Marketing Like It’s 1999?


We’re really an interesting business society. While billions are spent every day on marketing by large corporations (yeah, like the Super Bowl!!), the small business community is constantly trying to find ways to save their marketing dollar. That scrappy mentality is what eventually makes some small businesses wildly successful, but deployed poorly, it can be the undoing of many others. It’s hard to believe that in 2013, the “that’s the way it’s always been done” attitude still exists.

Haven’t we learned from the failures of other businesses, you know, the ones that never adapted or changed? The ones that have kept the same hours, never adjusting to the needs of their customers, or the same people sinking money into dying forms of advertising? Where is there an advantage to hanging so tightly to fruitless ideas from the past or wasting it carelessly because adapting seems so difficult? Every day, money is being dropped in some of the worst ways in marketing ever:

  • Flyers photocopied umpteen times and printed on cheap paper that can be picked up at any Walmart and handed out a trade and business expos
  • Marketing materials that are outdated or just plain ugly and poorly designed, scratched out numbers, dog-earred or stained
  • Purchasing direct and email lists of leads, but not knowing if those leads even want what you sell
  • Websites that are either half-baked or neglected, or worse, non-existent
  • Homemade or clipart logos or made from images pulled from the Internet. (Note: this can be both illegal AND often results in the grainiest of printed results. Images from the Internet are typically not “print-ready”, plus you could be violating copyright laws!!)
  • Don’t even get me started on the shabby way people try to handle their social, if they handle it at all

But what does all of this say about a business? To me: “We’re cheap and here’s proof!” It’s a reflection on the type of service I can expect. It tells me that they don’t care to invest in their company’s image and that marketing is really not a very serious consideration at all. Yet I’m supposed them seriously? Why would I want to pay them to do something for me? They don’t represent themselves professionally, so how on Earth do I know they’ll do an expert job? I don’t, so I’ll move on and spend my money on a company that looks just a bit more reputable, polished and a little less sketchy. That company might even cost me a bit more to work with, but for me, there’s a certain comfort in spending my dime on a company that appears more “together”.

Know this: Your stuff represents you. All of your stuff. I don’t care if you’re short on resources or if don’t know what you’re doing; in this day and age, better stuff and better tools exist and they’re far less expensive to get your hands on than even a decade ago. Want proof? I’ll go even further back:

In 1999, I needed new business cards. After all was said and done, those 250 cards cost $415, or $1.80 EACH. Why? Printing and the paper. The paper was a nice, thick stock, and the printing was offset – what was available then. (I have to admit, I was also a little stingy with those cards, seeing as they cost as much as gold bullion!) Those same cards in today’s market? $60. Today we can print in full-color without breaking the bank. Websites are thousands of dollars cheaper than yesteryear. Today, there are so many amazing opportunities to do marketing better and more beautifully and effectively than before, yet I watch small businesses blow their precious dollars on the most unquantifiable marketing around. Yellow Pages? Really? Who exactly is reading those dinosaurs? Homemade websites because Comcast gave you a free account with your service or because you found a free service to host it for you? Sadly, in the rush to look for the free and cheap, small business DIY’ers are embarrassing the very brands they’re trying to build respect for. They mistakenly assume because it’s accessible to them, they better do it themselves to save a couple bucks, or get an inexperienced novice to do it for them. This is a tragic and avoidable mistake. If you care one iota about making your business successful over the coming year, you need to move yourself into *this*era of marketing. Stop tripping over a dollar to save a dime.

Marketing today

Truth: a large part of our business here comes from fixing the work of others, whether that was work done by the business owner themselves or someone else who “owed them a favor”. Now, do not misconstrue: We’re thrilled to have this business come our way, but I will admit this: a part of me cries a little because they were so ill-served before. Part of me screams when I see wasted efforts, wasted resources, and the eventual failure of a business because they never got a handle on their marketing. Part of me scratches my head in wonder, but part of me rages inside because someone didn’t have the nerve or consideration to direct them to a better provider, a better partner. Whether you work with us or some other professional agency, choose to put your business first and work with experts, not novices, not the cheapest you could find, not the person that “knows a little about” something. Compare, get references, shop around, but don’t stand idly by and watch your business crumble because you’re scared to spend on things you don’t understand or don’t have the skill to manage. I’m reminded of JFK’s quote:

[callout1]”There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.[/callout1]

Commit to do the following two things and you just might have an awesome 2013:

  1. Define precisely who your target demographic is. What customers do you specifically want what you have? Whoever they are, your marketing efforts need to appeal to them. Marketing outside of that precise scope is the equivalent of flushing your money down the toilet, so knock it off. And…
  2. Push yourself to stop doing the easy, comfortable, passive kind of marketing that worked in the previous century. Paying for an ad does not a marketing campaign make. Marketing today requires work, planning, tighter execution, and an enormous human element. Reaching your customers can be tougher than ever. Why? They’re more well-informed than customers have ever been. You need to establish trust, and right now, that’s an extremely valuable commodity. Oh, and their time and attention are very limited, being pulled in a hundred directions at once.

How are you different, better, exceptional, awesome? Please don’t say you’re the cheapest. That appeals to a very small and indiscriminate segment of the market, ones who are generally looking for the cheapest, not the best, which…in case you forget, you are.You are the best at what you do, so represent it as so. Treat your business like the special, awesome entity it is. Believe this and remind yourself every stinkin’ day. Please. Do it for the goats. (Note: this video is completely unrelated to anything in this post, but it’s brilliant, fun and a fabulous reminder of why each day is a fun gift to be appreciated. Now go enjoy it!)

One chance to impress? Make sure it’s well executed. Before you say “Oh, that’s so expensive, we can’t afford it”, ask yourself how much your customers are worth, once they’re yours to take care of. If you get one new customer a week because you upped your game, how soon before you offset that cost? Very soon, trust me, very soon.


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