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Will You Go Broke or Take Action
Free advice? The Internet is full of it. You cannot swing a cat without hitting somebody willing to give you free business advice, marketing advice, tips, and ideas. So what is it all worth? I will answer that later, but first, want to share a story of my Monday with you.
I got a call from a good friend who is a top-level economist. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, and has an impressive job. He is a brilliant economist. We talked about solutions for a mutual friend’s locally-focused service industry company. While we spoke, he was in the car and driving through a strip mall with a huge grocery chain. He gave his opinion of how chilling it is that the once-thriving strip of over 30 businesses has only three businesses left. We talked about the huge challenges a business faces, and how scared companies are today.
What does it all mean, and should you be scared? Allow me to share some observations. First, should you be scared? Yes! Heck, I am scared for you. The numbers are against you, and if you don’t change with the tide and swim harder and faster, you will not make it … you will drown. Even the most brilliant business minds have had to make some big changes in the past couple years. Some will succeed, while many will give up. The worst change a business makes is that of just “riding it out” or taking a “wait and see” approach. In order to make it, it will take action … uncomfortable, scary, swift, and decisive action. If you are not sure I am on the mark with this, just watch this recent video!
Taking Action to Avoid Going Broke
Let us, just for a moment, stop allowing the blindness of false positivity to get in the way of logical thinking. I know, it feels like things will be better if we think positively and maybe if we ignore the downsides, economic conditions will improve. This is not a case of ignoring it and it will go away. Quite the opposite. If you ignore your business challenges, the business will go away … not the challenges. So what can you do to come out of this better than the rest, and even better than before? After all, that is what you hope for, right? Whether you are trying to catch up, trying to keep your lead, or trying to break records with success, doing more business tomorrow than you did yesterday is going to require some changes. It does not matter if you are ready for change or not, change is ready for you.
Only Wet Babies Like Change
Here is an example of fearing change that nearly cost many millions of dollars.
A few hours after visiting with my economist friend, another friend dropped by to pick up a modem from me. I have an Internet company. I have modems of all shapes and sizes. While we visited, I told him I am looking for a new sales representative. Actually, a presentation representative is what I am seeking, because I really hate boardrooms and ridiculous business politics. I am worn completely smooth each day with lies and excuses from companies who contact me, and I want to pay somebody who is willing to filter it out for me. Tom is a lobbyist, and I know he is well-networked and knows a lot of motivated people with good business experience. I told him I that am entirely worn out by answering the same questions each day, and hearing the same sob story from companies over and over. I decided that it simply is not good for me to face ignorance and indifference, and it sucks away a little bit of my soul every day.
He related my services to a bill he helped to pass that would cost the State of Kansas millions of dollars, but then return nine times that much by its passing. He told how frustrating it was to explain it to so many people who simply said “the state can’t afford it” because it was not in the budget. He understood how exasperating it was that the concern was the money, but that there would be far more money soon after the passing of the new legislation. The math was done … it added up, but legislators would still express fear of passing the law. Tom gets it! Tom has been in my shoes, and he understood why my fingers are tired from making that reaching for the throat to choke somebody gesture when somebody leaves their brain on the nightstand the day they call me.
I hear the same thing that Tom heard from legislators in my job every single day. People want to free up the money to spend on good marketing, but they cannot see beyond the check they write. They cannot see the vision. Sure, I can, because it is my job. I know the math, and I know that for each dollar out, there are dollars in. I know risk-management, and I know how to calculate expected returns. I know how much my clients benefit from what I do, but for new clients, it is as if it is just a big blur … it is something they cannot see.
What makes business happen for you? It should be clear that if more people know your business, and understand the benefits of doing business with you, it helps your company. You know this, right?
While everybody is out there vying for your customers, you must market your company better than ever. That does not mean having a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. It means understanding how to use the tools. It means having a better plan and understanding that execution of the plan must be done better than the competition. It means that marketing is not a commodity, and that Pepsi beat out those other cola companies because they had better execution of a better plan. Luck only spreads so far, and after the luck is gone, it is going to take marketing talent and marketing creativity.
Marketing Made Cheap
There are a lot of cheap marketing offerings out there. I was curious about some of them, so I decided to dip my hook in the water and see what fish would bite on a small worm. I wanted to see how people really think. I took a call from one of those squillions I normally weed out who asks for prices instead of wanting to know what he is buying. I asked all the important questions. I took a little time for discovery, and found that I could take his competition to the wood shed and bare-assed whip them like an angry stepfather.
I took it on the chin and wrote up an eight page plan for his stated budget of $2,500 (yeah, I laughed, too). It was a full-featured proposal including much research, custom blog creation, search engine optimization, social media marketing, five Murnahan-written and circulated blog posts, and web hosting for a year. The expected return was many tens of times the investment. I mean, this guy would have been set on a path paved with Murnahan-engraved gold bricks, and just because I wanted to make an example of somebody.
I received an email from this company owner a couple days later and it read as follows:
I hate to admit this, but I can’t afford your services. At least not in the immediate future. I really like your ideas and respect your abundant knowledge.
I’m respectfully declining your services.
Sharing My Findings About Cheap Marketing
I could write for days about things I have learned about people hoping to get something for nothing. It is not new, and a lot of people really think of marketing as all the same … that it is a commodity. It is easy to overlook or ignore the research details, planning, execution, talent, experience, reach, and other assets in a good marketer’s toolbox. In this case, I decided to share my example of delving into the cheap marketing arena with some people. I asked a small sample of people who know my work fairly well how much they thought my absolute floor is for taking on a new project. The answers averaged around $80,000, with none answering below $25,000 as what they thought the absolute lowest project that I would or should take on as a marketing consultant. Well, what I should do and actually do are two different things. I will take on small jobs if I like the people and I like the product. I liked the guy with a $2,500 budget that I wrote an extensive plan for. Do you think he made a good business decision? I don’t benefit by lying to you, so here is the truth. In this case, a measurably better decision would have been to pay the marketing guy before the light bill or the mortgage.
Good marketing is really hard to find, and sometimes hard to produce the upfront cost, but the bottom line is that if the marketing is performed well, it will make you more money. Good marketing is an investment, and not a cost. If you find a good marketer, you must never forget that fact.
About that earlier question of what all that free business and marketing advice is worth, the answer is as different as the people offering the advice. My advice and the next guy’s advice are not equal, and marketing is not a commodity.
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