For small business owners and solopreneurs, hiring a marketing agency is often an unrealistic expense. As you grow, hiring a professional marketer may be an excellent strategic move that makes your business sustainable long-term. But what can you do NOW, before that’s an option?

Starting today, one of the most important, simple, and affordable things you can practice is transforming your brain to think like a marketer, setting a solid foundation for a more complex marketing strategy later on. When you think like a marketer, you can prevent some of the missteps that may be expensive to fix down the road, as well as pave the way for your future efforts.

Kill your darlings in exchange for real data

Entrepreneurs often have ideas, ad copy, graphics, and brand elements they’re married to because, well, they love them. We get it! This company is your baby. But in the marketplace, your preference is often not the most effective route. If you’re running ads on your own, test images, copy, and branding that’s clear and compelling- even if it’s not your personal favorite. Learn to rely on key performance metrics, not your own opinion.

Get gutsy about accepting feedback

If you have a friend who’s always there to congratulate you, even for the smallest achievement, and supports you unflinchingly in every decision you make, that’s not the right friend to give you feedback about your business. Instead, try to identify people in your life who have a realistic perspective, who will give you the straight facts, and who have accomplishments you admire in the industry your company is in. While their feedback won’t be as comfortable, it will be far more useful.

Build your platforms with scale in mind

Cutting corners now on a shoddy website build, payment processing service, or graphic design might seem like an easy way to save money. You can always upgrade when you need to, right? Wrong. As you scale, your platforms need to be able to take the heat, and if they can’t, you’ll find yourself needing expensive and time consuming fixes that cost more in the long-run. In addition, your first customers are some of the most important. They’ll be the first advocates for your brand in the marketplace. If they have a bad experience, your company might sink before you can learn to swim.

Don’t underestimate barriers to entry

Your website loads slowly? People will wait- They REALLY want to see your page, right? Nope. Check your user experience from start to finish, and note any minor inconveniences you experience along the way. Ask your friends and family to do the same. Is your add to cart button hard to find? Your ads don’t lead directly to the page for the product or service they’re advertising? Take note- and then remind yourself that even the tiniest roadblock is potentially a lost sale. While these inconveniences may seem minor to you, they won’t seem minor to your customers. We live in an attention economy- and even the smallest barrier to entry can breakdown your user experience.

Always focus on providing value

Why should someone spend their hard-earned money and limited time resources on your product or service? It’s not enough that YOU think your business is great. You need to prove your value from the first interaction you have with a potential customer. How are you making their life easier? More efficient? More beautiful? Identify the problem you’re solving for your customers and create messaging that EARNS their interest.

With a little practice, transforming your mind to think like a marketer isn’t difficult. Your business will thank you now- and the marketers you hire in the future will double thank you later.