I’m going to start off by making a bold statement… If you don’t understand marketing, and don’t hire someone who does, you’re either already out of business or dead and don’t know it.
I know, I’m a marketing consultant so that’s an easy claim to make, but even if I wasn’t I’d make the same statement, because it’s the right thing to do for YOU. I live by the mantra that I’m willing to risk our friendship in order to tell you what you need to hear, even if it’s not necessarily what you want to hear.
And if you’re in business, or thinking about going into business, you need to hear this (unless you’re planning on struggling and blaming the economy, in that case, as you were.)
Let me explain…
There’s a common piece of advice going around that gets a lot of people into trouble, and it goes something like this “follow your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life”.
For many hopeful entrepreneurs, this advice is far too accurate. They love dogs, so they try and start a business doing X with dogs, and they never manage to get it off the ground and thus, never work (that passion) a day in their life.
Or they love fitness, so they decide to open a fitness studio, and struggle to make rent for a few years until finally they move on to something else.
Or they love making cakes, so they decide to open up a bakery and never earn enough to pay them what they’re truly worth.
Or they love marketing, and decide to open up a marketing agency and struggle to find clients and eventually find work elsewhere.
No specific industry – or passion – has an exclusive on dream crushing. I’ve witnessed failures across every industry, and often it’s because they bought into the “follow your passion” baloney.
So what does that mean, that following your passion leads to failure? No, not at all. In fact some of my greatest successes have come out of businesses I’ve started because of a passion. But I understood one very important key differentiator.
Marketing is the company, your passion is the deliverable.
I’ve run a landscaping company, a fitness company, a dirt bike company, and now a consulting agency, and in every instance, the deliverable was the passion, but I worked it like a marketing company.
Here’s the thing: Yes, there’s an itty-bitty teenie-weenie chance that your “passion business” is just going to take off because you love it so much and do it so well no one can ever touch you and people line the streets to do business with you.
And if your business strategy is to be that 0.00000000001 percent, go for it.
But that’s no way to build a business. And I personally don’t like leaving my livelihood to such chance. I much rather take life by the (insert explicit) and create the life I deserve.
The sooner you realize that you’re a marketing company, the sooner you can really start building a business that can not only provide you with a decent living while you’re working IN the business, but is worth infinitely more to you when you decide to sell.
“But I don’t understand anything about marketing”… Simply not true. The fact is, many people who are passionate about a certain industry are usually great at marketing, they just don’t realize it. And if you’re really no good at marketing, that’s where people like ME come in!
Small business/local level marketing is really not that complicated. I feel like I’ve written enough articles (check out the list HERE) to give you a great head start on marketing ideas, but let me give you one tip that completely revolutionized my businesses: Spent at LEAST 2 hours every single day working ON your business, ON marketing your business, ON growing your business.
Most folks that start their business based on a passion find themselves in a brutal “catch 22” because they see their job as doing what they love, saying fixing cars, and not building the business – but that’s not accurate. A business owner runs the shop, he doesn’t fix the cars. At the very least, he does both.
If you spend all your time fixing cars and never working on growing the business you won’t have enough business to keep fixing cars!
My experience has taught me that if you can find a couple hours every day to work on the business, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.
“But I’m too busy, I don’t have time”. Get over it. This isn’t high-school, and I’m not “telling you what to do”. Find the time, get up earlier, stop watching so much television, go to bed later, cut out Facebook, stop reading articles like this, OR don’t, I don’t care what you do, but if you’re a real business owner you’ll figure something out and make the time.
So let’s say you’ve decided to shape your own destiny and understand that everything you do is marketing, and you’re going to start investing two hours of every day into marketing, where do you start? What in the world do you actually do?
Here’s how I started: The first day, I spent the entire 2 hours searching “guerilla marketing ideas” or “local marketing ideas” on the web, and copy/pasting every list I could find into a word document until I had a dozen or so pages worth. For this, I prefer straight list, almost bullet point, with very little “explaining”.
Then, I’d print out the sheet and keep it on my desk. The next day, at my scheduled 2 hour time slot (and you better schedule it otherwise, like exercise, it just won’t happen!) I’d pull out that sheet, look at number 1 and do it. Then, cross it off, look at number 2 and do it, and so on until the entire list is complete.
At first, the results may seem slow, but like pumping an old water pump, after some serious effort up front the water will start to flow and it’ll only take a light, consistent effort to keep the water flowing.
Once you’ve got a base, once you’ve got some marketing working for you and the cash is starting to flow and you’re looking to step it up, then I’d encourage you to seek out an expert, but truthfully getting started is more about understanding that marketing is a must, more than it’s about finding someone to do it for you.
One last piece of advice… Be weary of anyone that says things like “this is the only thing that matters these days” when referring to marketing. For example “Facebook is the only marketing you need”.
As a locally based small business do NOT make the mistake of ignoring the power of things like:
- joint ventures with fellow surrounding businesses (i.e. a poster displayed at a gas station asks “are you hungry” with directions to a local restaurant, and the restaurant displays a sign that says “need gas?” with directions to that gas station.)
- flyers around town (i.e. street post, community boards, etc.)
- Outdoor signage (i.e. window displays, “A” signs, flags, lawn signs, etc.)
- community engagement (i.e. donating to a cause, having a booth at a festival, etc.)
You get the idea, the list is really endless. Heck, I may (MAY!) compile a list of my top local marketing ideas for you in the coming weeks. We’ll see how my workload is.
Let’s wrap this up…
I’m not against you following your passion. It can lead to some of the most pleasurable years of your life, but don’t ever lose sight of the fact that passion alone does not build a business. Marketing builds a business, and everything is marketing. How you answer the phone, how you send invoices, how you deal with customer complaints, how you deliver your service, how you stock your shelves, how you send emails…. EVERYTHING IS MARKETING.
Every action you take (or lack of action) is either helping your business or taking away from your business.
To your success,