If You’re Thinking About Marketing—Don’t!
by Chad Rueffert

“We’re thinking about doing a little marketing.”  I hate that phrase.  Anyone who calls me to say that gets the same response:  “Don’t do it.”

You’d think a guy who makes a living helping people market their products and services would love it when someone calls to tell me they want to do a little marketing.   But I know something these people don’t.  I know that if they are thinking about doing a little marketing, it will be a giant waste of time and money.

Let’s break down the thinking behind a statement like this word for word:

“WE’RE THINKING ABOUT...”  By saying “we”, my prospective client has indicated that she is not the only person involved in the decision. More than likely, the people behind the scenes are the reason the company is “thinking” about marketing instead of already doing it.  Someone is not committed, and it’s usually the person I’ll meet only after putting together a plan, at which point I’ll have to revise everything to please the hidden objector.  And worse yet, if the company is “thinking about” marketing, that means they aren’t sure they need to market, aren’t sure they’ll continue to do it, have no idea what it costs, and (worst of all) aren’t already marketing.

“DOING…”  If marketing is something you “do”, you are not serious about it.  Marketing is an inherent activity in any successful business.  It’s not a one-time project, and it’s not something you can just decide to “do” or “not do.”

“A LITTLE…”  The word “little” means the company is likely to stop their marketing program as soon as they have a bad sales day, or reevaluate the budget, or just get distracted by something more interesting.  It’s also a pretty good clue that they don’t expect to pay very much for their marketing and want me to know it up front.

“MARKETING…”  The word most people should insert here is “advertising.”  People who want to “do a little marketing” aren’t talking about true marketing activities; they are talking about taking out an ad or two.  “Marketing” is the strategy behind your product or service.  It includes making important decisions about the name of your product, its price, its packaging, its features and so on.  It includes where you choose to locate your business, who you decide to hire, your hours of operation.  If you want to open a new company that manufactures and sells orthopedic shoes for older adults, before you ever take out an ad, you’ll need a name that appeals to a mature audience.  You’ll need to find a way to manufacture and sell the product at a price affordable to people on a fixed income.  You’ll need to lease a storefront in an area frequented by and accessible to your buyers.  You’ll want to hire a staff experienced in dealing with mature shoppers.  And finally, you’ll want to design your advertising to appeal to this audience and use a media outlet that will cost effectively reach them.  Advertising is just one of the components of a good marketing plan, and it is usually implemented only after most of the other steps are complete.  I if your product doesn’t work well, is too expensive, is difficult to obtain, or is sold by inexperienced people, advertising will only put you out of business faster.

The reason I so hate to hear those words is not that I don’t want to help these companies – I do.  But I want them to start at the beginning of the process.  To evaluate their product, their target market, their pricing, etc.  People who call to “do a little marketing” have rarely gone through this process, which means their advertising is going to be schizophrenic and ineffective.  They’ll spend the money and when the results are poor, they’ll conclude that marketing is a waste of money better spent somewhere else.

To be an effective marketer and advertiser, you MUST, MUST, MUST understand that marketing is the conceptual part of your business model that must exist prior to the reality.  Many small businesses are started by entrepreneurs who want the control and potential income of owning their own business.  Many new businesses fail in the first two years.  The ones that succeed are the ones founded upon a marketing concept.  Once you understand the concept, every decision you make is based upon that understanding.

For example, let’s say you want to open a retail clothing store.  Do you choose your location or your products first?  The answer is neither!  First you must have your concept.  You can’t just open a clothing store.  You must open a clothing store for toddlers featuring imported styles from European designers.  Why did you choose that concept?  Because nothing like it exists, there is very little competition in the children’s clothing market in your area, and a large market of buyers.  Now, every future decision you make will be influenced by this concept.  You’ll choose to locate your store next to an upscale daycare center.  You’ll design your displays to appeal to mothers and portray a European flair.  You’ll price your products on the high-end because people will expect to pay more.  You advertising copy and imagery will probably focus on originality and exclusivity.  And you’ll place advertising in magazines that are read by affluent young mothers and occasionally in magazines focused on grandparents.

You can’t think about doing a little marketing.  Marketing must be the first thing you do, and your first priority every single day.  If you look at it that way, over the long run, you will be very successful and no dollar you spend on marketing and advertising will be wasted.  If you look at marketing and advertising as something you do occasionally, when you have a few extra dollars or sales have been slow, you’d be better off to simply put the money in your pocket and think about doing something else with it.