Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks to Grow Their Business


Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks to Grow Their Business

By , March 26, 2024

I’ve often wondered how much baby boomer business owners know about using digital media. It turns out many of us don’t know how to (or choose not to) leverage tools like Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, lnstagram, podcasts, e-books, pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization, and other online tools for sales and marketing.

But in today’s world, it’s essential to understand and take advantage of “new media” that’s no longer all that new. As I’ve learned from personal experience, us “old dogs” can maximize these new tricks to grow our business.

Time to up your game in digital marketing

If you haven’t entered the digital age in your advertising and marketing, it’s time to rethink your approach. One of my clients owns a 1 OD-year-old manufacturing business, employs no sales staff and still receives orders by fax machine. They rely completely on existing business and aren’t out there shaking the trees to get new apples. I don’t believe that’s a sustainable approach and will certainly not lead to current growth or added value when it comes to a succession or exit strategy.

About four years ago, I made a conscious decision to become a thought leader in exit and succession planning. First, I had to have confidence in my thoughts, and to believe I had valuable knowledge and experience to share with others. But I knew the knowledge wasn’t enough. I needed a way to get the word out and self-promote.

If you don’t tell your own story (or hire someone to do it), no one will hear about your amazing product or service. A good friend of mine has a marketing agency called Proud Mouth, with a tagline that encourages clients to “be your own loud.”

It doesn’t take arrogance to get your story out there – but it does takes repetition. I’ve invested in producing digital content that I share regularly in Linked In posts, quarterly e-newsletters, e- books, videos and podcasts.

I decided to invest time, money and discipline to produce these “new media” tools, and it’s paid off – not only with new clients and speaking engagements, but industry recognition. Just recently I was nominated globally as the Exit Planning Thought Leader of the Year” by the Exit Planning Institute.

And after only the third episode of my new podcast, I got a message from a Cleveland business owner who had been reading Bo Burlingham’s Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top. He searched for a podcast on the topic and found my new Finish Big: The Podcast. He messaged me immediately and said, “I need some help. Can we meet for breakfast?” A week later, we signed an engagement agreement.

This ain’t peanuts: explosive potential of pay-per-click advertising

In the past dozen years, I’ve seen clients who made the commitment to “new media” marketing by hiring an outside consulting firm – and the results are impressive.

John Dannemiller is the fourth generation in his family to operate C.J. Dannemiller Co., a wholesale nuts and popcorn supplies business started in 1935. In nearly 90 years of business, roasting peanuts has remained pretty much the same – but the way to reach customers has changed dramatically.

In the past 15 years, sales were steady. Then John decided to hire a marketing firm who advised online pay-per-click advertising (PPC) -a model of digital advertising where the advertiser pays a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. You essentially pay for targeted visits to your website (or landing page or app). When PPC works, the fee is trivial because the click is worth more than what you pay for it. For example, if you pay $3 for a click, but the click results in a $300 sale, then you’ve made a hefty profit.

Search engine advertising is one of the most popular forms of PPC. It allows advertisers to bid for ad placement in a search engine’s sponsored links when someone performs a search related to their business offering. For example, if John Dannemiller bid on the keyword “wholesale roasted peanuts,” his ad could appear on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for that or a related search.

For C.J. Dannemiller Co., the investment in pay-per-click has paid off big. Within five years of starting and then expanding their pay-per-click advertising, their sales revenue has skyrocketed by a stunning 80%.

4 Smart Steps to Launch Your Own Digital Marketing

I recommend some basic steps to get started with effective digital marketing:

  1. Be radically objective about your current goto-market strategy. If it involves waiting for the fax machine to light up, you get a solid F. It your strategy is simply unclear, you get a C. Maybe you feel intimidated or ambivalent about using digital marketing. Maybe you’re a 62 year-old guy running a machine shop, and don’t know the difference between Twitter, lnstagram, Linked In or TikTok. You’re not alone. But it’s well worth educating yourself on which tools work in your business and industry and which ones don’t.
  2. Do a visioning exercise. Schedule or find time, maybe while driving or working out, to think about what you’d like your business to look like – and what needs to change. Write it down. Maybe you need to diversify your customer concentration if too much revenue comes from one customer. That’s risky – because that customer could go out of business, the owner dies, or they want a new vendor. If you suddenly need to generate new business in a new world of communication -would you know how to do that? It’s OK to say you don’t know how to do it! Time to ask for help.
  3. Meet with a few marketing consultants. Get at least two opinions on a go-to-market strategy and choose a plan that hits your target market. I use multiple vendors, including digital marketing agency Hard Media for Linkedln, Proud Mouth Marketing for podcasts, and business writer Gay Eyerman for my newsletters and e-books. Hiring just one firm might seem easier, but I like having a team with multiple opinions, strategies and tactics. Ask people in your industry for recommendations on marketing firms or freelance contractors.
  4. Invest in a digital marketing plan. This really is an investment in your company’s growth. For my business, I see the pay-off whenever I meet people who’ve heard my podcast or read a newsletter story that starts a conversation about their own business. Sometimes when I ask a business owner to be my guest on the podcast it opens up a relationship. And Linkedln readers often share my posts, expanding my circle of contacts and potential clients.

If old dogs like me can learn new tricks – you can, too. Digital marketing will grow your current business and maximize value for your succession and exit plan.


Mark Dorman

President & Managing Director of Succession Plus US


Mark Dorman is recognized as an industry leader for his work with small and mid-sized businesses. A Certified Exit Planner and Certified Family Business Specialist, he has counseled more than 100 privately held businesses.

In a career spanning 35+ years, Mark has purchased, founded, and exited businesses of his own. He published numerous e-books on exit planning and hosts the popular Finish Big podcast.

Mark was president of Legacy Business Advisors before establishing Succession Plus US.

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