Is it easier to build a business or start a movement?

Mark Schaefer
4 min readSep 18

There is a quote in my new book that is gripping and profound, but I’m not sure I fully understood it until this week. This quote is from Boss Mom CEO Dana Malstaff: “It’s easier to start a movement than build a business.”

Dana is a visionary business leader, and when she speaks, I listen.

But what does this quote really mean? What does a movement have to do with business and customers? It seemed a little woo-woo to me. Are you going to walk into your supervisor’s office and tell her that you’re starting a movement this week?

As I was helping a client with an exhausting sales problem, the truth finally sunk in. I understood how a “movement” can connect to business success, and I wanted to pass this insight along to you, too. Here’s what happened …

The spark of an idea

I love doing my one-hour coaching calls. Anybody, anywhere can sign up, and I get to meet the most fascinating people from all over the world!

A recent call was with an artist who specializes in a practice of music therapy. He teaches people how to play musical instruments in a way that helps them calm down and heal — certainly something needed in the world today. I liked his idea, but he struggled to keep his business going.

He had some limited success using Facebook ads to drive sales of his classes, and he had read every book and blog post he could find on sales funnels and lead generation.

But after many years of endless ad cycles and experiments, he barely made ends meet and was exhausted. He had read my book Belonging to the Brand about the link between business and community and wondered if community-based marketing could be his answer.

As we talked about a possible business strategy, the meaning of Dana’s quote finally lit up for me.

Start a movement or build a treadmill?

I think the missing link between sales funnels and community is the emotional bond.

A lead magnet can attract clicks and maybe people who like free stuff, but it’s a treadmill that never ends. Keep advertising, keep promoting, and keep them clicking. Even with the help of…

Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!