If you’ve started your own business, you know you need to spread the word about your products and services. People won’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist, right?
But marketing your services can feel shady, manipulative, and unethical, especially if you already have a negative perception about marketing.
Everywhere you turn, someone wants your attention. You can’t escape TV commercials, Facebook ads in your news feed, or advertorial content in your favorite publications. Who wants to contribute to all that clutter by producing more irrelevant, boring, low-quality ads that scream “Buy From Me!!!”
Or maybe marketing seems frustrating and illogical to you. Maybe you’ve tried promoting your business in a number of ways but nothing worked consistently. With so many tactics, how can you possibly master them all? The ads you run don’t generate responses. Your website is languishing, practically unvisited, in cyberspace. Your last mailing was a flop.
Lose enough money on marketing, and it’s easy to become cynical. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s look at 7 key reasons why people hate marketing – and why it might not be as bad as you think.
#1 – Marketing Doesn’t Work
Few things are more frustrating than getting inconsistent results and not being able to determine why. Marketing can seem random if you can’t figure out why you got a few responses one time and nothing the next. Is it just luck? Would you get a better return on your investment going to Vegas and betting on red?
Many small business owners handle this uncertainty by jumping from tactic to tactic, trying virtually anything they can think of, until they just give up.
The good news is most marketing doesn’t work for one of 6 specific reasons:
- You aren’t reaching enough prospects – Marketing is a numbers game. You can advertise to thousands of people, but if your target audience doesn’t listen to that radio station, read that publication, search for that keyword in Google or subscribe to that mailing list, you will have poor results. Why? Because not enough of the right people are receiving your message.
- You don’t differentiate yourself – If your prospects can’t tell the difference between you and your competitors, they will make their decision based on price. Your marketing must build a compelling case for why prospects should choose you.
- Your message isn’t clear or relevant – If prospects don’t understand what you do and how they can benefit, they won’t buy. Prospects don’t have time to decipher how you can help them solve their problems or achieve their goals. They have hundreds of people and companies demanding their attention each hour. To survive, they filter out irrelevant information. If you watched TV last night, how many ads can you remember off? Those you do remember were probably repeats or messages you thought were interesting or entertaining.
- Your offer isn’t attractive enough – In 2007, the NY Times estimated that each person is exposed to 5000 ads and marketing messages each day. Your ad is one of thousands that competes for your prospect’s attention. If your offer isn’t compelling, relevant, and urgent, it will get lost within the clutter. How many offers do you respond to each day? It’s probably far less than 5000.
- You ask prospects to do too much – Call for a free consultation. Buy our expensive product. Hire us on retainer. Prospects see these types of offers as extremely risky. They hear consultation and think “sales pitch.” They see your product and wonder if they can get a better deal elsewhere. They read about your services and think, “So what – why should I care?” Instead of trying to sell through your ads, make your offer virtually risk-free with two-step marketing. Offer free information, a special report, an recorded seminar, or something that assures prospects they won’t have to talk with you until they are ready. How often do you call for that free consultation or hire someone on the spot without doing some due diligence first?
- Your target market may not be viable – Every market adheres to the principles of supply and demand. If the target market you chose doesn’t want or can’t pay for your products and services, or is too small to sustain your business, it’s time to pick a different market. Trying to convince someone they should buy what they don’t want is an uphill battle you probably won’t win.
Before you start any marketing campaign, make sure you understand who your target market is, what they want and need, how they purchase products and services like yours, and what would compel them to take action. Haphazard marketing is a waste of money. Instead, focus on understanding your prospects and giving them exactly what they want.
#2 – Business Should Just Come
Many professionals believe that if they do a great job, business should just come. That only people who offer mediocre or poor services need to market.
Some believe that marketing is bragging, tooting their own horn, and hyping themselves up. Others believe marketing is begging for business, and if they have to beg, they must not be very good.
The truth is, your prospects are busy. They suffer from information overload and are overwhelmed by choices. They don’t have time to figure out who you are, what you do, and how that benefits them. It is up to you to help people see the value of your services and give them a reason to choose you. If you don’t put that into context, they will ignore you.
Consider this story. One cold January morning around 8:00 AM, a violinist sat down in a Washington DC metro station and performed six Bach pieces. About 1100 people passed by him during the 45-minutes he played. Almost none stopped to listen, applauded when he had finished, or threw a buck into his open violin case. By the time he had finished, he had made about $32 and no crowd had formed around him at any point.
The shocker: this musician was world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell, who regularly sells out theaters for $100 per seat, playing his $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius violin in the metro. Without any signage or cameras or ways to identify him, no one realized he wasn’t just one of the many street performers who set up shop in the metro on any given day.
They didn’t realize the quality of his performance. They didn’t appreciate he was playing difficult pieces by Bach. They didn’t take notice of his skill. They simply passed by. Not noticing. Not caring.
Your prospects are just as oblivious to your marketing message – unless you tell them why they should pay attention, why you are different or special, and why they will benefit.
#3 – Marketing is Manipulative
Everyone has had a bad experience with a salesman who pressuring them into buying on the spot. Maybe it’s the salesman at the gym guilting you into signing a three year commitment. Or the guy claiming you won a free trip to the Caribbean if you agree to listen to his pitch on how time shares are the best investment you will ever make. Or an old-school real estate broker I had the misfortune of working with who lived by the motto, “Just get the bird in the cage,” meaning just get them to sign the iron-clad contract drawn up in the broker’s favor that the client will never be able to break.
It’s true. Because people buy based on emotion and justify with logic, if you play upon people’s fears, insecurities, and guilt, you can manipulate them into buying something they don’t need or want.
But that’s the “dark side” of marketing and selling. Yes, you could start a boiler room to rip off unsuspecting old ladies who can barely afford their mortgage payment. And yes, you’d be a terrible person for it.
Any tool can be used for good or evil – but manipulating people, making them uncomfortable, and giving them an overall poor experience is not exactly the best way to build a loyal following of repeat clients who love you and happily refer business.
Ethical marketing involves helping those people who want and can pay for your services get to know, like and trust you by explaining the benefits and value of what you do. Using the principles of education-based marketing, you help people by giving them useful information so they can make the best decisions they can for themselves.
If you believe in your services. If you believe you are genuinely helping people. If you believe you go above and beyond your competitors to give your clients the best value. Then you owe it to your prospects and clients to make the best case you can for why they should choose you.
#4 – I Don’t Like Rejection
Most people don’t like rejection, especially when it feels like people are making a judgment about them. All those limiting beliefs rise to the surface. “If you have to market your services, you must be unethical or manipulative or not very good.”
It can be hard to put yourself out there because you may look like a fool. If you play it safe and don’t draw attention to yourself, you can’t fail publicly.
Rejection often isn’t personal. You are asking people to try something new or give something a chance – and not everyone is willing to do that. People don’t make purchasing decisions for many reasons. They may be confused about your offer. They might like another solution better. Their boss may have made a budget cut and now they can’t afford you.
Or maybe your prospect is just having a bad day today and is taking it out on you. Maybe their brother-in-law just got into the industry and they want to give him a chance. Or it’s possible your prospect is a jerk who yells and belittles any staff members, feels the need to micromanage every task, and wouldn’t be happy with anything you might do.
One of the most interesting ways to get over your fear of rejection is the game Rejection Therapy. The purpose of the game is “You must be rejected by another person at least once, every single day.” The rules make it clear. You can’t “attempt” to be rejected – or just “try” to be rejected. No – you don’t win unless another human being ACTUALLY rejects you.
If you play this game for 30 days, you will start to see that rejection isn’t so bad. You will survive. And you may be surprised what it takes to get people to actually reject you.
#5 – I Can’t Start Until I Know Exactly What To Do
Setting goals and creating an action plan is a good first step for accomplishing any project. However, many people take this step too far and never move into implementation.
It’s easy to do more research. There is always one more book or article to read or another seminar or course to take that could help you understand what you’re not quite grasping.
Ask yourself – are you procrastinating because you fear moving forward? Are you searching for that magic bullet (that doesn’t exist)? Do you believe that with enough planning, you can create the “Fail-Proof, 100% Efficient, Most Perfect Plan Ever ™”?
Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no 100% fail-proof plan. Any plan will reach a point where adding more detail yields diminishing returns. Are you there yet? Is planning really the best use of your time?
By all means, create a plan, but then take action. You will always have imperfect knowledge and the only way to test your assumptions is to get started, collect real world feedback, and tweak your outputs.
Famous advertising man David Ogilvy said, “The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST. If you pretest your product with consumers, and pretest your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace.”
Even the most famous advertisers need to test. They may have good hunches about what should work well. But SHOULD doesn’t always translate into what DOES work best.
Put yourself out there. Try different things. Observe what happens. Tweak your headline, message, offer, call to action, sales presentation, emails, blog post titles, website lead capture forms, and any other marketing materials until you find the right combination that works.
#6 – No One Cares What I Say
Another marketing concern many people have is rooted in self-doubt. Maybe you believe that no one will care what you have to say. No one will want to read your writing, your special reports or your blog posts. No one will want to hear you speak, download your podcasts or interview you. No journalist will want to write a story about you because what you offer isn’t interesting, unique or important.
The truth is that people want advice from someone they perceive is knowledgeable. They want a trusted resource to help them filter out the irrelevant information and point out what they need to know.
Your prospects are always interested in a good offer that helps them accomplish a goal or solve a pressing problem they’ve been mulling over for weeks.
When you provide helpful, relevant information, people are pretty forgiving about delivery. Yes it’s nice to have a snazzy cover design, sleek layout, cool theme music, or perfect delivery – but you can get by with “good enough.”
Most software companies – like Microsoft – get their product to “good enough,” then ship. Once the product is shipped, they can then make changes, fix bugs, and add features based on real world feedback.
You can always release a version 2.0 of your guide. You can rewrite your blog posts. You can re-record your podcasts. With practice, you will get better at delivering engaging presentations. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to put your message out there if you hope to be noticed.
#7 – I Don’t Have the Time or Money to Market My Services
If you equate marketing with unethical behavior, of course you will procrastinate. You won’t make marketing a priority, so you won’t devote the time, money or resources to creating a successful marketing strategy.
Other people will back you up. Lots of other people hate marketing too, so you will always find someone else who will commiserate and complain with you. If you aren’t careful, that confirmation bias can cement the notion that your beliefs about marketing are “right” and “justified.” Because most of us act in congruency with what we believe, you may actively avoid marketing altogether.
I hope with this article, I’ve shown you that you can choose to market with integrity and dignity. You can decide you won’t engage in manipulative practices. You don’t have to be a snake oil salesman.
Rather, you can approach marketing as a way of attracting and keeping profitable clients.
If you align yourself with that principle – that you want to help people, that you will educate them to make informed purchasing decisions in their best interests, that you will strive to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships based on trust – marketing doesn’t seem so bad.
Yes, it’s true that creating an efficient, lead-generating marketing campaign is challenging in the beginning. You won’t know everything. Many of the tactics you try won’t work. You may lose a few prospects along the way. But as you discover what works and learn more about what your target market really wants, it gets much easier.
Marketing is a skill set you can learn, but you have to commit to learning it and accept you will make mistakes long the way.