Black and White

Branding Insights for Business Success

Black & White is an ongoing compilation of cogent and compelling essays, articles, whitepapers and presentations by Nocturnal offering actionable insights and practical applications to help transform great businesses into successful, thriving brands.

8,634,718 Simple Things You Can Do Today To Grow Your Business And Succeed

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Any of this sound familiar...

"10 Sure Fire Ways To Improve Your Google Ranking", "3 Essentials For Effective Networking", "7 Simple Steps To Boost Your Sales", "100 Ways To Promote Your Business Online... For Free!", "12 Web Site Mistakes To Avoid", "50 Great Web Sites For Publishing Your Articles", "Top 10 Secrets Of Search Engine Optimization", "15 Things You Need To Know About Twitter,"...

Stop! Hold it right there.

A person can overcome addiction in 12 steps, and the world's largest religion can parse a comprehensive moral code down to only 10 commandments, yet there are 15 things I need to know about Twitter?

Get real.

All These Numbers Don't Add Up

Well, actually, they do... and the total keeps growing, ad infinitum. The titles listed above are a modest sampling of real articles found online espousing some type of "quick step" path to success. The internet is rife with would-be blogging bhagwans, pundits and prognosticators, sages and savants outlining the "things you need to know", the "things you need to avoid", and the "most important things" in business - often in convenient numeric order.

The numbers are daunting. Many such articles offer useful, and worthwhile advice, provided by competent professionals with legitimate credentials. The problem is weeding through the pretenders to find the contenders.

A Brief Disclaimer

In the interest of full disclosure, I must fess up to being guilty of playing the numbers game myself, for writing an article called 10 Not-So-Obvious-Books Every Business Owner Should Read. I'm very proud of that article. It's a fun, entertaining, and useful piece, and I wouldn't change a word - but the title makes me cringe. Honestly, it always has, but I went with it anyway. So, am I a hypocrite? I don't think so (or I sure wouldn't be writing this).

Ultimately, the distinction between a good article and a bad article is in the value of the content, and that's the moral of this piece. Finish reading this article, and if you're so inclined, read the other one too, then decide my fate for yourself.

Success Is Not A Mathematical Formula

Entrepreneurs and business owners all have moments of self-doubt along the way, wondering if they could, or should be doing something differently. That's where these "quick step" articles can drive you bonkers. Keeping pace with them all is impossible. More than likely you'll be left feeling like there's more you're doing wrong than you're doing right - because you're darn well not doing everything they say you should be doing. Trying to manage it all can stifle you with the suffocating fear that you're so far behind the curve you'll never catch up, much less get ahead of the pack.

Take a deep breath. Clients and the competition are not passing you by because you aren't maximizing the 100 best ways to promote yourself online. Can you improve your online marketing? Sure, who couldn't? Should you? Yes, at some point - because a brand must adapt it's message and methods to remain vital. But, don't panic because you're not doing everything some article says you "must" be doing – now. In fact, maybe you shouldn't be doing any of what that article says at all.

There are no universal formulas for success. What works to improve someone else's sales might not be what speaks to your particular customer demographic. Perhaps social media channels like Instagram can help an independent restaurant chain spread the word about happy hour specials, new items, or monthly features - and significantly increase dinner sales. But, that doesn't mean instagram is also a valid marketing approach for a dental practice seeking to attract new patients.

The Good, The Bad, and The Total Waste of Time

Many resources offer terrific advice for entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to connect, share, and learn. Warning: Posting articles online can create the appearance of credibility, but appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes the author is a hack, and you need to know before you start acting on their advice - because bad advice could be devastating to your business. So, how do you determine who is trustworthy?

Start by thinking for yourself. Don't simply take everything you read at face value. For instance, if somebody is offering expert advice on search engine optimization, but they don't rank high on Google or other search engine sites, then, well... you get the point.

Anybody can acquire and post a random list of 50 web sites where you can publish articles, but do you have time to visit 50 web sites to see if they offer what you need? Probably not, so what good is the list? Someone posting an article called "50 Great Web Sites For Publishing Your Articles" isn't trying to help you, they're merely trying to draw attention to themselves.

On the other hand, a competent, knowledgeable expert in online publishing is going to offer quality rather than quantity. They'll edit the list down to a manageable overview providing useful facts and information to help you determine if these sites are right for you – and worth the considerable time investment.

Every now and then the so-called "expert advice" in articles is so obvious that it falls under the "no duh" category. For instance, if an article explains why your professional email should read along the lines of,, versus,, this author is not offering expert advice – because that juicy little business-101 factoid, while relevant, should be self-evident to anyone with half a brain. The author might have good intentions, but you're not likely to learn anything in the article that's going to propel your business to the next level.

Crunching The Numbers

We all need a little guidance along the way, and I am truly grateful for the wealth of knowledge and experience that is shared online. You can't follow all the advice - and the good news is that you don't have to. Understanding that, and separating the useful from the useless, will keep you on the path to success – however many steps it takes.


Ken Peters is Co-founding Partner and Creative Director of Nocturnal Branding Studio, a full-service branding and design agency located in Phoenix, AZ. He's been known to design for everyone from Silicon Valley giants to start-up cat toy manufacturers. His work has garnered him everything from a host of awards to a grateful kiss on the cheek. He also makes a mean teriyaki chicken dish, but it hasn't earned any awards. To talk to Ken email him at:

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