If there’s one goal all businesses have in common, it’s to get more clients and customers.
And yet many business owners are reluctant to get serious about marketing. After all, most people don’t open up a business because they want to become marketers. For obvious reasons, most owners are far more interested in the services they offer and helping clients. And if you’re really good at what you do, you’re probably getting solid word-of-mouth growth, which could lull you into complacency about proactive business growth.
Furthermore, marketing is a big topic and it can feel daunting to even know where to start.
Do I need to be doing Facebook lives?
What about email marketing?
Maybe email marketing is dead and I need to focus on growing a Facebook group?
But wait, what it Facebook changes their algorithm??
Actually, maybe my clients are actually on Instagram?
Or maybe I need to learn about SEO?
Should I be producing longer content less frequently, or publishing every few hours on social media?
When the hell am I going to fit all this in on top of everything else I need to do??
Should I pay for one of those “seven figure coaches” on Facebook hammering me to sign up for their high ticket mastermind, I mean, after all, they seem to have gone from rags to riches and furthermore they’re looking down from a skyscraper AND they’re wearing a suit AND counting stacks of Benjamins????
It’s no wonder that when most owners finally start marketing, it’s often half-hearted and inconsistent. The inevitable results are stress, frustration, and financial insecurity.
In this article, I’m going to break down the most common reasons your marketing isn’t working and how to fix them.
1) Not being crystal clear about who you help, how you help them, and exactly what your prospects should do next.
People don’t like to think. And it’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because they’ve got a lot going on. And if they’re looking to hire someone to help them, it means they’re not an expert on whatever services you’re offering.
In all of your marketing, it has to be crystal clear who your business services and how you can help them. You also have to tell your prospects exactly what to do next with a clear call to action that visually catches the eye.
A lot of businesses get in their own way because they get bored of their marketing. Furthermore, most owners have what’s called “The Curse of Knowledge”; since we already know what we do, we fail to make it as clear as possible to prospects. It can be surprisingly challenging to look at your business with completely fresh eyes.
While you’ll need to switch up the exact words, images, and offers in your marketing materials (more below), you’ll want to be obnoxiously consistent with your overall messaging and brand promise. And you need to be willing to do this to the point of mind-numbing redundancy.
- Make sure your website makes it immediately clear who you help, how you help them, and exactly what they should do next. This should be “above the fold” (in other words, website visitors shouldn’t have to scroll down).
- Craft an elevator pitch clearly and concisely describing what you do.
2) Over reliance on paid digital marketing.
Facebook and Google are wonderful things. They allow us to target audiences and track results with a precision we could only have dreamed of in the past. We can and most definitely should use paid digital marketing as part of our strategy.
However, most service businesses are still built with good old-fashioned relationship building. We want to work with people we know, like, and trust. This is why word of mouth from your current clients to your prospects is so valuable; your business is essentially “borrowing” the social capital your clients have with their friends. And while paid digital marketing can certainly grow your audience, building rapport requires time. To state the patently obvious, it’s hard to build relationships via paid advertisements.
To be clear, you can use social media to build relationships. Organic interactions on social media are a great way to engage with your clients and prospects. One way to do this is by posting valuable content that helps your clients and prospects achieve their goals. There’s also something to be said for using social media to show you’re a normal human and have a life outside your business. Additionally, be intentional about following your clients —and prospects, if possible— and engage on their posts. Remember, another way of looking at “relationship building” is simply being a friend in a human way without expectation. Yes, you may do business down the line. But if the sole goal of your interactions is hustling business, people will know and rightfully be grossed out.
Outside of the digital landscape, it’s also incredibly valuable to find opportunities for in-person facetime. This is why conferences are so important for building relationships for those in the B2B space. And of course if you have a local business, getting out in your community matters. Even online-only B2C businesses can coordinate meet-ups and find time to connect with their clients and prospects in person.
- Commit to regularly posting valuable, human content AND take the time to engage with your people.
- Look for opportunities to get in front of your prospects like offering talks at local businesses and organizing meet-ups.
- BONUS: Make sure your friends and family crystal clear on who you help, how you help them, and what they should tell their friends who will benefit from your services.
3) Not curating and nurturing an email list.
People have very strong opinions about the state of email marketing. So do I!
In spite of what you may have heard, email is not dead. Email open rates may not be wildly high these days, but it’s still a platform that lets you own the relationships (unlike social media, which can change the rules at anytime). Once you’ve gotten permission to contact your prospects and clients (usually in exchange for some valuable resource you deliver via email), you have an awesome opportunity to nurture your relationship.
Consistently email your list with helpful content that solves their problems, positions you as an expert, and shows you’re an actual human. Over time, your prospects will come to know you, like you, and trust you. Furthermore, your regular email contact will create what’s called “Top of Mind Awareness”; simply put, you continue to remind them you who you are and what you do, so your business comes to mind should they (or their friends!) decide they need the services you offer.
In addition to directly emailing your clients and prospects, you can build out paid advertisements on social media using your email list as the audience. This is a great way to leverage your email list and address the fact that many of your recipients will miss out on your email communications.
- Organize all your current clients, former clients, and unconverted prospects into an email list for regular contact. If appropriate, consider adding family and friends as well.
- Email your list at least two times per month with content that solves their problems, establishes your business as friendly and human, and makes it clear how they can work with you for more in-depth help. Based on your bandwidth, consider increasing frequency.
4) Not collecting case studies and testimonials.
The most powerful way to build trust is by showing the real world examples of people you’ve helped. Unfortunately many businesses fail to get serious about gathering testimonials and case studies. But this is too important to leave to happenstance. We have to get in the habit of asking our most satisfied clients to tell their stories.
When sharing case studies of client success, the more specific the better. You want to use objective data whenever possible. Ideally this is reasonably easy to do, because in theory, you’re already meticulously tracking client results to ensure success.
Beyond numbers, an effective testimonial will:
- Highlight how a client felt before they worked with you.
- Explain why they chose to work with your business over the other options.
- Paint a vivid picture of how their life has changed since achieving success.
As you develop your library of happy, satisfied client stories, you’ll want to use them pretty much everywhere: on your website, on social media, in your email marketing, on sales pages, etc.
One more pro tip…
For obvious reasons, your prospects are more jaded than ever. While curating marketing material with your clients’ words and pictures is valuable, don’t underestimate the persuasiveness of screenshotting unsolicited social media shout-outs. Although these won’t always follow the exact formula described above, their obvious authenticity will make them very persuasive.
- Create a system for consistently and intentionally capturing clients results and testimonials to share in your marketing.
- Use both objective data and metrics and the story of your clients’ emotional journey.
- Share liberally and consistently in all of your marketing channels
5) Not tracking results over time.
If there’s one mistake I see over and over, it’s this: not tracking the results of your marketing efforts.
At the end of the day, all of your marketing efforts are experiments (see more below). If you’re not looking at weekly metrics, you can’t assess the efficacy of your tactics. And since it’s easy to “confuse activity with achievement,” it can leave you working your tail off and feeling accomplished when you’re actually just spinning your wheels.
Although the exact numbers will vary based on the business, examples include:
- Total money spent on Facebook ads
- “Cost per click”
- Direct Google searches
- Email opt-ins
- Inquiries about your services
- Trial offers sold
- Sales consultations scheduled
- Sales consultations completed
- Consultation conversion percentage
Once you’re tracking your numbers, you can be more rigorous about running “tests.” After you’ve squared away your foundational marketing tools and tactics (solid website, email list, etc.), there are lots of ways you can potentially spread the word about what you do.
Some of these approaches will be more effective than others, and each will have a different cost in time and money; this is why tracking is so important. On the one hand, we need to try things for at least 1-3 months so a given marketing experiment has a chance to succeed. On the other hand, if you’re not seeing results after a good faith effort of a reasonable duration, it’s time to discontinue that particular strategy and run another test.
- Track 3-6 metrics that relate to your marketing efforts.
- Be disciplined about methodically running marketing experiments. Based on results, be prepared to shift strategies till you find something that hits.
For more thoughts on tracking metrics, check out BFU’s article on the topic HERE.
6) Hoping for a silver bullet.
There are no silver bullets.
Just lots and lots and lots of lead bullets.
Although this one seems obvious when you think about it, in practice most people are looking for a silver bullet. They’re looking for the one masterstroke that will transform their business and flood them with qualified leads.
Not only will you have to keep testing different approaches (and tracking results!), what works one year won’t work forever. The principles of marketing will remain the same because human psychology doesn’t change. But the methods and tactics will keep changing as technology evolves and consumers acclimate to a given marketing message/ channel.
So even if you DO find one magical method that turns on the spigot, it will probably only last for three to eighteen months. Because if and when you find a truly novel approach with outsize results, your competition will inevitably find it as well.
In other words, a close corollary of “hoping for a silver bullet” is “thinking a currently successful strategy means you can be done with working on your marketing.”
This is why the testing mindset is so important. By all means, when you find something that’s working well, ride that horse! Just know it won’t last forever. You’re not “done” with iterating your marketing efforts, so don’t become complacent. Over-reliance on a single marketing channel puts you in a dangerous position when it loses its effectiveness.
- There are no magic bullets. Commit to a never-ending journey of testing different approaches.
- To have a stable funnel of leads, it’s better to have multiple sources than relying exclusively on a single strategy.
Let’s have some real talk, shall we?
Not all business owners take to marketing.
It’s a distinct skillset that is almost certainly unrelated to the technical skills that inspired you to start your own business. And if marketing doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s pretty normal to want to focus on things you enjoy more.
However, if you’re excellent at what you do, and you DON’T take the time to master and execute the basics, you’re going to lose out on the ability to serve the people you want to help. There is an endless parade of people without your caliber of technical skill working to uplevel their marketing game. And they are going to persuade your prospects to use their services, grow a thriving business, and eat your lunch.
This is your tough love moment: we need you to get good at marketing.
We’re counting on you to become excellent at telling the world who you help, how you help them, and exactly what interested parties should do in order to work with you.
By avoiding the six common mistakes above, you’ll be well on your way.
(And if you want more help? Business for Unicorns is offering our first ever deep dive working on sales and marketing. Details HERE.)