The 7 myths of marketing a service business

Myth 1: Marketing is a cost, not an investmentWhen you spend time and money randomly on marketing, then it probably is an expense because you’re not generating a return on the resources invested in it. Many people make the mistake of emulating the marketing tactics of large companies (such as image advertising) that just don’t produce good returns for small businesses. The fact of the matter is that small businesses have to produce BETTER marketing than large businesses because they can’t afford to make mistakes by dropping hundreds or even thousands of pounds/dollars onto campaigns that don’t work. What often happens is that business owners spend lots of money on ineffective campaigns, then erroneously conclude that marketing is an expense, or not worth doing at all.
However, the secret to marketing success is to create a marketing system. A system of activities, strategies, tactics and automation that reliably and predictably create measurable results and positive ROI. I call this the “marketing slot machine”. It’s a slot machine that for every £1/$1 you put in, you get £1.

50, or £2 or £5 or more back out. Once you’ve created this system (which requires a small amount of experimentation and testing), you should be able to turn it on and off at will, and invest as much as you can to gain maximum returns.

Myth 2: Marketing is expensiveMarketing is only expensive (and therefore an expense rather than an investment) when it is either unaccountable or ineffective. There are myriad ways to market you business inexpensively that are highly effective, once you know how. The key is to understand the elements or variables that go into each activity or campaign, and how they affect the ultimate outcome. This is where most people go wrong, and that’s why their marketing fails to produce the results that they’d hoped for. Often the message is weak or confusing, it’s being sent to the wrong people, or they fail to follow up. Get the formula right, and marketing can be very inexpensive – I spend less than £100 per month on marketing and I’m getting great results.

Myth 3: Marketing means I have to be pushy and salesyGood marketing, done the right way is neither pushy nor salesy. It’s a complete myth that pushy, “gift of the gab” people make the best sales people. Why? Because they spend most of the time talking about themselves or their products and then manipulating people into buying from them. Whilst this used to work, and still does occasionally, it often results in buyers remorse and a general sense of uneasiness on the part of the buyer. Much of the time it creates resistance and a feeling of wanting to run for the hills – have you ever felt like that?Ironically, the best marketers and salespeople are those who listen. They listen to what potential clients are saying and see if there’s a match between what they offer and what the buyer needs. They build relationships and educate their prospects about how they can help them. The art is to get in front of people who have demonstrated a need or want for what you offer, and who will gladly learn more about what you do and how you can help them.

Myth 4: Marketing produces instant resultsSome people believe that if they keep running their adverts/campaigns that they’ll “increase their profile”, and somehow, magically one day, a stampede of clients will come rushing to their door. I don’t subscribe to that theory, because I believe that all marketing should produce a measurable result that can be observed in a fairly short time frame. If you’re marketing efforts are not producing obvious, tangible results then you need to look at the elements that aren’t working.

Having said that, marketing is not something you can usually achieve overnight success in. It’s somewhat like rolling a snowball down a hill – there’s a cumulative effect and momentum increases over time. To create the cumulative effect and momentum requires sustained and consistent effort. Marketing isn’t something you do occasionally, and then put on the back burner. It’s something that you need to do constantly, bit by bit, in the same way that a sportsperson needs to train every day to be good enough for the Olympics.

Myth 5: Once my diary is full, I can stop marketingIt’s human nature that once you’ve got some well-paying work you feel rather pleased with yourself, and focus most of your time on servicing your new clients. However, if you have a sales cycle that’s usually more than a couple of weeks long, then you’re going to come a cropper once the project finishes. Because if you don’t continue to do your marketing whilst you’re working on the project, then at the end of the project you may find that your sales pipeline is empty and you have to start up your marketing all over again. It may then be a number of weeks before people start to progress down your sales pipeline towards actually doing business with you. This is what is commonly referred to as the “feast and famine” syndrome.

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If you prefer to avoid these peaks and troughs of income producing activity, then you need to think about how you can do a little bit of marketing on a consistent basis. Even better – create a marketing system that easily and reliably entices prospects into your sales pipeline without huge amounts of effort from you.

Myth 6: My business is small, so I don’t need a marketing planI tried some marketing plan software once. It asked me a lot of questions about market share, mission statements plus product, price, promotion and place. Great fun, if your mind likes to chew on such imponderables. As a graduate of a business studies degree I knew exactly what it was referring to, but had no idea how that was useful to a small business. And guess what – that’s because it isn’t!No wonder then, that most small businesses don’t have written marketing plans, when traditional style marketing plans seem convoluted and esoteric. However, this doesn’t mean that a marketing plan in your head is any better. The question is whether this results in any organised activity.

And to me, that’s the essence of a marketing plan – a blueprint for organising your marketing activities. It doesn’t have to be high-falutin’ or fancy, or be filled with marketing-jargon, but what it does need to do is focus resources on specific action steps that need to be taken to achieve specific goals. There’s a world of difference between carrying ideas around in your head, and writing them down into an organised plan of action.

If you don’t have a written marketing plan, then I urge you to consider this: research suggests that businesses that create a written marketing plan increase their revenue by about 30% after having created one.