why most small businesses suck at marketing

i believe the reason most small business owners view marketing & advertising efforts as mostly ineffective and a huge a waste of money is because they suck at marketing. based on 10+ years of anecdotal experience, here's my list of the top 5 reasons why most small business marketing sucks ::

5. the business lacks clear objectives

in other words, what's the destination? are you looking to double your total revenues in the next 18 months? or increase the volume of your most profitable services and products by 20%? if you don't where you're going, how can you possibly know when you arrive (or whether or you're any closer to getting there)?

4. the business lacks a marketing strategy

a marketing strategy is all about defining how you plan to arrive at your destination. so if the goal to double your typical number of new sales leads, an effective strategy to implement might be to build a formal network of referral partners. wrapped within the strategy should be a series of tactical plans and steps needed to create that network. john jantsch of duct tape marketing has written a number of excellent blog posts on this subject ("marketing without strategy is the noise before failure" is a good one).

3. the business fails to define and measure success

not only can "success" mean different things to different people, but it can also vary from project to project. "success" for a $1,000 coupon campaign might entail bringing 100 new customers in the door. "success" will be measured very differently for $5,000 spent to create or upgrade your website. knowing what you want to achieve and defining how much additional revenue or other benefits is needed to make it worthwhile is the only way to evaluate how well your time & money is being spent.

2. the business hires someone to help, but it's the wrong kind of help

even when a small business owner realizes they're not an expert in marketing (or any other discipline, for that matter), the reality is they still don’t know what they don’t know. it's easy to become misinformed, misguided or even misled in these circumstances, and relying on references or referrals is usually not enough. this is an area where holistic assistance programs like ZENCubate can really help.

and finally, the #1 reason why most small businesses suck at marketing...

1. the business takes a "do-it-yourself" approach

it's true that many marketing agencies and related experts are beyond the financial reach of many small businesses. the truth is, however, a solid marketing program should not only pay for itself, but also generate profit.

you can't do it all yourself. bringing in the right resources at the right time for the right money is what it's all about.

jack speranza is ceo and founder of main street ventures and passionate about building profitable, independent businesses.

the hidden value of coworking

thomas boston brandersone of the things i like most about coworking is how we all become a small part of each other's business. not in the sense of working together on specific projects (though that sometimes can happen), but in being each other's sanity checks, idea generators, expert gurus, and occasional psychotherapists. we share each other's struggles, share more than a few giggles, and savor in one another's success.

although coworking at the zen bungalow is done on a small scale , we have our fair share of talented and accomplished professionals. today i've chosen to highlight one of our original members to illustrate some of the more powerful (but hidden) benefits to coworking.

the back drop

thomas | boston helps business owners and marketers establish engaging and sustainable whole brands. i first met its owner, tom lanen, a little over 15 years ago when our children attended the same day care. tom is the epitome of a marketing guru -- a master in the art of focusing and amplifying the essence of a business so that it stands above the crowd.

tom's not old, but he's been around the block a few times. he's helped build and focus brands for big names such as boston edison (now nstar), boston whaler, lexis-nexis, thermo scientific and velcro. and he's done his share of amazing things for small brands too (like andrew abu realtors, long life farm and quebrada baking company).

shortly after joining our community at the bungalow, tom was hired to direct the re-branding of pacific resources benefits. two partners on the executive team were buying out the founder, and re-branding the business in a way that reflected its expertise, capabilities, and track record was long overdue.

tom assembled his team of top-notch professionals to partner with him and began to do his thing. it was a privilege to capture glimpses into his process. he does for branding what we do for business -- create simplicity out of complexity. and it ain't easy.

the take away

when you share a work environment you also share other things. your excitement. your frustrations. your doubts. your concerns. we turn to each other for perspective and feedback. we interact. it's what humans do.

these fleeting but consistent interactions are incredibly educational. through tom i've learned about aspects of brand strategy my untrained eye never consciously recognized. i've learned how their meaning gets communicated on such an instinctive level that we have no choice but to react to it. you don't learn these kinds of things in a classroom. and you don't even learn them when you hire folks like tom, either. they're all hidden in the process.

tom's daily "lessons" help me think more clearly about the re-definition of my own company's branding. they've also positively influenced my work with clients. and tom isn't the only person giving lessons.

though others at the bungalow may not be able to articulate the kind of learning process that goes on here, i've no doubt they recognize the impact. it's just one of many hidden values to coworking. just one of many that can have a tremendous impact on any small business. coworkers unite! here's to our success!

jack speranza is president and founder of main street ventures, a technology geek, an attorney (shhh), and "zen master" at the bungalow. for 15 years he's helped companies grow faster, for less money and with fewer mistakes. he's had long stints in corporate america and the world of investor-funded startups, but small business is his passion.