Burgers and business—how to find the secret sauce in your vision

The eight proof points to successfully market any small service-led creative business.


What’s your small business signature? Successful businesses are like Big Macs—sure, they’re burgers and there’s plenty other types out there. But they have a special ingredient that keeps you coming back for more.

Defining your small business special sauce—whether it’s creative output, customer service or unrivalled lead generation—focuses your business to create the lifestyle you want. For some people, that’s money while others prefer time or travel opportunities.

You might have heard of the four Ps (position, price, promotion and place) which have been around since the 1960s as guiding principles of successful product marketing.

Well, I gave those four Ps a bit of a zhoosh to make eight Ps for modern small creative businesses, which typically rely on selling intellectual property or services rather than products.

The eight Ps of small business: purpose, people, promotion, personality, product, pipeline, process, and place.

Technology has liberated these small creative businesses and enabled all kinds of consultants, artists, writers or agency types to tread their own path as solopreneurs or small business owners. All you need to set up a business or side hustle is a laptop, the internet, a few clever tools and a burning ambition to build your own empire rather than work for someone else.

Yet businesses in the digital economy need to remember that technology is not only an enabler, but also lowers the bar for competitors to come in, copy and co-opt the revenue you’ve worked so hard to build.

Which Ps are you putting into your business

When it comes to the eight Ps of small business, most business owners subconsciously know what theirs is. But there is power in writing it down, sticking it on the wall and focussing on it.

Purpose: this is the why of your business and helps clients, vendors and even your good self to rally behind what you stand for and stay on a clear path.

People: in a solo business, this doesn’t just mean you, but also your clients, any staff or freelancers and more importantly your target market or customer base.

Promotion: this is about channels, creative and communications—how can customers find out about your services? What do you need to do to promote your business to make sure you have something others can’t easily copy?

Personality: what’s the tone, style and voice that drives your business? This isn’t about the business owner’s personality, but the human qualities the business evokes. It’s a bit like brand, and can help you capture something unique.

Product: what is it you actually create and make money out of? What language do you use to describe it and what particular market stage is it at? Is it in growth, maturity or declining stage of the demand cycle? What can you add to this product? How can you charge more for it?

Pipeline: how do you make sure future clients, revenue or customers will find you? Do you have a website optimised for search discovery? Are you regularly prospecting clients? Do you keep up appearances at industry events so potential customers always keep you top of mind?

Process: systems, tools, communication channels either help or hinder the way you execute your business. Can you optimise things by templating reports, presentations or invoicing? Can you better harness automation and technology to automatically run parts of your business?

Place: what territory does your business cover? Where do you operate the business and where are your customers located? What physical evidence is left after you’ve delivered your service?

Feel free to download and use the Qwilr Small Business Canvas to workshop your own business idea.

Qwilr Small Business Canvas

Purpose can be the hardest piece of the puzzle

Purpose, or the ‘why’ behind a business, can be the toughest thing to articulate but also the most powerful, especially when it comes to making money.

As Simon Sinek says:

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.

Author and purpose educator Carolyn Tate says most of us are stuck doing what we’re good at and what we get paid for.

But when people create purpose in their day to day life by doing things they love, it can unleash opportunities not only for personal fulfilment but also business success.

An EY survey found around 58% of businesses who prioritized purpose and embedded it into their organisation grew revenues by 10% or more, compared to the 42% of laggards who didn’t bother with purpose and found revenue declined.

Carolyn Tate articulates her own purpose as “unearthing the purpose in people and organisations to create a global purpose movement” and specializes in training others to help unleash the power of purpose.

Diagram 2.3: The ikigai model of purpose


“We have to create and build purpose—we don’t actually find it. It’s a practice that you build day by day,” she says.

Tate says organizations and people that “bring their purpose to work” are more engaged, more profitable and ultimately happier.

Designing business to suit your life

Digital marketer and designer Zoe Tattersall was once an industrial designer who realised the grind of working for someone else was not for her.

She knows her business purpose centres around high quality design, so she makes sure her business doesn’t get so big that she can’t deliver those special qualities.

“I specialize in digital design for small to medium businesses, entrepreneurs and startups—I work on everything from websites to logo and branding to user interface design,” she says.

She aims to bill between 60 to 100 hours each month, keeping enough time free for her second passion—surfing—and to stay focussed creatively.

“If I was to scale up the business, it would mean I would be doing a lot more project management and I’d rather just be designing,” Tattersall says.

Tattersall’s business goal was to replace her salaried income and allow her to have time to surf and develop a health and nutrition business she plans to relaunch next year.

“Lifestyle is highly important to me, it’s why I freelance. I need the flexibility and freedom that having my own business allows,” she says.

The not-so-secret special sauce recipe

Guy Delligatti invented the Big Mac and its secret special sauce back in 1967. He was a successful McDonald’s franchisee who broke strict rules to create and sell the burger, which ultimately made 19% of McDonald’s revenue each year.

Delligatti reportedly ate a Big Mac every day and lived to the ripe old age of 98. The ingredients of his secret sauce are now published on the McDonald’s website, perhaps more as a secret source of pleasure for those drunk or gluttonous enough to ignore health warnings and indulge.

And isn’t Delligatti’s legacy the ultimate business aspiration? To mix business with pleasure yet leave something unexpectedly memorable behind.

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