One of the biggest challenges to starting something new in your business is the learning curve that comes with it. We're all so busy doing the many daily activities that we already do, that it's easy to put off starting a new initiative like marketing.
Larger businesses might laugh at the idea of NOT marketing, but it's quite common in many small to medium sized businesses. There's usually a lack of marketing expertise in-house so they avoid the learning curve that it will take and the inevitable marketing mistakes they will make. It doesn't have to be that way. Here're some reasons you don't market your business.
You Live Off Of A Set Of Core Clients
This is too common with many SMBs. They get established. They develop a list of core clients that pay their bills. Then, anything that comes in on top of that is gravy. This scenario ought to keep a business owner up at night with "what ifs". In this environment, the sales people tend to be more of the "farmers" in the hunters and farmers analogy. They aren't developing new business as much as they are fielding new incoming requests for business and taking care of the "big fish" clients that pay their bills.
Because the business has sort of settled for their current set of core clients and state of growth in their business, very little thought is put into marketing the company. It's certainly not a strategic objective. It's very clear which companies have an ongoing marketing effort and which do not when we meet with them. Nine times out of ten, when there is no real marketing effort at a company, our initial meeting is with the IT guy, or someone completely out of the strategic planning loop for the company.
The scenario that drives these businesses to start marketing is very predictable. One of their big fish decides to buy from the competitor that has been actively marketing to them. This starts a panic and makes the business hustle to try to fill the void created by losing the client, and they rush into bad marketing practices. Unfortunately, they start marketing at the worst time. They now have a significant revenue and profit hit so they are hesitant to make a real investment in marketing and they take shortcuts because they want results asap. Overall, it's a bad situation. If they had been actively marketing the whole time, they would be generating leads that they can develop into more big fish and not feel the hit so hard when a big client leaves. Even better, they could have been marketing to their existing clients as well, and not lost the business in the first place.
You Don't Have The Expertise In-House
In small to medium sized businesses it's quite common for there not to be a marketing person in-house, so any in-house efforts are done by staff that is NOT well versed in marketing best practices so the whole effort suffers. It takes away from someone's time doing their core duties so it's rushed. It's never measured and compared to business objectives. It's perceived to be expensive in time and money for the lack of results produced. Overall, it doesn't produce the desired effect. This puts a bad taste in ownership's mouth about investing in marketing. It's unfair to marketing because the business hasn't put forth a quality effort. It's like forcing your painter to fix a plumbing problem. Of course your plumbing problem isn't going to be fixed efficiently and effectively. The painter is being put into position that they aren't qualified or interested in doing. The effort will suffer.
What's worse, big marketing firms have given many small businesses the wrong impression of what it costs to implement an ongoing marketing effort. They want to come in and correct your logo, your tag line, etc... when in most cases, they are simply killing the little brand recognition you've had for the past 10-20 years. More time is spent on branding guides and rules than developing business results. That may be okay for large companies. Small businesses need to invest better than that and can.
You Don't Have Time
While it's more likely that you don't have the desire to spend the time to figure things out in-house, time is an easy reason for most things. How many times have you asked someone why they haven't done something and the default answer is time? What do you usually think when you hear that answer? B.S.! Right? The same applies when you, as a manager or business owner say, we just haven't had time to implement a marketing strategy or ongoing marketing effort. It's much more likely that you aren't sure where to start (see lack in-house expertise above), don't want to waste funds figuring out the best way to market your business (see lack in-house expertise above), or can't decide which staff person to distract with the effort (you guessed it, see lack in-house expertise above).
There obviously times when you truly don't have time to implement an ongoing marketing effort. If you are pulling staff to work on the effort and they are supposed to be focusing on something else, they don't typically have the time. What's more, they will rush this "side project" because they need to continue to produce in their primary position.
You Think It's Too Expensive
As I touched on above, there are a few main reasons that most small businesses think consistent marketing is too expensive, including:
- Learning curve takes time which equals money
- Lack of expertise means too much wasted money on ineffective marketing tactics or efforts
- Somewhere else in your business has to sacrifice so that staff person can focus on marketing
- There's a perception that marketing consulting is expensive, thanks to large marketing agencies
Additionally, marketing is all too often looked at as a 1-time expense that occurs instead of an ongoing investment in building your brand and increasing revenues and profits. Because it's incorrectly viewed as a project instead of an ongoing, incremental strategic initiative, companies tend to only look at an initial expense. When you go from spending nothing on real marketing of your products or services to having an investment in it, the perception is that it's a big expense.
I would argue that it costs you much more NOT to spend money on marketing. Take my first scenario for example. The business may not lose one of their big fish at all if they actively market to them. Even better, they will grow the number of big clients they have and not feel the impact so much if one leaves.
You Are't Ready
What do I mean by this? It's clear when a business doesn't have their house in order when we meet with them. We ask questions such as, "What are your key selling points?", "How do you get new clients now?", "How is your growth trending now?", etc... and the responses are completely unenlightening. The staff put in charge of implementing a marketing strategy are not ready to answer these questions. That tells us that there has been little thought internally about what a successful marketing effort looks like.
They want to jump in head first into a new website, SEO, social media, etc... but haven't thought much about why. We always recommend backing up and doing it right. Not everyone goes that route.
We also hear directly from leads and prospects that they aren't ready to push a marketing effort. They have a new product they are finishing up. They are being audited. Their HR person is on maternity leave. The reasons go on and on. The problem is, these types tend to never be ready. They are always playing catch up and just don't have the internal motivation to make marketing a priority. It tends to bite them in the butt at some point. See my first point above.
Why You Are Wrong
The biggest issue with waiting to actively and consistently market your products or services is that when you decide you really need new clients, it's too late to start marketing for immediate results. You're starting from the bottom at that point. You have to fight through your competitors' messages to reach new leads and it's a longer path to success.
Ingraining marketing in your business ensures that you are always reaching new leads. You are staying front of mind for when a lead decides to make a buying decision. You are reminding them that you are there, qualified to help them, and THE choice for solving their problem.
Time and cost are things that when addressed correctly, are non-issues. When I say addressed correctly, I mean making sure you are investing in the most effective marketing tactics to achieve your objectives, with people that have the expertise to do so. When you want something to succeed, do you put your best or worse people on the project? Your best people, obviously! By putting under qualified and distracted people in charge of your marketing effort, you WILL spend unwisely. You WILL spend too much time and money and make it more expensive.
If you think you're not ready to start marketing because your new product isn't quite done, you are mistaken. You should be building interest. You should be getting prospects in line to buy your new product. You should also have an ongoing internal effort to make sure that marketing in ingrained in all of your business.
You Need Help Initially And Moderate Help Ongoing
If you're going to market your business, you need to give it a fair shake by starting correctly. Get a partner involved that is willing to get you started with a heavy focus on coaching you through the process. This ensures that you are not only doing things right from day 1, but you are eliminating most of the learning curve by getting coached through the process and setup for ongoing success.