As we all know, times have been tough for small business and most small business owners realize they need to do something different if they want to survive. But what they don’t quite get is that they need to change how they think about their business. They call me and say, “I need your help” and then they go on to tell me HOW I need to help them. Twice now in the past month 2 small business owners have called me – one has been around for more than 20 years, another only a few months – barely surviving and seemingly desperate for help.
I spend the first 20 minutes or so listening to them, asking questions, learning about their business, the marketing efforts they’ve tried, and what their challenges are. What I hear is that like 99% of the small business owners I meet they’re caught up in the same old old-school way of thinking. “If I just find that one magic “thing” that works my business will take off: a new magazine ad, a new packaged marketing method for my industry, a new direct mailer, a new sign on my storefront, a new yellow pages ad….”
Inevitably, after getting all of their experiences, concerns and worries off their chests they’ll sigh and confide, “I’m desperate, I don’t know what to do. How can you help me?” I tell them it’s really pretty simple. I can help them study and understand their business, their industry and their customers and then use that information to advertise and market their businesses more effectively. Then I’ll ask, “Do you know your target market? Do you know what makes them buy when they buy and what makes them choose you? Do you know what makes you truly unique in your marketplace?” The answer is usually the same, “Wow, no I don’t really know those things…”
Here comes the “But….”
“But….. I just need this…. Or I just need that… “
What it boiled down to is that they both wanted to pay me to come to their businesses, look at their store and tell them how they should advertise = spending more money on TACTICs. I turned them both down; it would have been a disservice for me to take their money and give them a dime store assessment… It wouldn’t solve their bigger problem – which was that they both had inadequate information to make informed and logical marketing decisions.
How can you expect someone to walk in off the street, spend an hour with you, and give you information that will transform your business? Really, does that make sense? Sure I’m a marketer, sure I do this for a living and sure, I know how to advertise better than the average small business owner – given the appropriate information, data, and research!!! But spending an hour with them was not going to solve their problem.
Why is it so hard to understand the importance of market research?
Do you think Pepsi or Toyota got so big by blindly investing in the newest shiny marketing idea of the week? Of course not they invest millions in market research. They KNOW their customers. They KNOW their market. They KNOW how and when and why people buy. Sure, companies as big as Pepsi and Toyota have reached a certain level of success and market penetration and can afford to do some advertising just for advertising sake – but we as small businesses don’t have that luxury. We need to FOCUS; we need to spend our limited marketing dollars wisely. We need to get the best possible return on our marketing investment and can’t afford to waste money on things that don’t work.
I want to hear from you!!
Have you done the research? Have you surveyed your customers, studied your competitors and created a truly unique value statement for your business? If not, what what’s stopping you?
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