In this episode Josh spends time with Stacey Riska, author of the book “Small Business Marketing Made EZ”. They discuss some of the mistakes small business owners make with their marketing and things they should really be doing.

Stacey Riska is a marketing expert on a mission to “Save Small Business One Marketing Plan At A Time”. No small feat for sure!

Stacey knows that one thing – and one thing only – will accomplish that mission: MARKETING PUT INTO ACTION.

That’s why she wrote the book “Small Business Marketing Made EZ” to share her simple 6-step system any small business owner can put into ACTION – literally and figuratively.

In today’s episode you will learn:

  • What marketing is?
  • What is the ACTION marketing system?
  • How to implement a marketing system in a small business?
  • What are the steps to make it all easy?
  • Can you do it all by yourself?


Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                 Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast. My guest today is Stacey Riska. Stacey has just written a new book. If you’re watching us on Facebook, you can see the book cover right here. I have it. It’s called Small Business Marketing Made EZ! We all like easy, so let’s bring Stacey on. That’s what we’re going to talk about is how to make your marketing program and your business easy to do.

Hey, Stacey, how are you today?

Stacey:             I’m great, Josh. Thanks for having me here. I’m so excited to talk with you and your community today about building a sustainable business with marketing that’s EZ.

Josh:                 First of all, what is your definition of marketing?

Stacey:             Well, to me, it’s the key component of what makes your business run. If you don’t have customers, clients and patients, then you don’t have a business. I think where a lot of small business owners struggle is they think like marketing is this monstrosity and they get this mindset head trash that, “Oh, I’m not a good marketer. I don’t know how to do marketing. I don’t have the time. Marketing’s so hard”, but marketing is easy. And it is the nuts and bolts of what brings customers in the door and keeps them coming back, leaving you rave reviews and, ultimately, becoming your brand ambassador.

Josh:                 In my experience, most small business owners, they get marketing and sales confused. They think marketing is sales and they think sales is marketing. In my world, I actually think they’re two very, very different activities. The way I say it is, “Marketing creates awareness. Sales creates customers.”

Stacey:             Okay. That’s certainly one way to look at it. Sales is probably what brings the money in the door, but marketing is about a process. In my book, Small Business Marketing Made EZ!, I lay out six simple steps that every small business owner needs to put in place to build their marketing plan. Marketing is really about what I call the ACTION system, a six-step system, which A stands for attention. We can go through these more in depth, if you want. C is for connecting. T is for transactions. I is for investing. O is ongoing. And N is nurturing. When you do those six simple steps, that is the basis of your marketing plan. That way, it’s very simple. It’s about doing a few simple things well, lather – rinse – repeat, instead of what most small business owners do which is what I call spaghetti marketing – throwing things at the wall and seeing what will stick. And then, ultimately, being so unhappy because they feel like nothing is working.

Josh:                 Let’s go through each one of those and do a definition because I play this word game with people. If you say attention and I put 10 people in a room, I’m going to get 10 different definitions of attention.

Stacey:             Yup.

Josh:                 What do you mean by attention?

Stacey:             Well, attention – most small business owners think, this is like putting their name on a sign, running down the street naked, right? They’ll get attention but not the right kind of attention. The kind of attention that I’m talking about is to be something for someone. Someone because too many small business owners, when you ask them, “Who do you serve?” It’s like they serve the whole world. They want to be everything to everybody. That’s just not realistic because you don’t have the resources, or the budget, or the time to be everything to everyone.

The A is for getting attention. Once you get attention, you move on to the next step which is C.

Josh:                 Let’s stop you for— so.

Stacey:             Okay.

Josh:                 What you’re saying her is attention is actually develop a niche?

Stacey:             Exactly. Define your who. Who is your perfect avatar?

Josh:                 And then, become known in that niche and get attention within that niche?

Stacey:             Yup. And that is where you start.

Josh:                 Right. So, if you’re saying, “I serve everybody”, what you’re really saying is “I serve nobody”?

Stacey:             That’s exactly right, Josh.

Josh:                 Okay. Let’s go to Connect.

Stacey:             Okay, so Connect. Once you define your who, most small business owners are just so excited to make the sale, they’re like, “Hey, baby. Want to get married? Want to buy my stuff?” Well, no. Nobody wants to do at once they’ve just met you.

The C for connect means don’t ask for marriage on the first date. Get somebody to raise their hand and say, “Yes, I’d like to know more about you. I’ll go on a first date with you. Let’s go get a cup of coffee. Oh, that was great. Now, maybe, let’s go see a movie together and then, dinner.” And all the next steps to, ultimately, ask for marriage. C is about building those connections to get somebody to raise their hand and take the next step with you.

Josh:                 What’s a good way to do that?

Stacey:             The best way to do it is with some lead generation. Every small business knows the biggest challenges that their customers, clients and patients face. What I suggest is coming up with lead generation, something where somebody, once you’ve defined your perfect who, will raise their hand and say, “Yes, I need to know that.” So, maybe it’s a tip sheet, or a case study, or a video that you do, or an ebook. Create some content to share your brilliance and your expertise to educate your customers, clients and patients so that they will want to continue along that journey with you to learn more and ultimately become paying customer, client, or patient.

Josh:                 Okay, so I’ve got to push back a little bit here. If I own a construction company, the chances of me writing an ebook is about slim, none, and less than none because last time I wrote something was when I was in high school and I’m now 55 years old. So, what do you say to somebody like that?

Stacey:             Hire me [laughs].

Josh:                 Okay.

Stacey:             My motto is always, “Do what you do best, outsource the rest.” If you’re in a business, whether it’s a construction company or the little dessert shop on Main Street, you still can create this content. It’s so important because we do live in a digital world and people are going to go online to check you out. They’re going to go your website and they’re going to check out your reviews. You want to make sure that you’re building those connections because it’s not so much what you say about yourself. It’s what others say about you that really matters.

Josh:                 Why wouldn’t you be saying – instead of writing an ebook, why don’t you focus on getting good Google reviews?

Stacey:             Reputation management is important. It’s one step of a local marketing plan. And people will go and check those reviews but that’s not going to get somebody to raise their hand and say, “Yeah, I’ll go on a first date with you”. You need to provide them with something that kind of teases them.

Going to the construction company, once they’ve defined like their key avatar, their who, by getting attention, whether they’re residential or commercial real estate, then they should know what those pains are. Maybe it’s, “How do I build a home in 30 days or less” or “How do I have an eco-friendly home”. Whatever challenge or problem your customer, client, or patient is facing, you can create content that answers that.

Josh:                 Okay. Let’s look at transaction for a minute. What do you mean by transaction? I have no idea about that.

Stacey:             Okay. Well, most people think of a transaction as a monetary transaction because, as small business owners, we want to make the sale. We want the money. But that may or may not be the type of transaction that I’m talking about.

The T stands for transactions. What this means is that people buy when they’re ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell to them. Instead of thinking of it as a transaction, think of it as a touch point.

In the last step, the C for connect, we talked about building the relationship. In the transactions, you’re moving people along so that you’re always being a go-giver and providing such great value because people are going to be in different steps of the process with you.

If you sort of envision a funnel, you have the top of the funnel where people don’t really know about you yet. Middle of the funnel where people are in that researching/buying mode, seeing what options are out there. And then, the bottom of the funnel where they’re really checking you out. Like you mentioned, reputation management. What are people saying about you? What are the reviews? You need to have content at each of those stages to move people along and build those transactions because people buy when they’re ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell to them.

A great example is I went to a business meeting and the guy was selling the program, “$200, come to my program.” I went to the program. He was ultimately trying to upsell his coaching and mastermind program. I did not join at the time.

Now, most people would look at that as a transaction. He got a $200-sale. And then, most people just stop their marketing altogether. On to the next one. Let me get more new, more new, more new. Well, this guy was smart and he stayed in touch – front of mind. Every day I was getting some kind of information, and content, and videos, and tips and helpful information. Two years later, when I was finally in the right mindset and ready to move forward, because “people buy when they’re ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell to them”, I invested in his program. Who was I going to think about to do it? Him. Because he was front of mind. He built those transactions along the way.

Josh:                 Transaction would also be— I mean, you could use the term relationship also, I would assume?  

Stacey:             Yeah.

Josh:                 You’re building a relationship at the transaction stage?

Stacey:             Right. It’s building a relationship which may or may not necessarily be monetary.

Josh:                 Right. Well, I also likely will be not be monitoring when you start.

Stacey:             That’s right. And that’s a big change that small business owners need to think about because they’re always, “Make the sale. Make the sale.”

Josh:                 Well, you know, it depends if someone’s ready to buy. If they’re not ready to buy then you have to build a relationship.

Stacey:             Exactly.

Josh:                 If they are ready to buy, you’re still building a relationship but it’s a different type of relationship.

Stacey:             What happens is they drop the ball too soon, right? They’ll send out three emails and then the person still says no, so they move on. “Oh, I’m going to go after more new, new, new”. The low-hanging fruit, the pot of gold is the people who already raised their hand, wanting to know more from you. You really need to build up those transactions over time. Just remember, no doesn’t mean no. No means “not now”.

Josh:                 You just brought up a really good point. I don’t think you realize you did but we’ll talk about it anyhow.

Stacey:             Okay.

Josh:                 That point is it’s much easier to resell somebody who has done business with you than selling somebody who has never done business with you. When you’re doing this marketing campaign, you should be thinking about the people who have bought from you in the past and how to get them in to buy from you in the future. You want to make sure you don’t forget those folks.

Stacey:             Absolutely and we will get to that in my system.

Josh:                 Okay, cool. Next, we get to invest. What do you mean by invest?

Stacey:             The I stands for invest which is really knowing your metrics because at this stage in the process you’re doing some marketing, you’re building the relationships. The invest is knowing what works and what doesn’t work so you’re making smart decisions with your marketing. Here’s where most small business owners get it wrong. They have to realize that gross is for vanity, net is for sanity.

Josh:                 Say that again.

Stacey:             Gross is for vanity. Net is for sanity. Because here’s what most small business owners measure when they invest in their marketing. How many Facebook likes do I have? How many Twitter followers do I have? How many people open my email? These are vanity metrics because they make us feel great. You can’t deposit vanity metrics in the bank.

Josh:                 Here’s my experience. Online businesses measure that junk. Offline businesses – brick and mortar, they don’t care about it. At least, in my experience.

Stacey:             The vanity metrics?

Josh:                 Yeah. They don’t even do vanity metrics. They want to sell stuff and they want people to buy things from them. They don’t really care.

Now, sometimes they measure how many reviews they have for local Facebook. There’s actually some good reason to do that because the more reviews you have, the higher in Google you show up on searches.

Stacey:             Yup. That’s not so much a vanity metric because reputation management can put dollars in the bank because people will be checking you out. You would be surprised how many brick and mortar businesses, especially those on Main Street, they do focus on those vanity metrics because they have people calling them every single day that, “Oh, you need to be online. And you need to be running Facebook ads. You need to have 10,000 followers.” That’s not really what you need. What you need is a small tribe of people who are so loyal that they will only want to do business with you because you are the only logical solution for them. Big is not always better.

Josh:                 Yeah. Well, that makes sense. That’s for sure. What does ongoing mean?

Stacey:             The O stands for ongoing which means doing something every single day to move your business forward. Everybody seems to always want the easy button. My book, it is called Small Business Marketing made EZ! It’s E-Z not E-A-S-Y. Small business marketing is EZ – EZ, if you follow these six simple steps but you have to do something every single day to move your business forward. It’s not about doing a lot of things. It’s about doing a few things well, lather – rinse – repeat.

Josh:                 What you just said was, I have a small business and I have to do something every day to market my business.

Stacey:             Yup.

Josh:                 I don’t have any time for that.

Stacey:             [laughs] Well, call me.

Josh:                 Okay.

Stacey:             You would be surprised. By setting up systems, you can very easily build out an email campaign that has these transactions—

Josh:                 But, again, you’re making an assumption that an email campaign requires people to write so–

Stacey:             Yes, it does.

Josh:                 –we don’t have a solution for— again, I’m talking about brick and mortar businesses more than online businesses.

Stacey:             Josh, let me tell you my best marketing, especially for a small brick and mortar. A handwritten note. Could you write one handwritten note each day to your best customers, clients and patients?

Josh:                 Yeah, if I had the discipline to do it.

Stacey:             If you can’t, then hire a VA to do that for you. That is very simple marketing that you can do ongoing. When you think about doing marketing ongoing, yeah, it can seem overwhelming. “Oh my God, how am I going to do something every single day?” It doesn’t have to be complicated. Something as simple as a handwritten note can do brilliance for your business.

Josh:                 Okay. Well, that makes perfectly good sense to me because I’ve been under the impression, so far, we’ve been talking about doing everything online and that’s complicated because now you have technology in the way. Now, if I just have a stack of cards on my desk and I write three cards or five cards a day or everybody in my office sends out one card a day and I have a system for following through on that, there’s a pretty good chance that will actually get done.

Stacey:             Exactly and you would be amazed with the results. I am a big proponent of integrated marketing. Everybody today is preaching online, online, online but we all know we’re just so overwhelmed with it. My best results have always come from an integrated approach that focuses predominantly on offline marketing.

You didn’t mention it but, in addition to the Small Biz Marketing Specialist, I also own a coffee and smoothie business. My most successful marketing campaign was actually what I call a smoothie‑in‑a‑box package. This helped me get into the door of large companies looking to do something fun and different for staff appreciation events. While most people are out there running Facebook ads and email campaigns and all this online marketing, I’m literally able to get a physical package in their hands where they’re like, “Wow, this is exactly what we need.” I’m a big proponent of not just doing one thing but a few things ongoing, every single day, to move your business forward.

Josh:                 That makes perfectly good sense. My first mentor had a great term I loved. It’s operationally doable which basically means if it’s not operationally doable, it’s not going to get done so you have to make it simple. That’s what you’re doing with card. I think that makes a lot of sense.

Your last thing is N for nurture. What does nurture mean?

Stacey:             This is looping back to what you were talking about before, building relationships. The N is for nurture because, as my dad says, “It’s cheaper to keep her.” And you do. You have this pot of gold sitting right there in your business – your customers, clients, and patients that you already have. If they’ve already given you money and done business with you, it’s so easy to go back to them and invite them back to do more business with you again.

So many small business owners are always focusing on more new. “How do I get more new in the door?” I would challenge you to focus on N. Nurture those relationships to bring those people back and your profits will show in your bank account.

Josh:                 The thing is that— and this comes down to what stage are you in your business. If you’re a relatively new business, meaning that your business is less than five years old, you’re likely to be focusing 70% – 80% of your marketing effort on new customers for your business. Now, if you’ve been in business for 15 or 20 years, you probably should be focusing 60%, 70% 80% of your marketing on people who have already done business with you and you would like to bring them back to do business with you again because it’s much easier.

Stacey:             Yeah. There’s two parts of it. One is if you’re new, make sure that you set these systems up now so that you’re not waiting 15 years to bring them back.

On the other hand, for example, I have a client who is an electrician who’s been in business 30 years. We realized, “Oh, my God. There’s all these low-hanging fruit – people who have done business with him but then never came back into the fold.” We implemented a marketing campaign that reached out to people who, in the past year, he hadn’t heard from. The ROI was phenomenal. He had 42% of people contact him immediately, saying, “Oh, yeah. I just forgot about you.”

You see, that’s the thing. It’s not your customers’, clients’ and patients’ job to remember to do business with you. It’s your job to remind them that you are there. That you are the solution. And by focusing on the N, in the ACTION Marketing System, you nurture and you develop those relationships so that you are always front of mind.

Josh:                 Stacey, unfortunately, we are out of time. I’m going to bet people who are listening are going to want to find your book or find you. How would they go about doing that?

Stacey:             Great. Well, thanks for asking. My home base is actually That’s my website. There’s lots of free information on there so check it out. Take advantage of all the tools, tips and resources on there.

I also run a free Facebook group and you can join that by going to It’s a great community of small business owners, just like you, who want to ask questions, get feedback, network with your fellow small business owners. I’m in there all the time doing live trainings and helping you grow your business.

If you want to get a free copy of my book, Small Business Marketing Made EZ!, go to

Thanks for having me on your show today, Josh.

Josh:                 Cool.

I have an offer for you also. I have a program we call Cracking the Cash Flow Code because the truth is all small, privately-held businesses, or even big privately-held businesses, the owners are almost always and I mean always obsessed about cash – for a good reason, by the way, because we’ve all had times where we didn’t have enough cash in our business. I put together an infographic. It’s the five stages that you go through to what we call reaching cash flow freedom.

It’s easy to get. You go to our website, That’s .co and not .com. You’ll see Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Click on that. Click on the button. Once you get inside that part of our website, you’ll get a chance to have a free download of our infographic on how you can crack the cash flow and what you need to do to do that.

This is Josh Patrick. We’re with Stacey Riska. You’re at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at, or you can send Josh an email at

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.

Topics: sustainable business podcast, Marketing, Sustainable Business, small business marketing made ez, stacey riska, invest, transaction, marketing systems, action, attention, small business marketing, nurture, ongoing, connect

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