How to fail at marketing your small business: try to do ALL the things

Let me tell you a story. I recently talked to a small business that had hired an experienced marketing person to put together a marketing plan for them. That person put together a very professional and thorough marketing plan. A plan that simply didn’t work.

What went wrong? Well, that thorough marketing plan, with all the best practices and bells and whistles, failed to take one thing into account: the fact that it was a small business. With a small business’ small budget and lack of manpower. There was no way to actually execute that marketing plan, so things ground to a halt.

The thing is, this isn’t the first small business I’ve talked to that’s had this problem with their marketing planning—and a lot of them (especially larger small businesses) can’t blame an outside marketing consultant. They are doing it to themselves.

If there is one thing most entrepreneurs and small business owners have in common, I’d have to say it’s a highly-exercised overachiever gene. Not surprisingly, right? Very few totally relaxed “it’s good enough the way it is” people decide to throw their entire life into growing a business on their own. Nope, it takes a little congenital fire in the belly.

The problem with an A-Type belly fire, though, is that phrases like, “you don’t have time” or “think small”, or “this is good enough for now” tend to go in one ear and out the other. They want to be the best. They want to DO IT RIGHT. THEY ARE FILLED WITH GOOD IDEAS.

But (and this is a huge but), to build a good marketing plan, you need to identify the most effective ways to get the right message in front of the right people, within the human resource and financial constraints of your business. I’m serious. Don’t just think about money. Think about who is going to actually execute your plan (there are a lot of really low-cost marketing efforts that still take a heck of a lot of time). This means that you need to pick and choose. Not all great ideas make sense. And depending on resources, even marketing best practices that are standard for larger businesses (like a CRM with marketing automation) may or may not make sense.

Here are a few ways to double-check yourself as you work on your marketing plan (more on how to tell if a marketing idea is inherently good here).

  1. Be honest with yourself. How much time do you (or your people, if you’ve got ‘em) have to devote to marketing initiatives? How much time will it take to execute what you’re planning? Do you need to pare down? 
  2. Prioritize. Once you realize that you can’t do it all, take a good hard look at everything you’re planning, and choose the one that will work the best for the amount of time and money you can invest. 
  3. Let go. Let go of the idea that you have to reach all your target customer bases. Let go of the idea that you need to be on every channel or every social media platform. If you read articles on what the huge brands are doing for their marketing and want to emulate them… let that go, too.

Sometimes, you need to step back from the “right” way to do something, and instead do the right way for you. This means hard choices. It can mean dramatically limiting your scope. But executing a great marketing plan that is small in scope is much, much better than failing to execute on a marketing plan that reaches far and wide.

Or losing your mind trying to do all the things. By yourself.

Happy small business marketing,

Katie & Theron

At Urban Sherpa Marketing Co. we offer marketing advisory, strategic planning, and services for small business and startups. Our goal is to make high-quality marketing possible for every business, no matter the size. Think of us as your outsourced marketing department, strategic marketing adviser, or even your phone-a-friend marketing lifeline. We specialize in building efficient marketing programs to grow your business without blowing the bank.

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