My prediction: In 2014 many small businesses will continue to ignore or misuse a comprehensive and integrated digital marketing strategy.
In the past few weeks I’ve talked to a bunch of SMB owners who gave me a litany of reasons why they can’t get into the integrated digital marketing game. Geoff Livingston wrote about how there is “Still Time to Catch Up in Social” and I was inspired to offer some thoughts on the excuses your business might be making to prevent you from implementing game changing marketing for your business.
But I Can’t Afford It
You can’t afford not to be marketing to potential customers. While you’re lamenting the cost of marketing, your competitors are taking your business from you and eating your lunch for good measure. No business should look at its marketing as an expense, but as an investment over time.
Many times businesses don’t even know what their marketing expenses will be. They just know that they are currently spending little or nothing. Compared to zero, everything looks expensive.
Finding a competent marketing professional to develop a marketing program around a reasonable budget is the first step. Many businesses are surprised after the initial sticker shock to find that they don’t need to spend as much as they thought.
I’m not suggesting that any business should jump into the marketing pool blindly, but at least put a toe in. It’s going to happen eventually. The market will push you into it whether you are willing or not.
But I Don’t Know How To Use A Computer
Ask yourself this; when was the last time you decided not to use Microsoft Word or Excel because you don’t know how to program in the programming language those programs were written in?
When was the last time you didn’t order business cards because you don’t know how to build or operate a printing press?
It’s a ludicrous excuse and you are losing business because of it. You don’t need to know Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, etc. to gain a benefit from it. All you need is either an employee or contractor who does.
I know older folks who have a philosophy that the business owners or managers should know every aspect of the business. It’s a great goal to strive towards, but you can’t do everything and you can’t postpone everything. Sometimes not knowing but having someone that does whom you trust is good enough.
But It’s Hard To Get Started
If you run a business chances are you are good at what you do. But there are things you aren’t good at. When tasks like this arise, you have two options; learn how to do it or hire someone to do it for you. Each has its pros and cons.
Marketing is important and can be harder for some than for others. Find a way to do it. Learn social media, hire a marketing person on staff, hire a consultant to advise you or a company to run campaigns on your behalf. There are options to fit most budgets. The first step is to decide you want to improve your marketing. Once that happens, you’ll find options if you look for them.
But I Don’t Have The Time
Most people don’t have time because they are not running their businesses efficiently.
Most people also believe that they need to work lots and lots of hours to feel like they are getting ahead. Here’s the truth; you should be striving to work less while at the same time growing your business. I don’t mean do less things, but instead optimize yourself and your business so that you can accomplish those same things in less time with the same resources. Then you’ll have time for marketing.
Even if you hire an external company, you’ll still need to make some investment in time; either yours or your staff’s. If you commit to making your company run better, you’ll have the time for marketing. And for dinners out and time with your family and exercise and to catch up on Walking Dead and so on.
Your time is your most valuable asset and you can’t buy it back no matter what. Be insanely protective about it and you’ll find you have more of it to use to do more things. Including marketing.
But It’s Too New
Facebook, Twitter, Google+, SEO; these might be new concepts to you, but many talented people have it figured out already. Theses channels aren’t new anymore. Any investment you make won’t be experimental. Of course, this is only true if you hire competent people instead of your brother’s friend’s former college roommate’s high school son who “knows computers.”
Take any marketing channel and you’ll find books, seminars, webinars, and blogs available on the subject. Many times for free. I’ll concede that these new platforms evolve quickly and require ongoing learning, but once you have a program going, it’s really a matter of making fine adjustments instead of learning something new over and over.
But It’s Not In My Comfort Zone
It’s probably not a good idea to go at it alone if this type of stuff is way outside of your comfort zone. If you hire a professional, demand that they help you understand what they are doing, at least conceptually. That’s their job. They need to represent your best interests and have a reasonable responsibility to explain their actions and be accountable for them. Maybe they don’t need to give you exposition about the super technical stuff, but certainly the business level stuff. If they don’t offer to give you insight into their strategy on their own, demand it.
There’s no rule that says that you can’t ask a million questions about any work being performed on behalf of your business.
But I Got Burned Before
Get over it. It happens to lots of businesses. You’re not alone. I’ve heard every horror story you can imagine, but that’s not an excuse to not move forward. When you stall your business because of the failure of a third party, you are making more of an investment in their past failure than your future success. It’s just dumb to do that. So don’t.
But I’ve Never Gotten Clients From My Efforts
Just because you did not succeed in your marketing in the past doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again in the future. If your marketing failed, there’s a reason. Taking a moment to analyze those reasons can go a long way toward structuring a more effective strategy.
Besides, every business has a campaign or two that just doesn’t work out. It’s not the end of the world. Learn from it and move on.
Will You Prove Me Wrong?
Don’t get left behind. Your business is important. It contributes to your life and the lives or the people that you work with. It’s also an important part of the overall economy. If your business and many others get just a bit more business and generate just a bit more revenue, that will have a tremendous effect on the overall economy. An improved economy can then continue to feed your business.
If you don’t know where to start, reach out to me and maybe my team and I can help you get moving in the right direction.
Most importantly, stop planning to do it and do it.
Here’s to you, your business and an amazing 2014.
Join the discussion 4 Comments
Great tips, Ralph! Social media and email marketing is too important for small businesses to continue ignoring.
However, the best advice that i advise folks to do – and have for years- is to start small. You don’t need to go full steam at the start. Start small and strive to post content and engage three to four days a week on one social media site. Then as you get more comfortable, beef it up to 5-6 days a week on that one side. As you begin to build a fan base (and this will take time and hard work), expand to other channels. Preferably, where your fans are already talking about you,
Starting small and gaining a little confidence and momentum is a great way to help any small biz owner get out of their comfort zone.
Very good article. i think what is really important is for the business owner to fall in love with marketing…because that’s what bring in the money!
Sure, you can lose your shirt and your time if you do it wrong.
One thing I disagree slightly is that it have to take time.
I’ve seen newspaper advertiser say this: “But you’ve just got to hang around for a few month to see a return.”
If someone apply simple direct-response marketing principles, he should be able to measure a response very quickly and never run an ad that doesn’t work twice.
Social Media in order to work well must be personality driven. Kinda like Virgin with Sir Richard Branson.
Having a cornerstore on a fanpage with no personality behind it just doesn’t make sense.
Well said, Ralph. I am afraid you are right. Many, many companies will never rise to the occasion. We will see.
Good thoughts. I’m sure this is a correct prediction, but I suppose it’s not much of a stretch. You could say “most companies will continue to operate next year as they did last year” and be equally right about a range of issues from operations, to market position, to sales, etc.
I do agree that it takes time to learn, and also suggest that everyone get involved somehow from new employees to the top executives.