One of the biggest challenges of 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 are some of the reasons you don't use the inbound marketing process in your business:
1. You Live Off of a Set of Core Clients
2. You Don't Have the Expertise In-House
3. You Don't Have Time
4. You Think it's Too Expensive
5. You Aren't Ready
1. You Live Off of a Set Of Core Clients
This is a common theme for small businesses. They get established and 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.
As a result of the business somewhat "settling" 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.
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 are not experiencing 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.
2. You Don't Have the Expertise In-House
In small to medium-sized businesses, it's quite common for there to not be a marketing person in-house. In these cases, in-house marketing efforts are conducted by staff that most likely are not well versed in inbound marketing practices. It takes away from someone's time doing their core duties, so oftentimes it's rushed and poor quality.
This could be avoided by designating a person within your company, or working with an outside organization, to develop an inbound marketing strategy.
Big marketing firms have created a stigma regarding how much inbound marketing strategies really cost. Many small businesses succumb to the notion that all marketing efforts cost an arm and a leg. These businesses believe that inbound marketing agencies seek to change your logo, tag line, etc, essentially stripping your brand of its identity. This is not the case. The end goal is seeing results for your business -- not changing it past recognition.
3. You Don't Have Time
Feeling like you don't have the time to develop inbound marketing strategies is a common feeling for business owners. It can feel as though marketing efforts are low-priority in comparison to other business activities, however these efforts are extremely important.
How many times have you asked someone why they haven't done something and the default answer is time? Knowing where to start with your inbound marketing strategy can be complicated and overwhelming for business owners. Learning to ask for help when you need it can be ground-breaking. If you have the resources to improve your marketing efforts, do it! It will be worth it in the long-run.
There will be instances where you truly don't have time to implement an ongoing marketing effort. If you are pulling staff to work on marketing efforts 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.
4. You Think It's Too Expensive
As we 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 increasing revenues and profits. Because it's incorrectly viewed as a short-term 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.
We would argue that it costs you much more NOT to spend money on marketing. Take our 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.
5. You Aren't Ready
What do we 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 our 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.
Engraining 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 we say addressed correctly, we 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.
If you think you're not ready to start marketing because your new product isn't quite done, you're 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 After That
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 inbound marketing 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.
(Editor's note: this article was originally published in June 2014 and was recently updated)