A cute young girl balancing her pencil on her lips and pulling a face

Are We Trying Too Hard?

As the director of a small ad agency, I can say my team and I have seen a lot of this, a bunch of that and a fair amount in the middle.  Everyone wants to stand out, make their mark, differentiate.  Without knowing their objective, businesses launch themselves like paint balls at the newest buzz and want to belong to it.  Their worst fear – FOMO.  Fear of missing out.  

Many ad agencies capitalize on this; no question.  If our problem has become ‘making you feel like YOU belong’ rather than making your ‘customer feel like THEY belong’, we can solve that.  We just need to know what YOU, dear business owner, are afraid of missing out on, want to belong to, what your passions are and what you worry about at 4 am.  

But you know, it’s cheaper to hire a professional of an entirely different sort, to solve that problem.

If there is one thing that irks me as a business owner, it is people who manipulate business owners at their weak points.

Your business doesn’t need another master manipulator.  It needs a plan.   And do you know what the hardest thing for any business owner is?  It’s to speak to THEIR CUSTOMERS needs, not their own needs.  Your needs will be met when your customers’ needs are more than met.  If not, then reconsider being in business altogether.

So it’s time for you to decide.  Do you want a plan that includes business growth, something stashed away for your offspring, something people are proud to talk about, a brand that stands for goodness and fairness?  Do you want to be pleased to run into your neighbor at Costco?  Or do you want to squander countless dollars fussing around with facades.

You may love seeing your ad in the newest glossy magazine – ‘boy isn’t that a beauty!’ say all your dinner guests.  ‘what a lovely magazine this is!’.  You may love hearing your voice on the radio!  “I heard you on the radio today!” say all your friends and family.  You might redecorate your entire office in gorgeous contemporary colors and refresh your logo and your patients love what you have done with the place.  

Did that work out for you?  Do you feel like you belong now?  Did it impact your bottom line? Or do you still have that uncanny uncertainty that other people have figured it out and you haven’t yet.   Is your competitor doing a better job with their social media than you are?  Are their pictures prettier?  Is someone else’s write-up in the newspaper better than yours and (while you grit your teeth) is it sooo wrong!  ‘If only they knew!’.

They’ve got you.

You are spinning your wheels.

You may be reaching for the carrot.  Oh that delicious warm rosy orange carrot.  

Please, ask yourself:  Am I trying too hard?

Take all the time you need.



Ok, welcome back!

You figured it out.

We, you, me, everyone… we try too hard.




My business is built on making you look amazing, sure.  And (throwing humility out the window here), we’re damn good at it.

But you being amazing is not WHY we make you look amazing.  We don’t heroically pull out all the punches to waltz around the town square with you on our shoulders so you can have the appearance of being amazing.

Again, in case you missed it : we don’t make you look amazing so you can look amazing.

We want you to sleep well.  Earn the right income for your right input.  Oh sure, a little more than that too!  We want the right people to know the right information about you.

You don’t need that amazing logo refreshed for that ‘right now – I am not trying hard – look’ that everyone has, you don’t need wooden pallets in your office, you don’t need a beer tap in your welcome area, and who in the world needs an oversized elephant in their office (except for me, I need that).  

What you need is a plan.

STOP spending money everywhere.  Just stop.

Stop trying to keep up with the Jones’s, the SEO’s, the Google analytics, the social medias, the bloggers (except this one), the PR’s, the coffee cup holders, the whatevers.  Just stop.

Put down the fear of missing out.

Please don’t try so hard.



Now, start over.  Give yourself time.  Think back on why you started the company you love.  Remember the slog, the late hours, all those student loans (Lord help us) , the begging for venture capital, the all night study groups, the family that rolled their eyes, the bruised knuckles and the people in your life that helped you move furniture and paint the walls.  THIS.  THIS MATTERS.  THIS is something YOU are about.  YOU believe in.  YOUR soul is carved into.  

THIS merits a plan.  YOU have the right to take a deep breath, and NOT TRY so hard at the outreach part of your business.  YOU need to do what YOU are passionate about.  Because you are passionate about it!  

Now what do we propose?  Aside from the breathing and stopping bit?

We propose you remember you are in charge.  You know where you came from, you know where you are (including the good bits and the ugly bits like profit and loss and health care) and you know where you want to go.

You really do know your original place.  You really do know WHO you are.  Furthermore, if you think about it, you really do know who your clientele is, could be and should be!


Now, all you need is your plan!  

It goes like this (over simplified but don’t try too hard!):

  • ME
  • My clientele
  • What I want
  • How much money I currently have
  • How much I want that to turn into
  • Someone who knows the terrain and can take me there



Please – no more fancy logos and weird foyer flowers… just let’s get REAL and make a PLAN.



Do you know, there are other people who spent years, decades… learning how to help BUSINESSES like YOURS grow?  YOU be a dentist.  Let someone else be your tribe.   

I don’t want to fix my own teeth.  Please don’t feel like you need to fix your own marketing.  I can’t even open the hood of my car.  I am not very good at grilling.  You be you.  Let someone else help.  

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zo agency serves as the marketing department for small to midsize businesses that are typically too small to have their own internal marketing department and invariably too big to manage without one.

We’re your marketing director, strategist, account manager, project manager, family and tribe.

Dr. Matthew Smitley

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