I’m pretty good at telling other business owners and marketers how to market their businesses – and my clients’ success speaks to that, but I admit, sometimes I don’t always practice what I preach. I even joke about it – but this week it became no laughing matter.
As a marketer I set a very high standard for myself. After all, if I’m going to convince business owners that I can market their business effectively, I better be perfect at marketing my own, right? As a marketing consultant I need to embody all that I preach – and that’s what I strive to do. I want to walk the walk and I want to be the marketing consulting agency that demonstrates how effective, strategic marketing practices yield success! And I honestly thought I was doing a decent job of that!
That brings me to my painful lesson this week: I failed to notice that my business had outgrown my business model. I am not the same business I was five years ago – or even a year ago – and that’s on purpose. My goal has always been to attain bigger contracts, working for bigger companies. If I were my client I’d have told myself: “You need to constantly study and review your target market, your messaging, and your processes and procedures – because your audience is changing!” And what hit me like a Mack Truck this week is that I broke the Cardinal Rule of Marketing: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
The fact is, my audience isn’t the same as it was last year – and that’s great news – however, I’d gotten so stuck in doing things a certain way that I completely missed that fact and ended up standing in front of a group of 100 business owners and marketers with a process and a message that fell flat- to put it nicely. The good news is, I invite feedback, and while the majority of it was still pretty positive, I got more “constructive” feedback than I’m accustomed to – and it stung. A LOT. But it also made me take a much-needed long hard look at my business. That’s when I realized: despite everything I thought I knew about my business, and how many times I’d tried and tested my message and delivery, and despite how many times it had worked in the past, it wasn’t working anymore. I had, in fact become less and less effective – AND I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE IT! I made excuses for it and blamed everything but my own strategy. Why? Because that strategy worked for me for a while and it seemed to work for everyone else in my industry who does it. OMG – I had fallen into the very “copy-cat” marketing trap that I warn business owners about all the time AND I let my ego get in the way of my objectivity. I did EXACTLY what I warn businesses owners and marketers about constantly – and I didn’t even see it!
The moral of this story is – I see business owners and marketers make these mistakes all the time. And I thought I was different, I thought because I’m a marketer, I know better. But the thing is, we’re human. It’s impossible for us to be 100% objective when it comes to looking at ourselves and our business. And if a business is to survive in today’s world we need to CONSTANTLY AND DILIGENTLY examine, test, and critique. We need to invite honest and open feedback from our clients, colleagues, staff, and partners: NOT people who are going to be “nice” and tell us what we want to hear, but people who will tell us the cold hard truth.
Mark Zuckerberg was recently quoted by Business Insider, Jillian, D’ Onfro in her article, Mark Zuckerberg: Even the Smartest Genius Can’t Start a Business Alone: “one person’s efforts are never enough when it comes to building a company“. And he’s right, we simply cannot do this alone and we must get out of the mindset that we always know what’s best for our business. People hire me to help them see their businesses clearly and objectively. What I didn’t realize was that I am no different – I need people to help me see clearly too! Who’s helping you see clearly?