You want to be rich, don’t you? You want you’re time to be your own. To experience the finer things in life. To provide an inheritance for your family.

Big dreams are why you started your own business, so why does it feel like you’re just spinning your wheels? Working really hard, and going nowhere?

I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because you aren’t dreaming big enough.

You can’t grow a business on faith alone.

Big dreams, lofty goals, and a firm belief in yourself … they’re all part of the sage advice espoused by the cream of the motivational guru crop. But it’s all rather lacking in specificity, don’t you think?

If you listen to the positive thinking experts, you begin to think success is like a black hole: just pick a product, believe in it, and customers will be irresistibly drawn to you.

I would argue that although you do need goals and a positive attitude (especially if you ever hope to bounce back from the endless right hooks owning your own business will throw at you) — it’s all worthless if you have no idea how to market yourself to potential customers!

You can't grow a business by faith alone

Praying Hands via Wikimedia Commons

What’s your marketing plan?

Do you know who your target market is? Do you know where to find them? What motivates them to buy? No? Then you need a marketing plan.

Even if you don’t write a formal marketing plan like those used by large corporations, you do need to define who your customers are and how you will promote your products to them.

And don’t give me that line that really anyone could benefit from what you’re offering; every product and service has a limited appeal, so stop blindly throwing darts in the air and find your target.

Are you selling a product for young people who have a lot more time than money? Or is your product for women of means who are trying to fight the aging process? Perhaps your ideal customer puts environmental conscientiousness ahead of convenience?

Whoever it is, you need to identify them AND know how you can reach them. Will you find them on Facebook? Can you network with them at local events? Do they frequent certain blogs where you can guest post? These are all things you need to know if you want to market (and thereby grow) your business effectively.

Online marketing is hard

I’ve seen people claim to be “Internet marketers” whose only education in Internet marketing came from the same DVD they are now hawking. I have seen network marketers randomly spam Facebook and LinkedIn groups hoping someone would take interest in their product. I’ve seen successful local businesses with such gawd-awful websites I knew they were missing opportunities.

Don’t be fooled. Online marketing–and marketing in general–is hard. It takes strategy, planning, execution, and measuring of results. If anyone neglects to tell you this–tries to make it seem like starting your own business and selling a product is easy–don’t bother listening to anything else they have to say.