The Five Marketing Lies You’re Told as a Small Business
Every year, we’re struck by the amount of what we would consider to be bad advice given to small businesses, especially when it comes to marketing. While some of it is well-intentioned and resonates because it’s a simple slogan or comes in a relatable, easy-to-digest message, that doesn’t mean it should carry significant weight. As we head into 2022, one of the things we’d like to do at Marketing Nice Guys is to dispel a few myths / lies about marketing there that we’ve run into over the years. Like everything else in life, marketing can be a lot more nuanced and complex than some simple slogan. Here are 5 that we’d vote to eliminate altogether in 2022.
Lie No. 1: “To get started in marketing, you just have to dive in.”
If you haven’t done marketing before, there’s nothing wrong with getting your feet wet and experimenting with different marketing tools or approaches to at least figure out your own capabilities. But there’s a big difference between that and diving into the deep end of the pool without thinking about it. One, you could drown if you don’t know how to swim (the marketing equivalent of wasting a lot of resources and oftentimes money). For most small businesses, we’d recommend simply taking a step back and creating a plan first. The reason is that a plan will:
- Help you clarify:
- What activities you’re going to focus on. Do you want to create blogs or podcasts? Focus on advertising? Social media? Email? In particular, what activities do you feel comfortable doing versus hiring someone else?
- The different goals you might have, especially as it pertains to different stages of the buyer journey (awareness, acquisition/engagement, purchase). The key here is to think about how each marketing activity can contribute to getting audiences to each stage of the journey.
- The audience you’re targeting. Especially when it comes to specific demographics, professions, income levels, etc.
- Help you coordinate all your activities and keep your marketing narrative consistent across all channels. We often see a scattered approach by those who “just dive in” in that the messaging and narrative is inconsistent within different channels.
- Helps you establish a playbook for what content to produce and what approach to use. We always recommend creating a content schedule in that it helps you stick to a regular cadence and output volume.
- Help you clarify:
Bottom Line: Your plan doesn’t have to be long. In fact, we have a free guide to developing your own modern-day marketing plan. You can download it for free with the link or you can do so below:
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Lie No. 2: “Marketing will generate immediate ROI”
Can this be true? Of course. Depending on the competition, the market demand, the product type and the current company brand awareness, things could certainly align where new marketing activities generate substantial ROI quickly, especially for impulse purchases or buyer journeys that tend to be shorter.
But in our experience, that’s often more the exception than the rule. For a lot of small businesses, marketing can take a bit of a lead time to fully start driving purchases – as customers have to get comfortable with a brand in the space before making a purchase or converting. (That’s especially true for small businesses that aren’t as well established or don’t have the budget for larger marketing campaigns.) Over time, the more “touches” from the company, the more people come to think of that brand when it comes to a particular solution they need. On average, research suggests it takes anywhere from 8 to 14 touches from a company for individuals to feel comfortable in converting. But the truth is, there’s no formula or number as each company or industry is completely unique in that respect.
To give you a great example of a marketing activity that takes time: search engine optimization (SEO). In most cases, even after a successful SEO implementation, you’re probably not going to immediately start ranking for months. It may even take a year until you see progress in Google results. That’s because it takes Google time to recognize your site authority and relevance in a particular topic area. And also for your customers to begin discovering it as well.
Bottom Line: Frankly, we always recommend approaching marketing as long-term investment. We get it if your time-horizon for success is much shorter. If that really is the case and there are potential opportunities, we recommend taking a look at our post here, which emphasizes the same point but considers some options for more immediate-term results.
Lie No. 3: “You just have to focus on the big picture.”
You hear this a lot from other small business owners, consultants, and others who give earnest advice about marketing or, honestly, any other responsibility of a smaller enterprise CEO or owner. It’s not a terrible recommendation for the sake of organization itself, as certainly it helps to have a leader stay focused on the strategic big-picture marketing. The problem: it’s also not 100 percent realistic, especially when it comes to the implementation and operations of small businesses, who don’t have a lot of resources to start with. Sometimes, leaders at small organizations have to “do it all,” especially at the beginning. And as we discuss later in the post, marketing is also particularly complex these days. Doing it well requires digging into sometimes small details, which can make the difference between a successful effort and a mediocre one. Having such knowledge of the complexity only helps small businesses better market their products, ask better questions, and get better results.
Now, does the business owner have to be the one to get in the weeds? No, of course not. That’s why he or she hires an agency like ours, or strategically gets staff to help with those duties. But the point is, SOMEONE has to focus not only on the big picture but also the details of the marketing operations to do it well.
Bottom Line: We tend to avoid this phrase because we want to encourage small business owners/clients to be as informed they can be. Not just on big-picture marketing for brand and strategy but also what it takes to actually implement that vision. The more details they know, the better we all do on the marketing side.
Lie No. 4: “A great product sells itself.”
You hear this one a lot in Silicon Valley, in particular, where “word of mouth” and buzz can travel fast and companies get so enamored with their new products and creations, that they believe others (customers, suppliers, influencers) will simply do their marketing for them by raving about the features.
But like many other things in Silicon Valley (we have worked there), that’s also fantasy too. Need a one-word rebuttal? Apple. Certainly, the iPhone would constitute a great product on its own. But note how Apple still promotes the device everywhere on its own, distributes that promotion with wireless providers and isn’t shy about telling you all the details of why you get the latest version.
The Bottom Line: Great products still need great marketing so that the maximum number of potential buyers can get to know it and purchase it. And while having a great product certainly helps, it’s not the only thing to focus on.
Lie No. 5: “Simplify everything with your business.”
The reason we don’t like this phrase is that it’s a broad generalization. For the most part, the statement IS true when it comes to how you market your existing or potential customers. This is especially the case as it pertains to messaging about who you are, what you provide from a products or services standpoint, or the steps you want audiences to take to begin engaging with you. The simpler it is for customers to understand who you are and what to do, the better. You’ll get no disagreement from us on that!
But some small businesses mistake this phrase to mean that they should simplify EVERYTHING about their business and that’s just not the case. Oftentimes, in order to get to the point of simplifying things for customers, you need to (perhaps ironically) to embrace more complexity. For example, you have to understand:
- The complexity of the challenges your customers face.
- The complexity of developing a product or service that meets those needs (and make it simple to use.)
- The complexity of the marketing that allows them to discover who you are and how to take the next steps with you.
- The complexity of continuing to serve the customer needs even after you acquire and convert them.
A simple example that we often see with marketing occurs when companies will make cuts to their business activities that aren’t “performing” – in other words, activities that aren’t directly contributing to ROI. So, if a blog isn’t directly driving more sales, why do it? Or if that paid media ad isn’t driving more direct conversions, it’s wasting money. It can be easy to make those conclusions on the surface (in a “simplify everything” mindset) because you can literally see what activities directly convert. But by taking such an approach, we’d argue those businesses aren’t embracing the complexity of marketing. In reality, it probably takes a number of touches to make any sale happen. Maybe the first touch was a customer who read your blog. Then, later a social post or saw an ad. After that, perhaps, the individual signed up for a newsletter or did an organic search for your company that ended up converting. The “credit” in this case might go to email or SEO, but it ignores all the other touches that came before it.
Bottom line: Axing or getting rid of marketing activities in an attempt to “simplify everything” can potentially harm businesses more than help them, unless they do so while factoring in the complexity of the buyer journey, the touchpoints, and other aspects of moving audiences further down the funnel.
We hope this has been helpful. If you need support in any area of digital marketing, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with us. We’re happy to discuss the challenges you’re facing and how we can help you.