Tag Archives: fear of failure in business

Top Small Business Marketing Mistakes

Recently we were having lunch at Columbus’ Curry, a new quick dining establishment specializing in Indian cuisine.  During this visit, we had the fortunate opportunity to meet the owner.  Turns out that they had only been open for four weeks, but they indicated that things were going well thus far.  At some point, our conversation turned to what the “most important” thing to focus on should be.  Our response?  Generating sales!

As we’ve said in previous posts, nothing happens in an organization until a sale is made and sales don’t happen without marketing.  Unfortunately, many new/fledgling small businesses often underestimate their marketing needs.  With that said, we figured we’d discuss the top marketing mistakes new business often make and how you can avoid them.

No marketing plan.  Failure to plan is like planning to fail – we’ve all heard that statement correct?  Well, if you don’t have a marketing plan, then you can rest assured that your marketing will not be is effective as it needs to be.  People often think that a marketing plan needs to be this overly complicated document that takes months to develop.  That is not the case.  A simple marketing plan can be made in short order.  Take a look at this article to see just how to put one together and what it should contain.

No marketing budget.  Equally egregious as not having a marketing plan, is not having a marketing budget.  When you start a business you may be consumed in pouring all of your dollars into research and development, product engineering, hiring staff or outfitting your headquarters.  However, if you don’t have the budget to tell your target market about your product or services, how will they find you?  “Oh, if we build it they will come” is your response?  Read the next bullet dear friend.

Having a “build it and they will come” mentality.  We’ve written about this before in our Small Business Marketing 101 post.  The key takeaway from it is that even with a highly visible location it’s EXTREMELY hard for potential customers to “see” you.  The only way to ensure that the do, is to market to them.  Furthermore, even if they know you are there, what is going to make them choose you over your competitors?  For that, we recommend that you emphasize your Unique Selling Proposition or USP in all of your marketing collateral.

Failing to “test” your marketing.  Marketing should never be viewed as a “one and done” type of activity.  The one thing that is constant in the world is change.  Thus, you must frequently look at your marketing activities, vehicles, collateral, etc. and make sure that it is working.  If it isn’t, then you need to make adjustments to it.  If you do a mailing and you get a 2% response rate, test doing a similar mailing but tweek the headline, body, mailing list, etc to see if the results change.  Keep “testing” various elements of the campaign until you get the desired result.  All of this leads us to the next point.

Not holding your marketing accountable.  If you are involved in various marketing activities, you should always hold your marketing ruthlessly accountable for revenue.  One of the first things we ask customers is how they heard of us.  Why?  We want to know which vehicle brought them to us.  We then track various metrics associated with this such as number of leads, leads converted to customers, revenue spent per customer, cost of client acquisition, etc.  If we don’t see the return on investment for a particular vehicle we either 1) test it, 2) change it or 3) abandon it.  If we get to the third, that allows us to shift those dollars to something that IS producing desired results.  The worst thing you can do is continue to pour money into something that is not generating sales.

Trying to reinvent the “Marketing” wheel.  Marketing is not hard stuff (in simplistic terms of course).  Yes, there is the need to reinvent and refresh your marketing so that it remains relevant and in sync with the times, but you don’t have to go back to the drawing board to make it yours.  In this post, we talk about 50 ways that you can market your small business.  The point?  You don’t have to start from scratch; look at the items, choose what works for you and then make it fit your business.

Continuous planning without execution.  The fear of failure is a very powerful thing.  In this post, our CEO Jared Rogers talks about getting over his fears when he struck out to head the Beverly office.  In the end he got over them and started doing things. The point is that you can be so busy preparing, organizing, and researching your marketing to prevent failure that you never get around to the actual marketing.  To combat this remember:

  1. Activity is not productivity.
  2. In order to sell a million of something, you have to sell the first ONE.

At some point you have to start your marketing and just see what happens.  Remember, mistakes are the price of entry into the world of success. A failed promotion means you have SUCCESSFULLY determined what does NOT work; and that is a invaluable tool in getting you closer to discovering what DOES work.

Emotions In Business? Getting Over The Fear of Failure.

So, my corporate career officially ended on January 13th 2012.  During the time leading up to this date (as well as this first week out at the retail office) I had the opportunity to talk to lots of people about my transition.  One of the recurring comments I encountered was how admirable it was to strike out on my own.  This was often followed up with a statement surrounding how it must take guts to do it, or how that individual wishes they could take the leap.  Because this topic came up on numerous occasions, I figured I would share my thoughts on just how I got to the point of walking out the door.

 The History

My corporate career spanned over 12 years, 4 companies, numerous positions and a host of experiences.  I enjoyed what I did and I would gladly do it all again.  However, I can remember that even when I was young, I always envisioned running my own company.  This dream remained squelched for most of my corporate career, but when I hit the 5-10 year mark, the voices in my head started getting louder and louder.  If I was going to be true to myself, I owed it to myself to at least evaluate the option.

 The Decision

Wilson Rogers & Company was founded back in 2005 as a side project.  It grew over the years, but reached a point at which the growth became inhibited.  This was largely due to the fact that the company had no full time operations nor did it have substantial market visibility.  If the company was going to move into the next phase of existence, it was going to take full time dedication.  Given the desire to move forward, it was decided that someone would need to take a more commanding reign of the helm.

 Are You Crazy?

So it was decided that I would be the one to assume the driver’s seat.  But just what was I doing?  I was going to give up my “secure” corporate job in the midst of a recession to try and make a company work?  I was going to “throw away” 12 years of corporate education to run a shop that takes little to no credentials to start?  I was going to “waste” the money spent obtaining my BS in Accounting and MBA in Finance to work on a start up?  Really?  This is what I had spent all these years building my career for?  To go and risk it on some unproven, unknown commodity that could potentially fail and leave me and my family in shambles?

 The Rationalization

If I were to say that I didn’t doubt myself, I’d be lying one of the biggest lies in my life.  Of course I doubted myself.  Here I was about to strike out into the unknown and I worried if it would work.  But through many encounters with people, reading lots of articles and books and just thinking through things, I got to a point where I said that I was the only one who was really standing in my way.  But what about all those “are you crazy” questions?  Here’s how I worked through them all: 

  • While we all think our corporate jobs are secure, we all know that the reality is far different.  Ask those who worked for Lehman Brothers, General Motors, Tyco, Enron or Arthur Andersen.  At any given moment, you can walk into the office one morning and be told your career is over.  What I was giving up was not security but predictability.  If I showed up to work every day and didn’t do something to get me canned, I could expect a nice direct deposit into my bank account every two weeks.  Now, the checks come based on how hard I work and the flow is completely uneven.  But if I can work hard for someone else, shouldn’t I be able to do it for myself?
  • What about the recession?  Being in the finance function of a company allows you to see how business is performing.  Yes, the economy has been slow, but plenty of companies are actually GROWING during this time.  There were 144 million individual tax returns filed in 2010.  With that said, I figured that the market had plenty of space for a small company to come in and try to get just an inkling of the market.  I mean, someone out there has to be looking for a new tax preparer or accountant right?
  • Was I really throwing away my corporate education?  No.  It was my corporate education that in actuality prepared me to make this move.  Additionally, I had 12+ years of knowledge in my possession.  If worse comes to worse, I feel pretty confident that I can go back to counting someone’s money.  It might not be the company I want to work for, and it may take a little time to happen, but I’m pretty sure my skills are worth something to someone out there.
  • Yeah, anyone can start a tax preparation business.  Someone with a High School diploma can start a bookkeeping business.  But it takes someone with some skill to start an accounting, tax, consulting and personal finance company.  The fear that I really had was what would people think of me (with all my credentials) starting what just about anyone on the street could do as well?  In the end, it doesn’t matter what others think.  What matters is what you think of yourself, and I figured that all of that education and credentials were just making me better prepared to strike out on this venture (vs. someone who didn’t).

 The Fear of Failure

In business we are expected to act in the absence of emotions.  However, the reality is that businesses are run by humans and we humans are emotional beings.  Fear is a pretty powerful emotion, as it should be.  The fear of falling is what keeps most infants from killing themselves.  The fear of fire keeps all of us from burning ourselves.  These are rational fears; those that are grounded in reality and pretty proven consequences.  However, we all must be careful from allowing fear to hinder our possible growth, especially irrational fears.

When most people think of starting a business, the two biggest fears are 1) failing in their endeavor and 2) not being able to provide for themselves.  At the onset, these are very rational fears.  However, we tend to make the unknown bigger, badder and far scarier than it is in reality.   Thus the fear of failing morphs into what will people think if I fail, what if I can never get another job, what if I’m no good?  The fear of not being able to provide for yourself becomes what if no one buys our product, what if I run out of money, what if we go bankrupt, what if we wind up homeless?

 Irrational fears are those that will keep you parked on the sideline of the best dance in the world.  They’ll keep you from experiencing things that you have a passion for.  They’ll even cause you to let life pass you by and leave you wondering “what if” in your dying days.  But the reality is, irrational fears are just that, irrational.  What if no one buys your product?  True, this could happen.  But how many people get their taxes done again?  What if you fail?  Tomorrow brings you 24 new hours to redeem yourself.  What if you can never get another job?  Really?  Last time I looked I thought all burger joints were still hiring.

 The point is this, yes, the possibility for failure exist in just about everything we do.  And while a healthy dose of fear is good (especially to make sure you don’t run off unprepared or living in a vision that isn’t based on reality) we shouldn’t let it paralyze us.  So get out there and try something new.  Take a stab at following your dreams.  Talk to that one person you’ve had your eye on but were too afraid to approach.  The worst thing that can happen is that you fail, while the best thing?  Who knows, but we owe it to ourselves to find out! 

 Until next time.