The Matter of Mindsets

Why do we do, what we do? As marketers, that is. The obvious answer is money. ROI. Sales Goals. KPIs. Whatever you want to call it, there’s a monetary driver. But, achieving that goal is no longer as simple as putting out an ad, raising awareness, getting the customer to consider your product or service, and to ultimately, make a purchase.

Today, customers, have endless routes, paths, and ways to learn about a company, interact with marketing, and make purchases. But, with more avenues than ever, how can we hit our numbers and forge a strong relationship with our customer base?

It starts by appealing to your customer base in a way that’s relevant to them. And, often times, for Small Business Owners (SBOs) that means aligning your messages with their values and truly marketing to them instead of at them. But how exactly do you accomplish that?

While there’s no easy answer, we’re making the case for a different way to approach SMB customers and achieve that end goal, ROI. So, what’s this different approach and way of thinking? It’s all about getting inside the head of the customer, and in this case, Small Business Owners. It’s all about the Mindset.

The Artisan and the Crusader

What’s a mindset anyways, and why does it matter? Well, Carol Dweck’s said a thing or two about the importance of mindsets. In fact, she ran the study, wrote the book, and teaches about mindsets at Stanford University.

Interested in Dr. Dweck’s research?

Check out the book.

With a Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University, Dweck knew there was more than meets the eye when it comes to decision making. And she was right. Dweck identified, explored, and ultimately created a new psychological concept that has been adopted in the education, parenting, and business world. Dweck’s concept revolves around two fundamental mindsets—The Growth Mindset and the Fixed Mindset.2 Or, in the case of Small Business, these mindsets are a little something we like to call The Crusader and the Artisan. Something to note, however, is that unlike Dweck, we don’t define either mindset as good or bad. They’re simply different ways of thinking.

Meet the Mindsets

For SBOs, these mindsets serve as the basis for how they run their businesses, make purchasing decisions, and respond to marketing. And, for marketers, these mindsets offer an opportunity to better target, message, and understand how SBOs think, act, and make business decisions. So, with that said, let’s dive in and meet the mindsets.

Curious about the science behind these mindsets?

Click here for an in-depth research study.

A fun fact? Based on all our SBO research (seriously, it’s a lot), we’ve found that 80% of Small Business Owners share a mindset. But which one, you ask? The Crusader.1 But who are these Crusaders, and what are some of the attributes that define them? Let’s take a look.

If you’ve been following along with Small Talk, then these faces will be pretty familiar. And, in addition to being familiar, they’re all Crusaders. And what makes them Crusaders, happens to be some of their shared values for example, the fact that failure is only failure if you don’t learn from your mistakes, that there’s always room to grow, and that sometimes that leap of faith can make a huge difference when it comes to running their businesses.

But, how can these mindsets influence the way we, as marketers, speak to Small Business Owners? It has a little something to do with appealing to an SBO’s values and motivations.

Still looking for a little more information on the mindsets?

Take a look at this infographic, breaking down the key similarities and differences between the mindsets.

Let’s Talk Targeting

SBOs are different. We know it, they know it, and so does Gartner. That’s right, Gartner. The big guns. The research rockstars. The data dynamos. Gartner took a look at how marketing messages, targeting efforts, and yes—Mindsets, impact the way SBOs interact with a brand.

But, before we talk about mindsets, we have to talk targeting. The funny thing about targeting is that it’s easy. Relevancy is the hard part. And that’s what we’re here to talk about. Relevancy, and how it can lead to increased ROI. Because, when it comes to targeting, we all know what to do. Demographics. Behaviors. The whole shebang. But what about targeting SBOs? Still easy. The hard part is engaging them.  And that is where mindsets come in. Because when it comes to reaching SBOs we don’t have a targeting issue—we have a relevancy issue. So, how do we correct course? Let’s find out.

From Mindsets to Messaging

The number one place SBOs turn for information, and ultimately, get hit with messages? Online. SBOs are digital. Highly digital. Especially Crusaders. And, these highly savvy Small Business Owners want to hear from brands. In fact, 89% of SBOs want to hear messages from brands.1 But, most of those messages simply aren’t the kind of messages Small Business Owners want to hear. Small Business Owners are inundated with messages. So, how do you craft messages SBOs want to hear? By sticking with value.

So, what’s a brand to do? How can we cut through the digital marketing clout, and get our messages heard and more importantly, get SBOs to take action on them?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, Small Business Owners are proud. They’re proud to be small. To be owners. To be different. And they want marketers, and their messages, to appeal to these senses. Just take a look at the research. According to Gartner’s latest findings, Small Business Owners are 1x as likely to take action on ads that target their business, but they’re 1.8x more likely to take additional action on ads that target them as the owner.3

Want more great data on SBOs?

Visit Gartner.

But how does one get through to an owner, and more importantly, how does one relevantly message to SBOs? By understanding their mindsets and appealing to their values and motivations. So, what are some of these motivations that SBOs hold dear? Control. Growth. And Satisfaction and Flexibility.3

How Do You Define Success?

As for values, Small Business Owners have specific values that they hold dear, and by aligning your marketing messages to appeal to both their motivations, and values, you’re gearing up for success. Curious, about what those values are?3 Let’s take a look.

From Relevancy to Revenue

But, even with all this data in hand, and an understanding of these two, distinct SBO mindsets, how do you put all this data to work for your brand? Let’s break down what we’ve learned, starting with mindset-based messaging.

Focus your digital messages on both the business and the owner. And, don’t forget to speak to their personal ambitions and values. Why? Because Small Business Owners expect a highly personal, highly tailored level of effort from the brands they work with. They want to know brands are listening, that brands are speaking to them as individual business owners, and that their needs are being met, instead of simply being sold to.

A great way to make sure that your messages are meeting this mindset and value-based approach? Put the WIFM test to work as you craft your marketing. Ask yourself, “what’s in it for me,” or in this case—the SBOs. And from there, imbue your marketing with specific, value-based messages, and you’re sure to start winning over SBOs far and wide.


  1. Deep Diving with Crusaders (Vol. 14, B-Side Marketing Study, Rep.). (n.d.). Cargo.
  2. Dweck, C. (n.d.). MINDSET: The New Psychology of Success. Retrieved from
  3. LaRocca-Cerrone, K. (2018, June). Boosting Small Business Owners’ Responses to Digital Marketing Communications. PowerPoint presentation at the meeting of the CEB 2018 Marketing to Small Business Summit, Miami, FL