitably.


To do this you must embrace new tools, new media, and new technology and figure out how to bend them to serve the goals of feeding your unique small business ecosystem.


About the Author: John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide published by Thomas Nelson.

He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing small business marketing system. You can find more information by visiting


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