Today’s topic is point blank and very direct that your marketing — the strategy and your game — sucks.

I’ve got to come at you with some tough love today and just some blunt honesty because I care about your survival.

I’ve been looking at metrics every single day for the last couple of months because for my master’s dissertation paper, I’m studying small business failure. I have put in there a hypothesis that the number one thing that I believe could save businesses from having to close their door is if they focused intensely on marketing. I’ll give you the little spoiler alert because I’m pretty much at the final stages of this paper — proofing, editing, and all that fun stuff, for which I have to submit on Monday. The conclusion that I’ve drawn from this paper is that while there are a lot of different reasons that small businesses fail, such as cash flow (running out of cash), unpredictable events (think COVID-19) — that if you had more customers and better customers, if you had more recurring transactions with your existing customers then that cash could help alleviate a lot of your challenges.

If a business will ultimately close due to running out of cash, that usually is that final nail in the coffin. If you know that to be true that you need to make sure that you are positively affecting that before you get down to that path. The way that you affect that is by driving more customers, more customers equals more cash, equals more opportunities to put some money aside for unpredictable events to hire a better person for your team to help take you to the next level. So, there are all of those cause and effect relationships.

The conclusion that I made was that I do believe that two things to be true.

The first one is that, had these businesses that were hit (I interviewed 120 different businesses across the United States) done more marketing? Have they had a little bit more operational experience that many of those businesses would be here today?

Now, do I believe that marketing can solve the lion’s share of those challenges? Definitely.

However, when I dug deeper with these entrepreneurs, there were a lot more issues that more customers would have been great to create more cash. If they didn’t know that the business or the market really didn’t have a need for what they were offering that wouldn’t necessarily have solved fixing things. If they didn’t understand how to read a financial statement that, yes, they might have been driving more customers on the top line, but they didn’t realize that they actually were losing money to fulfill a customer. So, there were obviously other things that would have to happen in tandem. At the end of the day, the way that you can really start to move things in your favor is through marketing.

When I started to just look at dozens of business’ marketing that I haven’t really looked at in the last week or two, I just went to Google and I leveraged a tool that allows me to change my zip code, making it look like I’m in different cities.

Here in Buffalo, New York right now it’s finally starting to get warm, so it’s going to be pool season for the people that have a pool. I decided to just type-in pool cleaning pool, service pool, and all things related to maintaining and managing a pool.

I looked in Buffalo, New York, and then I looked in other big cities — Orlando, Tampa, Miami, everything for Florida. Then I looked at Denver, San Diego, Chicago, and Des Moines. I looked at 15 or 20 different cities. What I did was, I kind of took a look at the first couple of businesses that came up. I went through just a really fast audit — I looked at websites, calls to action, social media presence, and their social media posting, how the website content was written. Basically, I looked at all of the outward-facing materials without ever physically visiting most of those locations. Candidly, most of their marketing sucks — it just simply sucks.

And I think what ends up happening is supply and demand because, in a lot of these locations, there’s not a ton of supply. Demand outweighs what’s there — it outweighs the supply that you can get away with — having crappy marketing, typos all over your website, only posting once a month on Facebook, and having a 2.5-star review on Google or Facebook, for example.

If you really want to take this stuff seriously, if you really want to make sure that your business is going to stand the test of time, that you can go toe-to-toe with whatever competitor comes in the marketplace, that you don’t get nervous if a new big-box franchise comes in because your marketing will destroy them — you need to start focusing on this and taking it more seriously.

My question and my action item for you today are “What’s within your marketing do you know and your heart of hearts that you have to go in there and just get this cleaned up — too often referred to as skeletons in the closet?”

  • Do you know that you need a different type of customer? 
  • Do you need to get rid of some of your customers? 
  • Is your signage broken outside your retail location for four years? 
  • Do you have to now adopt new cleaning protocols that you’ve been talking about for two years and now with COVID if you don’t do that, you’re literally not able to open and you’re definitely out of business (that’s more of an operational rather than a marketing-related but it ties back into your marketing). 
  • Is your website from 1999 and you know that it crashes on mobile. You actually open up this website on mobile, because you know what just is going to look horrendous. 
  • You don’t have business cards for your team. 
  • You don’t know your unique selling proposition. 
  • Your logo is outdated. 

I mean, whatever those are, it varies based on the business. What I need you to start looking at today is to just start to take yourself and your business more seriously, that I’m encouraging you to go in and just clean one thing up. Pick one thing to take action on this week, one and only one, that you can finally start to move the needle and just give yourself a little bit of momentum. And then you can start to compound on that momentum week after week after week.

If I look back again at all those businesses, I had some of the toughest conversations I’ve ever had. These business owners were literally destroyed when they had to close their business. Many of them were ruined financially. They ruined their employees financially, their partners. They had family members that invested. There are so much drama and negative ripple effects that are caused that I need you to make this work.

The whole reason that I continue to do this show is to tip the needle in your favor to encourage you and to tell you that marketing needs to be put above all.

Marketing creates opportunities, those opportunities turn into customers, customers turn into cash. When you have cash, you have momentum on your side and you can pivot as needed. You can hire business coaches, consultants, an operational man to fix your operations, a pricing expert to nail down your margins, or bookkeepers to teach you more about the numbers.

However, if you don’t have more customers, new customers, or repeat customers, none of this other stuff matters. Doesn’t matter how good your product or your services are if you do not have enough cash to do anything. You are sunk. You know your marketing sucks.

So now is your time to change it —that is my message. That is my action for you today. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I know that I sure did. Get out there. Take your one action today.