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.

FroZEN musings :: 8 questions every small business owner should answer

One benefit to all this snow (at least 60" and counting) is the opportunity to ponder many things while dealing with the white stuff (a/k/a shoveling).   In true Zen spirit, I've decided to label these my froZEN musings...

The most important question we answer for clients is pretty straightforward :: what does your business need to do today in order to achieve growth & profitability tomorrow?  Most owners think they know the answer to this question.  So do many employees.  Each of their perspectives, however, are filtered through their personal beliefs and preconceptions. Our first job is to help businesses identify their unfiltered reality.

The process we follow to define an organization's unfiltered reality is our proverbial "secret sauce."  My froZEN musings, however, resulted in eight questions that we're now going to ask clients to answer each month.  Do the same, and you'll be positioning yourself down a path of growth & profitability (though you may not get there as directly or as fast without our "secret sauce") ::

  1. Describe what your product /service does and who buys it.  Can you do this in one sentence?  If yes, then a whole host of things are going to be a lot easier for you.  If not, make it your top priority to do so.
  2. Explain why somebody chooses to buy your product / service.  Can you do this in one sentence?  If yes, a double ration of grog in celebration.  If not, make it priority # two.
  3. What one thing is most responsible for preventing sales?  Now put a plan together to fix this and make it happen.  Your goal should be to have a different answer to this question each month.
  4. What's one thing you could do to get feedback from existing customers or lost sales opportunities?  Make it happen, listen and learn from your customers.
  5. Which of your business operations do you most hate?  Consider how you can delegate these activities to others.  If there are no "others,"  begin defining how these activities can be managed by a new hire.
  6. What business operations / initiatives could you do "half-assed" without creating problems for either your clients or your brand?  As with #5 above, begin defining how these activities can be delegated or folded into a new hire.
  7. Is the role of your next hire sufficiently defined to assure their activities will generate enough new revenue to cover their salary & benefits?   (Revenue generation doesn't have to be direct...  could be something as simple as freeing you up to generate more sales...)   If not, go back to the drawing board until you know how your new hire will be able to "pay for" themselves.
  8. If you could get 1 solid hour of advice from a professional you respect, what would you discuss and what would be the goal of your meeting?  You can create the opportunity to work with a "guru," or it could happen by chance.  Either way, if you're not ready you're wasting both the opportunity and each other's time.  Success is achieved at the intersection of opportunity and preparation.

Any others you'd like to add?  (perhaps my brain was simply froZEN after 8 questions...)  Would love to hear your thoughts...