Marketing. It’s one of the most stressful words in a small business owner’s vocabulary. Marketing can be overwhelming. It can be expensive. It can be frustrating. It can push you to the edge of a nervous breakdown. Most importantly, marketing can mean the difference between running a successful business and running yourself into the ground.
No pressure here. No pressure at all.
For a small business owner, the stresses of marketing never really subside. They’re always front and center, challenging us to keep up the pace. There’s always something new, something different, something that your business can’t live without. But for a business owner that’s just starting out, the stress that comes with creating a marketing plan can often prove to be an overwhelming hurdle. The choices are endless. The options overwhelming. The number of paths to follow can often lead a frazzled business owner to do nothing. Paralysis by analysis, they call it. Too many choices to make, so you don’t make any.
To make things even more difficult, everywhere we turn and everyone we meet seems to hold the latest and greatest tips and tricks. There they are, lying in wait, ready to pounce. Marketing advice is flowing freely, seemingly bubbling up from every crack in the sidewalk. Seems like we can’t swing a dead balance sheet without hitting a marketing expert…
So, what’s a small business owner to do? How do we discern the important advice from the schemes intent on separating us from our hard-earned profits? And if we don’t figure this out quickly, will there even be any profits to separate us from?
It’s enough to drive a person back to their dreaded 9-5.
While we’d like to think that there’s one simple solution, one marketing plan to rule them all, the hard truth is that it just doesn’t work that way. There are certainly some overriding rules that hold true in most instances, but the harsh reality it that every business owner’s situation is unique in some way. Every business owner is different. Every profession is distinct. Every market that we serve has it’s own diversity, it’s own flavor. What works here may not gain traction there. Something that brings in the business in one market may result in crickets in another. Copy and paste really doesn’t apply here.
What? You really didn’t think this was going to be easy, did you?
So, back to the same question: What’s a business owner to do? How do we figure out what marketing paths to choose? Where do we focus our attention and how do we decide where to spend our money?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Each of our situations are unique. In order to achieve the best results possible, our marketing strategy must also be unique and tailored to our own market’s individual needs.
Now, that’s not to say that cookie-cutter marketing programs are useless. There are many “copy and paste” programs that work quite well. We have to look no further than the proliferation of franchise programs to see the results of this strategy. For a fee, a business owner can follow the franchise company’s carefully outlined business plan and we’re (almost) guaranteed success. And for many business owners, this plug and play version of a marketing strategy is exactly what the doctor ordered. A simple plan that provides a decent return on investment.
But what if we’re not in a position to spend money on a marketing program or franchise business? What if we’re looking to grow our business in a different way? This is where it can get a bit tricky. This is where the multitude of options available can become overwhelming.
While plug and play plans do offer some sense of security and stability, it’s certainly possible to succeed on our own. It just takes a bit more effort on our part. It requires more personal investment in the success of our businesses. More research; more reading; more learning; more trial and error. We have to actively search out our marketing options, decide which ones to implement, and figure out which ones work best for our unique situation.
There’s definitely more work (and more risk) involved in this method, but the rewards can also exceed those that we’d expect to get from doing the same thing as everybody else.
Think about the marketing we see every day of our life. Marketing is all around us 24/7; it cannot be avoided. It’s become so ubiquitous that we almost don’t even notice it anymore. Billboards, commercials, sponsored posts, product placement. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to find my wife telling me that tonight’s dinner is being sponsored by Allstate.
Your pot roast is in good hands…
If you think about it, we’re so inundated with marketing messages that we really don’t even notice them anymore. They’re there, but often they don’t even register. While that’s not to say that those messages aren’t having some subliminal effect on us, the reality is that most of us simply tune out the ads. We don’t even take notice of what’s being sold. We drive by billboards without even looking at them. We scroll through our feed without stopping. We hit the fast-forward button to bypass those pesky commercials when we’re watching the TV.
They’re there, but they’re really not.
But, if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, sometimes some of them do register. We’ve been known to look up from our screens on occasion, when something unique catches our eye. Once in a while, someone comes up with a marketing plan that registers: something so unusual that we can’t help but stop what we’re doing to gaze in wonder.
Well, I’ve never seen that before…
Now, that’s not to say that we must outdo the collective minds of the marketing community to succeed in our own businesses. After all, most of us are not marketing gurus. If we were, we wouldn’t be running our small businesses and worrying about how we’re going to keep the lights on next month.
We’re not looking to be the next Aflac duck or Amazon Alexa. We’re just looking for something different. Something unique. Something memorable. Is there something that we can do that’s just a little bit different from the static being produced by our competition? Something that will make our potential clients look up from their screens and say “Well, I’ve never seen that before.”
While it would be great if our marketing plan became an internet phenomenon, the reality is that we don’t need to go viral to win at small business. We don’t need to start a revolution to achieve success. We simply need to be able to interrupt our clients’ train of thought long enough for them to notice us. Get them thinking about our product; making a mental note of why they should be calling us when they need our services. Stop their flow long enough for our product to register in their stream of consciousness.
Just a few seconds, that’s all we need.
It’s not what you sell that matters as much as how you sell it.Brian Halligan
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