What is it that causes so many capable entrepreneurs with a solid service to offer, to fail miserably? I’ve found that in most cases it comes down to marketing and its terrifying sibling; sales. Revenue is always a top 3 challenge in polls and rises in prominence when the economy goes south, nothing shocking there. But why is it such a problem?
I’ve brainstormed a few ideas, some from experience and others from intuition.
Need Revenue Now
I started a business and now I need income. I hear this all the time, mostly from people that are involuntary entrepreneurs or who thought it was going to be easy. Other times, it comes from entrepreneurs who received funding. Usually, it’s friends, family or network funding and there is now pressure to start showing a return on investment or it’s time to pay concerned investors back.
Reason aside, this urgency typically leads to lowered prices, a panicked impression on customers, pushing for sales before a customer is ready or taking any work they can get out of desperation.
Jumping Into Social Media and Digital Marketing Minus a Considered Approach
Social media and digital marketing are brilliant tools for small businesses and level the playing field like nothing before. But, they are tools and they have a learning curve. If you buy a hammer you aren’t imbued with the skills to build a house, you have to learn how to use it. Having a Twitter or Facebook account doesn’t equal sales…
Social media is a starting point, a place to build relationships and establish communications. You build upon what you start on social media. Gary Vaynerchuk likens the uninitiated approach of trying to sell quickly on social media to walking into a bar and trying to pick up the first person you see.
Digital marketing is nothing more than marketing conducted in a relatively new and rapidly evolving environment. Marketing rules still apply, breaking them won’t work in the long run.
Both social media and digital marketing need knowledge and a plan to make them work. Neither is a panacea that will fix a lame or confused message or approach.
The entrepreneur can’t clearly say what they offer. You’ve met these people before, you ask what they do and they give a job title. I’m a graphic designer. You ask what they do specifically; I make logos and do work on web sites… At this point, the conversation is usually over. Most likely you’ll find somebody else to do work for you or you won’t bother trying to extract more information in order to possibly refer somebody to them.
They can’t separate themselves from their competition. If they own a plumbing business, their competitive edge in marketing might be nothing more than a name that starts “AAA” so they are at the top of the yellow pages… They can’t tell their prospects what is different about them in a way that influences a buying decision. It’s usually price that they focus on, which isn’t a recipe for growth or long-term success.
They can’t say why you should buy from them. They haven’t considered the purchase from their customers’ point of view. They don’t know the problems their customers are trying to solve or the desires they are reaching for. They aren’t in touch with the benefits of their service and are feature-oriented.
They Won’t Ask for the Sale
It’s hard to sell when you won’t ask for the sale or don’t have a call to action on your digital real estate. This is such a killer for professional service providers! Everything in the conversation is going great and then there is the awkward pause in the conversation where the customer expects you to make the offer, ask for the sale, discuss options, cover pricing and benefits, ANYTHING… and there is silence.
If your customer has to initiate the sale, you will lose at least 80% of your sales.
Embarrassed to Talk Price or Embarrassed About Their Prices
Many entrepreneurs are concerned about their prices. Typically, they undervalue their service. Many times they forget that they have to cover overhead and other costs and make enough in 30 hours a week to cover their costs and profit. Outcomes — low prices, huge number of hours worked to make a profit and one unhappy entrepreneur. Big business don’t feel bad charging market prices, because they’ve typically done their homework and know what they need to charge to cover costs and make a targeted profit.
While the reasons may vary, the impact is typically singular and severe; a business in a fight for its life.
What do you think? Do you have other widespread causes for poor small business marketing results to share?
Michael Nelson ”The Cogent Coach”
Note: I first published this article on the Medium platform at https://medium.com/on-startups/29ec6515ada8