The Reluctant Marketer


Recently I have been focusing more and more on working with very small companies. Most of my clients are either taken their maiden steps into the world of marketing, or have previously taken on some initiatives, at varying degrees of success. This is regardless of whether they’ve been in business for 2 years or 20 years. Despite having been in marketing for over two decades, this is been an enlightening process for me.

There’s a step involved in marketing that having worked for larger companies, I’ve overlooked. Looking back, perhaps even with those, I shouldn’t have.

Marketing is personal.

Most small businesses begin by getting customers through referrals. This is of course, by far, the best and most valuable leads, but without nurturing the leads and the sources, they eventually slow and then trickle. Referrals, afterall, are a form of marketing.

But so many have a vision of going into business, solving a need, not focusing on how they will get a continuous flow of business. Some do this by ego, some by naivte, but all by mistake.

Sooner or later the idea of diminishing business, or not hitting their own growth expectations (whether documented and planned for or not) takes its toll. It’s then that the idea of marketing comes in.

Marketing means I’ve failed.

I’ve heard this more than one. I need marketing because I can’t do this on my own. They take it personally. They are concerned that advertising will show others that they aren’t as successful as they should be. These include artists, doctors, service providers, trainers, and more; individuals who see marketing as self-promotion, as shilling, as asking for your business.

You won’t get what you Don’t ask for

I’ve found the reluctance to marketing is tied to, incorrectly, a sense of personal failure. It’s not. And so each engagement begins with an understanding of where my client is, and addressing the concerns and fears.

Marketing is about a conversation

It is an extension of your products, your services, and your dedication. The memories of Crazy Eddie and Mattress King, shilling lower prices with crass hooks live strong in all of us, but confuse what marketing actually does. Sure, there are folks and even businesses that can benefit from those approaches, but even those take their audience into consideration.

Understanding who your audience is, and who you want it to be, is the basis to growing your business. They need your product or service, so why shouldn’t they use yours? Why don’t they?

The client who is reluctant to marketing quickly goes to the “not good enough” view. Even some of the most seasoned business owners go there. But the short answer is, you aren’t getting customers because they don’t know about you. And even those who were customers, probably forgot.

So marketing becomes about having a conversion with them. It is about reminding them, nurturing them, and informing them. it doesn’t have to be about self-promotion in the vein of a circus clown.

When Marketing Works

Once it works, an entirely new series of issues arise. Depending on the business owner it can bring on a new set of concerns, including why didn’t I do this before, does this success mean that we were bad at what we did, or finding other reasons for why it didn’t work before.

The answer to that is simple, and is no different than the first time you decide to use an accountant rather than doing your own taxes. The first time you consult an attorney for a business question instead of trying to figure it out or handle it on your own. The first time one of your customers comes to you for a solution that they were unable to solve on their own.

Take off one of your hats, and you’ll be able to refocus on your passion.