Top 5 reasons (a.k.a. poor excuses) why small business owners don’t invest in marketing:

Top 5 reasons (a.k.a. poor excuses) why small business owners don’t invest in marketing:

  1. I don’t have time
  2. I can’t afford it.
  3. My business is doing well already.
  4. My customers only come through word of mouth.
  5. I don’t have any competition.

Got an excuse? I’ve heard ’em all. Let’s break them down, one by one.

#1: I don’t have time.

  • I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you don’t have time because you’re busy with…your business? No doubt running a business is very time consuming, but it’s extremely short sighted to think that’s a valid reason to skip out on marketing. If you want to be just as busy, if not busier, in 6 months, a year, 5 years, it is a MUST to invest in marketing because that is investing in the future. Strategic marketing can actually free up some of your time. Are you busy pitching potential clients or customers, or chasing leads that don’t pan out? A proper sales funnel can filter qualified leads, so all you have to do is close the deal. Do you find yourself bogged down trying to explain your complex services? An effective awareness campaign can educate your target market before they call.
  • Investing in your marketing infrastructure is as important (if not more) than investing in active promotions. By infrastructure I mean branding, a website, social media, customer service, etc – these all the tools you need to ensure that when leads come in, they are impressed, informed, and eager to move on to the next step.

#2: I can’t afford it.

Here is one of my all time favorite quotes by Henry Ford: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” This statement can easily apply to all of marketing, not just advertising. The real response to “I can’t afford it,” is “You can’t afford NOT to.” It may help to look at marketing dollars as an INVESTMENT, not an expense; the same way putting savings into a 501K is not an expense. 

  • Every business owner has to figure out what ‘afford’ looks like for their business. There are varying industry standards but in my experience, allocating approximately 10% of revenue to your marketing budget is a good place to start. Looking to really grow your business? Figure out the revenue you’d like to reach (and have a reasonable plan to achieve it) and take 10% of THAT number. 
  • Even if you don’t have a lot cash to spare, there are plenty of free/low cost ways to market your business. Emails, social media, partnerships and incentive programs require little cash investment but can add up to major rewards for the health of your business overall.

#3: My business is doing well already.

It’s important to keep in mind that marketing is NOT advertising; according to The Wharton School, “Marketing is the process of anticipating, managing, and satisfying the demand for products, services, and ideas.” This process is NOT something you implement when you have a problem. Instead, marketing should be a fundamental part of your business operations.

Waiting until things go wrong to start investing in marketing is like waiting for a toothache to go to the dentist; lots of pain, wasted time (not to mention money!) just to hopefully get back to status quo. Like flossing and regular checkups, being proactive about the health of your business is the only way to avoid unnecessary problems- so you can focus on moving forward.

#4: My customers only come through word of mouth.

Word of mouth is very powerful and can actually be a viable part of your marketing strategy. However, it has to be an ACTIVE part of your strategy, not a passive one. Crossing your fingers and hoping that current clients will recommend you to future clients is NOT an active marketing strategy, and is not sustainable for any business that wants to grow.

What does active Word of Mouth marketing look like? Here are a few tips:

  • Encourage and share user generated content
  • Share reviews and testimonials
  • Create a referral program with incentives or hire brand ambassadors

Whatever you do, make sure it is AUTHENTIC – fake reviews, stock photos passed off as real projects, or brand ambassadors that don’t align with your brand – will do more harm than good. 

#5: I don’t have any competition.

You mean you don’t have any competition….yet? You can be the king of your industry one day, and the very next day someone decides to open a business and do exactly what you do…but better, or cheaper, or faster. Or maybe, someone invents something that makes your entire business model completely irrelevant! (Raise your hand if you remember those stores where you went to get your camera film developed?)

Investing in marketing keeps you one step ahead, and here’s how:

Clear Messaging: If your customers understand WHY you do what you do, if there comes a time when you need to pivot for any reason, they’ll still have a reason to believe in you. 

Customer Relationship Management: Truly loyal customers are not likely to jump to the nearest competitor, but will keep going to back to the businesses they trust.

Market Research: Stay up-to-date on industry trends, listen to the conversation on social media, run surveys, focus groups, etc, so you can predict the next trend before it goes mainstream.

Innovation: Think of new ways to improve or enhance your product/service – before someone else does.

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