I had lunch with a small business owner yesterday.

Looking for a recession-proof niche?

This is about as close as you’re going to get.

e7sports provides online management systems for youth sports groups. Youth sports is pretty inelastic. The demand doesn’t fluctuate too much with the economy.

They’ve been at it for six years and are hitting their stride, projecting 75% growth over the next two years

We talked about his marketing strategy.

He said, “You know how we market? Our product works and we answer the phone.”

My kind of guy.

Marketing isn’t just advertising. It isn’t just being creative. It isn’t simply saying you’re the best.

It’s living and breathing it every day by working on your internals – your brand strategy, your tactics, your culture.

Having a great product, answering the phone and genuinely caring about customer service (see Zappos) is both cost effective and smart.

We see a lot of waste.

We know of one business in Orange County that two years ago did a million a year in revenue and spent $10,000 per month on print and cable TV. They tracked none of it.

Ouch.

It raises a classic marketing debate.

Which is better?

A great product and mediocre marketing or great marketing and a mediocre product…

It is getting more and more difficult to have the latter. Nike and Budweiser and anyone in the entertainment business beware. There are a lot of conversations going on out there and a lot of individuals with clout that can rave about a great product or slam a bad one.

You are a small business. You only have so much time, money and resources. Start with first things first. Have a great product. Answer the phone. If you haven’t been focusing on that, now is the time.