A Critical Business Lesson from a Marketing Consultant

February 7, 2015

mistakes business owners makeI learned a pretty hard – and humbling – business lesson this week…

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!  Woman sitting cross-legged with her laptop

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?

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Are Your Personal Fears Killing Your Business?

August 25, 2014

How many times have you had this conversation with your kids:

You:  “Here try this”
Your kid: “No, I hate that”
“Have you ever tried it?”
“No”
Well then how do you know you hate it, if you’ve never tried it?”
“I just know”
 

We all have them: preconceived ideas about people, places, and things. Maybe we decide we don’t like someone before they ever utter a single word, or immediately dismiss a new idea based on who-knows-what, or refuse to try snail larva (is there even such a thing as snail larva???) because it just sounds disgusting.  We all do it;  it’s primal and instinctive in us – part of our survival instinct.  We used to (and maybe still do) depend on being able to make these unconscious snap judgments to sense and ward off danger.

But now, in the 21st century how often do these preconceived ideas hold us back from trying something that could be fun, tasty, or profitable?  (Who knows maybe snail larva tastes like chocolate, with a fraction of the calories!)

I started questioning this at a trade show in San Francisco recently.  As the Marketing Consultant for the event I walked around talking to exhibitors and taking pictures to post on Social Media. I approached one vendor and asked if I could take their picture for a Facebook or Website post and their response was, “NO”. Taken aback, I replied, “Really???  Why not?”

“No, I’m not comfortable with that.”

WHAT?  I was dumbfounded. You aren’t comfortable with what exactly? Promoting your business? Getting more exposure? Potentially reaching thousands of new customers? WTH? (Ok, in all fairness, maybe they were former mob informants and part of the witness protection program. Or maybe they felt they were having a bad hair day.. Who knows?)

is facebook right for my business

This surprising response got me thinking: we all do it.  Everyone  judges things before trying them. Then I started wondering: what things am I judging without  trying that could be holding me back in business? Or what fears or insecurities or doubts do I have about things that are preventing me from being the success I could be? Then I realized, I can probably name 10 off the top of my head – how about you?

So maybe it’s time we get honest with ourselves about these things. Inventory them. Examine them. And get real. I’m not saying this small business should be on Facebook and I’m not saying that every pre-judgment, concern, or fear is unwarranted. What I am saying is that as business owners we need to be aware of these things to make sure they aren’t holding us back form true success in business.

So I encourage you to write down the things about marketing that you judge,  condemn, or dislike and then examine your real reasons for not trying them.  What scares you the most may be what you need the most!

If you need some help with this or if just want to  talk through your fears about anything on your list, you can contact us for a marketing consulting session!

What are your biggest marketing fears or hangups? I’d love to hear from you! Please click here to leave your comments.

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Business Pet Peeves That Drive Us Crazy

August 25, 2014

We all have them; those common everyday occurrences that just drive us absolutely insane. Well I have a few in the business world and I thought I’d share them – not because I want to rant and rave (ok, maybe a little), but also because if these things drive me insane, I can guarantee they drive others insane too and it could mean the difference between gaining a sale or a client or losing one.

So here they are, my biggest business pet peeves and what you can do to avoid them in your business:

  1. Not having a phone number in your email signature – I know most of us operate on email, social media and text these days. But every once in a while I will need to call you and I don’t want to have to go to FB or search your website when we’ve been emailing each other 45 times a day for months! Lesson: Put your phone number in your signature!  Yes even your return signature!My 5 Biggest Business Pet Peeves
  2.  Calling yourself a Guru.  Seriously, isn’t this kinda like calling yourself ‘God’?  Sure you may be really good at what you do and have decades of experience, but save the masterly adjectives for other people to us!  Lesson: Self promotion is vital in marketing, but chooses your words carefully – they are all you have to get your message, image, and brand across.  Avoid describing yourself as a “Guru” or even an “Expert”. Instead, get raving testimonials from clients and let them say it for you!  It’s perfectly fine coming from someone else – and more believable!
  3. Replacing the “C” in your name with a “K”.   You’ve seen them, the cheesy signs that read Kampground or  Kars for Less. OMG they drive me insane! And have you ever noticed that none of these places are of the highest quality? I think it may have started with Krazy Glue…? (Or I could totally be making that up?) And it makes sense for Krazy Glue, but it doesn’t make sense for every business.  Imagine “Gourmet Katering Company”. Or “Fortune Marketing Kompany”. It doesn’t work, does it?  Lesson: Getting creative is good but be careful with old worn out tricks and gimmicks.
  4. Not walking the walk – OK, even I am somewhat guilty of this. I say it all the time; “If I followed half of my own advice I’d be a millionaire. (There is nothing worse than seeing your clients take what you teach them and far exceed you in a matter of months) – however, with that said I at least mostly walk my walk and have a proven track record of doing what I say I do. I ran across a Marketing Consulting Company  the other day that boasted “SEO Experts”, yet when I Googled every key word I would use to find them, there were nowhere to be found…   And I have seen countless Social Media “Experts” with 5 Twitter followers and no Facebook following. Seriously? Lesson:  If you are going to sell it you need to prove you can do it for yourself first!
  5. Leaving me a voice mail telling me I need to call you back but not why – I’m insanely busy and every single day I need to prioritize the emails I’ll read and return, the calls I’ll make, the client projects I’ll work on, etc.  Not to mention weeding out the sales calls from the legitimate calls.  Lesson: Please don’t leave me a VM out of the blue and not tell me why you’re calling or you may never get a call back (unless you’re a customer of course!)

So what are some of your business related pet peeves?
Let us know.

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By the way, if you liked this post, I’d really appreciate your Retweet!!! Thank you. :-)

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