The challenges of running a small business can be daunting to many. Those of us who decide to venture out on our own and become our own boss welcome these challenges with open arms.
You’re not scared of the unknown. You’re go-getters, trend setters, and above all, entrepreneurs. You want to make a difference in the world with your products/services. You keep your local and global economies humming and I applaud your efforts!
If you consider yourself to be a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you’ve probably used to the old idiom, “if you want something right done right, you gotta do it yourself.”
We know that one well and hear it time and time again. It’s even used in a Vistaprint commercial! If we can do something ourselves to save a couple bucks, then we’ll probably do it. You’re full of confidence, initiative, and motivation, but when it comes to online marketing, doing it yourself (and doing it well) can be next to impossible.
Here’s three reasons why do-it-yourself marketing doesn’t work for small businesses and entrepreneurs:
1. You can’t find the time
Anyone who runs their own business knows how hard it is to keep up with the day to day tasks. When you’re the only person running the business, you have the responsibilities of being the CEO, CMO, HR, Accounting, Support Representative, and Webmaster. It’s not just a 9 to 5 job. It takes many more hours.
These job responsibilities can wreak havoc on your personal life as well. When you spend all your time working it’s hard to find time for your friends and family. We all need that time to decompress and live healthy lives.
This means that if you’re going to do any marketing at all, it had better be easy, quick, and effective. Otherwise it’s a crapshoot and potentially a waste.
2. You can’t properly build your audience
If you own and operate a small business, then you have an audience. You need to continue building your audience to continue growing your business and generate more revenue and income. To do that you have to spend time on marketing.
The best way to build your audience online is with content (blogs, email marketing, social media). This speaks to #1 in that it takes much-needed time. So what do you do?
You have to work with someone else (usually a marketing professional or agency) or use a tool.
This can get very expensive, very fast. It’s money that you just cannot afford to gamble with. Effective audience building can mean the difference between a prosperous, growing business and one that fizzles out into oblivion. That leads me to my next point.
3. You can’t sustain it
How many small businesses do you see that are killing it and only have one employee? There might be one or two you know out there. They’re probably older businesses with well-established, loyal customer bases.
Owning a business is great but you should always have your head in the clouds when it comes to your goals. You shouldn’t aim to stay small forever. You want to be scalable. When you grow your business, everyone benefits. You create jobs and make a difference in your community.
Doing marketing yourself can work for a short time, but you simply cannot keep it up by yourself and expect to grow your business, or even tread water for that matter.
Here’s what you can do to make your online marketing successful as a small business or entrepreneur
Co-marketing is the easiest way to grow your business online. It saves you hours each month and promotes your business to larger audiences than you’ve ever had before. What is co-marketing?
It’s the process of working together with other marketers (your partners) to build your audience and your customer base.
Right now in the BoostSuite network there are thousands of other businesses who are already working with your best prospective customers and want to help you too. They’re experts in their fields, making some experts in your field.
You need to tap into these folks because there’s thousands of pieces of free, high-quality content waiting for you to add to your website. You can also convince these marketers to promote your business by publishing your content, earning you relevant backlinks worth their weight in gold.
No matter what web marketing tools you’re using to promote your business, you must have audience and content before you can be successful.
Think about it.
- Email marketing tools are worthless unless you already have a big email list (audience) and send regular messages (content).
- Blogging doesn’t work unless you regularly come up with new posts (content) on topics that will attract the most new online visitors (audience).
- Social media falls flat unless you have thousands of followers (audience) and lots of interesting posts (content).
BoostSuite helps you build your audience and acquire the high quality content you need to be successful at online marketing with the tools you’re already using. You’re connected to work together with these partners based on actionable opportunities that will put your company in front of their online audiences.
With BoostSuite, you can:
- Run a successful online marketing program in less than an hour each week – saving you time.
- Easily build your online audience by working with your best co-marketing partners.
- Use content to generate more new customers for your business – making it sustainable.
If you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, I’d like to hear about your experience with online marketing. Have you hired an agency or used any tools (free or paid)? Tell us what’s worked and what hasn’t. Have you ever worked with any marketing partners to build your audience? Thanks for your comments!
your comments are absolutely correct.
I face exactly the same problems you mentioned and struggling to manage the marketing alone…
NO Marketing tools being used by me except personal marketing..
Thanks for your comment Siva. You’re right that marketing by yourself is tough. That’s why you need to work with your co-marketing partners to take some of the load off your shoulders!
Booo! Marketing is the lifeblood of your business, NEVER outsource that to a bunch of third party hacks who REALLY.DON’T.CARE about you, your product or service, or your fortunes. Buyer beware, any article that starts with “you can’t” is selling you something. I can, I do, I succeed!
Some can and some can’t. Too many small business people are so busy running the day to day that they don’t have the appropriate time or knowledge to develope an effective and unbiased marketing program. Be openminded enough to listen to a person whose expertise is marketing.
if your business is growing at the rate you want, pay attention to why!
I agree with Steve here. It always depends on the situation you and your business is in. Glad to hear you’re able to make DIY marketing work for your business! What tactics do you use on a day to day basis?
3 reasons why Do-it-yourself marketing does work
In response to Ryan Kettler, who gives good arguments against doing your own marketing, here are some ideas why you should still do it yourself.
1. Externals don’t get it
Your external partner needs to be briefed. Very well, actually. This takes a lot of time. Unless you will be able to replicate this brief, perhaps slowly altering it, but keeping it generally the same, compiling the brief can be a waste of time.
Instead, find like-minded people, in your own company if it has partners or a few employees, or in one of many groups where fledgling companies and generally small companies meet. You will be able to compare your marketing ideas with others – without necessarily spilling the beans to your competition.
2. Reaching your audience on a small scale can be enough
Amateur charm can work, as long as it’s clearly combined with some professionalism in the key area of your core process. If you’re a small marketing firm, don’t hire someone else. If you’re growing lettuce, be sure to communicate the quality and/or price of your lettuce first and foremost. Then you’re already doing the marketing. If you’re a small business, consider if it’s worth any effort or money to reach the entire country or even the world. If it is, then start teaching yourself how to tackle the world and focus on key markets. Find partners if you can’t get it done, but a true partner shares goals with you, instead of sending bills. It might just be that a fellow SME (Small to Medium Sized Enterprise), in your local area, is your best partner in marketing.
3. Focus on what’s important
Uniting all marketing into just one individual, or maybe even two or three, means making choices. Even companies with 500 employees will not be able to tackle all aspects of the marketing mix. There is just too much out there. But must you Twitter? Really? Does it bring in extra customers? Are those customers worth the time you spend on them PLUS the time you spend on Twitter? Ask this question and choose.
This brings me to some of the same advice Ryan Kettler gives: find others and work together. You can scale your tiny or small business by leveraging your valuable contacts. Even though Ryan’s company may actually be very good, his article is very leading. Hence the counterpoint I’m offering here. And there are more places to do this and more ways of going about it than what Ryan Kettler is selling us. With some thought and without being overambitious, you can do your own marketing.
My experience as a professional marketer and teacher over more than 40 years, much of it specialising in small and medium businesses, leads me to agree with the gist of Ryan’s article — and to agree strongly with Ruben’s arguments. The majority of small business owners simply can’t afford professional outsourcing, but lack the expertise to do it for themselves.
Solving that lethal dilemma has been what I do since 1971. It can be done — but it requires a delicate balancing act for most. The right training and tools, plus their own knowledge of their business and marketplace, are the key ingredients for success.
Thanks for your ideas Ruben.
You’re right that externals don’t get it…immediately. If you’re working with professionals, they’ll usually do their due diligence and research your company, mission, brand, target audience, etc, well before even sitting down with you to discuss your needs. This way they’ll be able to get a better idea of your voice and how they can help you. This works the same way with many marketing tools. They just need some more information from you before they can properly assist you with your marketing.
I like your idea of having small businesses meet with others in their local space to discuss ideas. It’s always a good thing picking the brains of folks who are in your situation.
The co-marketing partners I speak of in the article are partners that you work with for free to achieve your goals. You don’t have to pay them to work with them, making it much more of a viable solution for SMBs.
I’m happy to see you’re recommending finding others and working together like my article suggests. I mentioned BoostSuite in the article because it helps you and any other user by saving you time. You don’t have to leave your house or place of business to find your best co-marketing partners. You’re automatically paired with them based on keyword logic and they’re automatically notified of your content when you share it!
Have you ever tried to have someone create a logo for you? The process of getting them to understand how you view your company is the same as asking someone who does not know it to market it for you.
I agree that most business owners do not know a lot about marketing however, they do or should know their company and how they want to present it to others. I believe it is more important to check out similar company marketing, take notes, try it out on friends, and keep working at it. You haven’t spent $$, you’ve gained insight. Most people fail because they are afraid. I read a wonderful book: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Whose approval do you need to run your business the way you want? Networking with others in business is a great way to get ideas and keep one focused and share information. One’s attitude can go a long way to gleaning great ideas.
Hey Margaret! Yes, I’ve gone through the logo creation process with a designer before. It can be quite a difficult endeavor trying to convey what you do and how you solve the problems of your customers.
I agree that networking with others is a great way to share information and authority. That’s what co-marketing is all about! Exchanging quality, valuable content with each other to benefit your respective audiences, optimize your website with the right keywords, and build relevant backlink juice.
You don’t need anyone’s approval to run your business the way you want, but you need to make sure you’re not wasting your marketing budget on expensive/ineffective tools or services.
Thanks for your comment!
“Can’t” is a word that breeds negative thoughts and de-motivation. Other business-to-business operators (marketing, design and print, accountants etc) are just after your money and, providing you keep on paying, they’ll come up with all sorts of ideas that aren’t suitable for you, are far too ambitious for a small business or are just impractical.
When you’re planning to launch a self-employed or micro-business, learn about marketing as part of your preparation and planning. Put it all in place before you begin and allocate time every week to the function. It’s the most important tool you have after yourself. Give it proper priority and take as much free advise as you can get!
Hey Christine. I agree that “can’t” is a harsh word, but being harsh is a great way to stand out from the mediocrity and get people’s attention. Think about Mark Schaefer and when he put out his now infamous article about Content Shock – http://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/01/06/content-shock/
He said content marketing isn’t a sustainable practice. Wow. That’s a bold, and pretty harsh statement. It upset a lot of people, but in the process, he got a lot of attention because of it. Publicity, whether positive or negative, is usually a good thing. I wouldn’t be talking about him now had it not been for his article.
Learning about marketing on your own takes a lot of time. It’s a full time job at most businesses so sometimes prioritizing and learning as much as you can in your free time still isn’t enough. That’s when the help of tools comes into play. Free advise is great, but make sure it’s coming from a trusted, reputable source, or else it’s just hearsay.
Ryan, I assume good intentions in this article yet clearly with your role it is done with the self-interest of your business, which makes it’s premise suspect. You might have good points for using BoostSuite, but they are now lost by suggesting other approaches to yours can’t work.
I’ve been leading and coaching businesses for nearly 40 years, much of that time in marketing. I have found it works best to present “points of difference” (why we are better) and respect the audience’s capacity to make their right choice, rather than claiming to be the only right choice. The power of placing articles like this is like a knife that can cut both ways, as you can see from the comments here.
Thanks for your comment Joe. Yes, I write all of my articles with the best intentions for our audience and the audience of Business2Community. They chose to publish my article because they found it to be helpful and educational, otherwise they would have simply left it on our own blog.
I understand that other approaches can work opposed to BoostSuite, but most of them are ineffective or too expensive for small businesses. That’s why we want people to realize that there is a tool out there that’s right for them.
Sometimes it’s hard for businesses to identify “points of difference” when they sell products or services that are basic or “run-of-the-mill” so to speak. What makes one plumber better than another plumber? What makes one gardening supply shop better than the other?
The answer lies within the useful, educational content they provide that builds their audience. If you (as a plumber) can provide video or written content on how to fix a leaky faucet yourself, there’s a possibility that if something more serious occurs with someone in your audience’s plumbing, you’ll have that rapport already created and they’ll come back to you for service.
In my dealings with small companies I agree that all of the issues do occur, but the biggest issues are not those, here are two others. 1) Perspective – being able to stand back from the day to day “being the business” and see the broader context. firefighting and personal attachments to the business make it harder for some company owners to judge marketing requirements correctly. 2)Skills. Marketing techniques appropriate to the target market are not necessarily front of mind to a small business owner, what does a Osteopath know of website design, what does a Farmer know of social media. 3) Undue family influence. Memebers of the family often have a personal sway on those running the companies. This influence can affect their professional judgement when selecting the most appropriate marketing activity. Any sentence starting “My son/daughter/wife/husband doesn’t like….” is a clear indicator of the issue.
Great stuff. It’s always better to hire a marketer or hire marketers. But sustainability is the issue if they don’t deliver on time. I’ve hired one before but relieved her because her delivery did not match up with my investment on her. But i am an apostle for hiring a marketer because such partnership makes you strong to run physically and physically(in my opinion and experience). Right now i need one or two so badly but can’t maintain the bill however small. I prefer a professional freelancer willing to take all 80-100% of the financial running cost and get paid after bringing in or connected a job. Unless money comes, i cant hire a sponsored marketer.
Thanks for your comments guys.
Jonathan, you bring up some interesting issues. Those are definitely hurdles that marketers must overcome. They must provide clear plans on how this will affect the businesses they’re working for.
Jyde, if you can’t afford a sponsored marketer, you might want to look into BoostSuite (http://boostsuite.com). It sounds like the perfect tool for your needs, and it’s free to try.
As a person who runs a business off the back of providing small businesses access to those they need when they need them – I was intrigued that this type of marketing approach by the creator of this thread was still utilised.
I have been taught – and continue to teach others – the simple fundamentals of every single business and marketing plan ever created and executed are identical.
You dont have to sign up for a newsletter – or click through to find out what foods will flatten your stomach or what latest software is the real deal.
Here is what I have been taught – and it works – just go and do it – no need to buy anything or anyone – simply action this step every single day.
Get out of bed in the morning – and during the course of the day tell 10 new people your business exists and it exists for them. The sandwich guy, the baker, the gardner, the man next to you at the airport and even the teachr in your childs school.
Simply tell 10 new people – do this every day for 365 days and you will find that many of these people will say “so tell me more” as you are giving them something and they will want more – not selling them something and hoping they buy it.
Thanks for your comment Geoff. I like your strategy of telling 10 new people your business exists everyday. I know you’ll have to do more than just tell them it exists. You need to tell them how your company benefits your customers! Also, make sure you’re telling people who are relevant to your mission. If you tell the person who runs your child’s daycare about your in-home care services for the elderly, you need to make sure they have a family member who needs them, otherwise there will be no connection made and no need to follow up/refer others.
If you’re co-marketing, you’re essentially doing the same thing, just virtually. And you don’t even have to leave your home to let these people know your business exists and how you benefit your customers!
There’s a workable balance that can be found for most small business owners.
Yes, they’re usually strapped for time and money. And yes, most don’t know more than the basics of marketing and advertising. For most of those I talk to, survey, train and do business with, they have only a very vague notion of what marketing actually is, and how to differentiate marketing, selling and advertising. For too many, they all mean the same thing.
I’ve found over the past 40+ years of consulting with, training and teaching small business owners, when the majority of owners say “marketing”, what they’re really referring to is “market communications”. This is only ONE of seven or more essential components of a full marketing mix.
My question to them is simple: “how long do you think your business vehicle will keep on running when one of the front wheels — the MARKETING wheel — is held in place by only ONE nut?”
But they ARE the owner of their business, and they’re usually the best-placed person to know who their TARGET AUDIENCE is and what OFFERS they can make to that audiences, even if they need to seek external advice from marketing professionals.
With the right TRAINING and TOOLS, plus appropriate PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND SUPPORT, most small business owners can control — and afford — their own marketing and advertising effectively.
But they need to understand what the terminology and jargon they pick up and use actually MEANS. Unless they can define those all-important terms, they run the risk of no knowing what they’re dealing with or talking about — and IGNORANCE is still the #1 killer of small businesses.
3 minute YouTube video explaining market communications: http://youtu.be/CgD9m46AycI
I completely agree John! Thanks for contributing. Marketing nowadays comes in many different shapes and forms. It’s important for small business owners to know about all their options and determine what’s best for getting their company exposed to the right eyes for the lowest amount of dollars and highest amount of return.