All small business owners are at least a little bit bipolar. It’s a categorical generalization, but it’s mostly true. Business cycles go through natural, mostly inexplicable, peaks and valleys. We get excited when our businesses are trending upward and occasionally desperate when we hit a trough. When revenue is coming in and everyone’s busy, we’re convinced that we’re brilliant. The formula is working and we’ll continue to succeed forevermore. At least until the next downturn, when we try to figure out just what it was that we did wrong.
Looking for a Panacea
The phone call came in early August. The very nice lady on the other end of the call was eager to talk. She introduced herself as Connie, and said that she was depressed. “All of my customers have disappeared and I don’t know where they’ve gone,” she sighed. The clients weren’t returning calls and her year-to-year revenue was way down.
“What are you doing to let them know you’re there?” I asked.
“Not much. We’ve never really had to market our business.”
Connie was hoping that marketing might be a panacea, a simple cure for all of her business woes. I was encouraging, but realistic. “There’s no magic pixie dust that can turn your business around overnight. For marketing to work, it requires a long term commitment.” It was an honest statement, but perhaps a strategic mistake on my part.
We discussed the value of a continual communications effort, how a consistent marketing program could help her company stay top of mind, and how she could use a combination of tactics to stay in touch with her existing clients and generate leads for new business. She was interested, even a little excited, but she needed to discuss the ideas with her partner. We would talk again.
We scheduled a time for another conversation a week later. When I called, Connie wasn’t ready to talk. “Call me back in two weeks,” she said.
“That’s a bad sign,” I thought.
Predictably, she wasn’t available for the next scheduled call. I sent a friendly, short email, but received no response. On a whim, I decided to try again this morning. This time Connie took the call. It was a very short conversation that went like this:
Connie: “Our business has picked up and our customers seem to be coming back. I think everything’s going to be great, so we really don’t need to do marketing.”
Me: “I’m glad, but what will you be doing to make sure that you’re business will continue to grow?”
Connie: “I don’t think we need to do anything. We’ve got plenty of work now. We’ll call you if we need you.”
There’s more to tell, but that’s plenty of illustration for today’s post. Here’s the diagnosis:
Marketing isn’t a panacea, but a solid and consistent market focus can help to smooth out the hills and valleys of the business cycle. In today’s environment, marketing is a requirement for the long term health of your business.
Connie’s bipolar view of her business is completely understandable, but her decisions reflect her mental condition, not business reality. What she wants is a prescription of marketing to fix a business problem, but not a long-term regimen. She toughed it out the depression this time, but what will happen the next time business goes south?
The Quick and the Dead
Andrew Grove, the former CEO of Intel, once said, “There are two kinds of companies, the quick and the dead.” It’s a favorite quotation and it applies to this case. I’m afraid that Connie’s small business is destined to waver in and out of critical condition. They’ll continue to struggle and to look for a panacea. Even if they’re not exactly dead, they’re suffering from poor health.
Market focused companies understand the correlation between their communications program and important KPIs – new account generation, revenue growth, profitability, and lifetime customer value, as examples. They’re smart, quick, and focused on growth. They market continuously and effectively and they measure the results of their efforts. They view marketing as an investment, not an expense or a temporary cure for business ills. As market leaders, they weather the cyclical turns of business better than their competitors.
A long term marketing regimen for your business (and mental) health
What about your company? Are you market focused and moving ahead or are you looking for a cure for today’s set of problems. If it’s the latter, there’s really no panacea, but there is a long-term solution. DP Marketing Services works with small businesses to plan and execute effective marketing programs that focus on healthy business growth. Get in touch if I can help!
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