Why You Should Never Market Your Business

Are you waiting for the phone to ring? For people to walk through the door? For money to start flowing in?

Just because you are good at what you do or your product is great, people will not buy unless they know you are there. In my nearly 25 years as a marketing professional, I have heard just about every reason why some businesses never market their product or service. Do you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios?

A fellow business owner once sent out a targeted mailer with a special gift inside. A week went by and the phone did not ring off the hook. She stopped advertising.

An entrepreneur decided to advertise his new product, putting an ad in a trade newspaper and paying for a feature article about the product to be showcased in the paper. When he didn’t get an immediate response to his advertising, he considered the whole thing a failure and money wasted. I believe he’s out of business now.

A friend wanted to leave her brochures in a retail store I owned at the time, advertising a new bed and breakfast she recently opened. Leaving me just five brochures, I told her I would need a lot more. She said to just hand them out to serious customers; otherwise people would just take them!

If you can relate to these situations, then you should never market your business. It’s a waste of your time and money. Of course, without marketing, you risk failure. Many small and medium-sized businesses think this way and close their doors or never see the long-term potential of ongoing marketing. But wait! Even the phrase “ongoing marketing” conjures up all sorts of descriptive words like, expensive, complicated, time consuming and even frightening.

All these words add up to frustration for me, especially when business owners give me excuses for not marketing their company. And, I feel sorry for them because they just don’t get it. Ongoing marketing strategy doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or frightening–it does have to be consistent.

The truth is that marketing is nothing more than a series of specific and often simple initiatives focused on promoting a product or service to a targeted audience. The plan should also have a good deal of flexibility so your marketing can adjust to fluctuations and changes.

Also, don’t put all your marketing dollars in one venue–mix it up. If you just invest in one type of marketing and it doesn’t work you might get paralyzed by the experience and be reluctant to spend any more time or money trying a different mix.

Variety in marketing works. Start with planning your strategy. Think about what you offer your customers and in which market you are likely to find them. Then, consider some low-cost, low-investment marketing opportunities to start with and give it time to develop. Here are a few strategies:

USE BUSINESS CARDS. Carry a lot of this basic marketing tool all the time. Always hand out two so your prospect can keep one and pass along the second to someone who may need your services or product. How many times have you wanted to tell someone about a business but didn’t want to give away your only business card? Paying your bill at a restaurant, dry cleaners, doctor’s office, coffee shop, car wash or other service? Leave your business card (and a pen with your name on it) with your payment. How many places do you go and see a pen with another business name on it?

PEOPLE LIKE GIFTS. Use a promotional product as part of your advertising mix, but be sure to choose a product that makes sense for your business and conveys the right message. For example, don’t give away a stress reliever squeeze toy if your product or service doesn’t relieve stress! And, don’t base your selection solely on the promotional product company that offers the cheapest price.

Stick to value and quality with both the promotional product and the vendor. Base your selection on your target audience and the message you want to convey. A good promotional products consultant will provide a promotional marketing plan for you and can assist you in selecting the best products, keeping you on target and on budget. Your business image depends on it.

USE PRINTED MARKETING MATERIALS. Your business image is important. Have a brochure or flyer professionally written by a copywriter, designed by a graphic artist and printed by a local print company. It doesn’t cost as much as you might think, and you might reap the benefit of additional cross-promotion business from these suppliers. Don’t try to save money by cranking out something from your office computer and printer. It will look “home-made” and so will your business.

Once completed, hand out your professionally produced materials liberally at networking events, conferences and trade shows. Ask other area businesses that compliment your business if you can leave some marketing materials with them to hand out.

You should also mail your brochures/flyers to your customer list along with a personal note thanking them for their business and asking for referrals.

Don’t be stingy with your marketing materials! In my experience, many potential customers keep good quality brochures and flyers on file and will eventually contact you when they have a need.

MARKET YOUR BUSINESS BY WEARING BRANDED APPAREL. Showcase your business everywhere you go. You most likely wear hats and t-shirts with names of other companies, resorts or sports teams on them. You are a walking advertising billboard for these businesses! Think of how many people see their name-not yours-this way! And you most likely paid them to do this!

If you’re going to wear logoed apparel, why not advertise your own? Wear imprinted apparel and accessories to work and everywhere! Wear them on the golf course, at a restaurant, at the gym or child’s sporting event. A good promotional products consultant can assist you with selecting both casual and business appropriate apparel and accessories. Then you can advertise your business even when you’re not “minding the store!”

REMEMBER YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS. Your most important asset is your customer base. It is your best source of repeat and referral business. Don’t let them forget you! Make sure you follow up with a courtesy call, an email, a flyer, a postcard, a newsletter or a promotional product gift, reminding them that you value their business. And, don’t just do it once. Make a habit of staying in touch on a regular basis. In today’s busy business environment, people won’t remember you on their own–make sure that your business doesn’t become one of the “forgotten.”

IF BUSINESS IS GOOD, DON’T ASSUME IT WILL ALWAYS STAY THAT WAY. Why am I including this? Because regardless of the economy, in good times and bad, you should never stop marketing. For example, I have hired some home improvement companies that, once they finished their projects, have never gotten in touch with me again. They never called to see how I liked their service and they never sent one piece of marketing material reminding me that they value my business. Perhaps at one time, business was good and they were busy. There was no time or need for marketing. Too bad. There were many times I could have used their services again or referred them to others. But, out of sight, out of mind!

Planting your marketing “seeds” now will help you reap customers in good and bad times.

YOUR SENSE OF URGENCY ISN’T NECESSARILY SHARED BY OTHERS. What happened? You’ve networked, passed out business cards, sent professionally printed marketing materials to clients and prospects, followed up with emails and phone calls. You wear your branded apparel everywhere. You have chosen and given away good promotional products. But, the phone isn’t ringing off the hook! Why is that? Maybe your sense of urgency is not necessarily shared by any of your prospects. Potential customers respond when they are ready. They remember and respond to a company that looks, acts and feels trustworthy, credible and professional. And, they only respond when they have a sense of urgency. Even with that, they generally only respond after they have seen or heard from you a minimum of seven times.

There is no magic bullet to marketing. It takes thought, persistence and a lot of patience. Just because you market your business does not mean that the money will immediately flow in and great success will follow in no time flat. Especially in a recession economy, it is important to keep marketing so you will be in position once things get better. You’ll lose ground if you don’t.

Your chances for consistent, long-term success are a lot greater if you at least do something.

┬ęCopyright 2009 Carol A. Wilcox