There are few industries where a business owner can be apathetic towards marketing themselves and their business and still find success. Ice cream shops are one example. Have you ever seen an ice cream shop with 1 star reviews on Yelp? It’s rare to find a dessert shop people don’t like. I mean, it’s ice cream. How do you mess that up? Yet for many businesses, selling pizzas and ice cream is a completely different model.
No Differentiation – Requires Active Promotion
Most service businesses have few areas of differentiation from competition. An HVAC company for example, is likely to compete with 20 other companies in the same service area. Same location, close to the same service (maybe a few offer 24/7 service and another is a commercial vs. residential contractor), similar prices, similar brands installed/repaired, etc. The only differentiation is in promotion through a brand, which can include a variety of trust factors to elevate a service business above competition.
HVAC isn’t the only business, insurance agents, accountants, hospitals, all rely on brand equity to build profitable client bases. The brand of any business is largely influenced not just by the company, but the business owner. For many small to medium sized businesses without Chief Marketing Officers, the CEO is the face of the company.
Outsourcing Does Not Equal Results
Building a brand by outsourcing it to a third party is not a solution. As a business owner, you will understand your product and your service better than anyone else you hire. Paying a marketing agency or consultant isn’t discouraged, but doing so without putting in work yourself, will not lead to results.
Many business owners fall into the trap of thinking, “If I pay someone to manage marketing or my website, then it’s one less thing to worry about”. True, business owners have a lot to manage, but marketing cannot be something tossed to a well paid consultant.
Organic vs. Paid Brand Promotion
Agencies can handle paid brand promotion on their own. Online advertising, billboards, trade show booths, TV commercials, most forms of paid media can be easily handled by an agency and simply approved by a client with excellent results. Yet organic brand equity is more trusted by consumers.
Comparing a business that clearly paid for reviews vs. a business that earned each review, the latter is more powerful. Consumers are tired of advertising. Although still effective, the increasing noise of ads make it difficult to grab attention, instead ads are increasingly ignored. One of the reasons native advertising is the fasting growing form of paid advertising, is it doesn’t look like an ad and mimics editorial content. Unfortunately, organic promotion is now impossible without deep client to consultant collaboration.
Search engine rankings, a true measurement of a brand’s online organic equity, used to work with little interaction from business owners. Search engine optimization experts could get any website ranked well online without even meeting a business owner. Now, it’s changed towards a customer-centric approach, more aligned with traditional marketing. Success online is now largely dictated by a successful business approach, service, product and brand.
Misalignment in Client to Consultant Relationships
As a digital marketing consultant, I frequently assign tasks for clients to complete in order to increase brand equity and visibility online. To do lists can consist of ideas to differentiate services or products, recommended partnerships, alignment of employees towards winning industry awards and building the business owner’s authority in the industry,
Often these assignments are rarely completed, met with delays or confusion: I thought I pay you to manage my website?
What many clients fail to realize; actions that increase the organic equity of a brand affect the core of the business and can’t be 100% completed by a paid consultant or are far less important when completed by a consultant.
I cannot speak for you at a conference, I cannot be the authority in your industry, I cannot be published in industry journals. I cannot make changes to your service or product without collaboration. Even media/reporter outreach is more effective when completed by a business owner vs. a paid consultant.
Taking an Active Stance in Promotion
Start by playing your role as the business owner in marketing activities. If it’s too overwhelming, hire a Chief Marketing Officer. Marketing deserves a spot within your company at an executive level.
- Create your online voice. You can pay someone to write your thoughts for you, but they wouldn’t be your thoughts. If
Richard Branson is able to write all of his blog posts, you can too! Be strategic in sharing your vision regularly with your customers and your industry. By actively promoting yourself, you will promote your company.
- Get publicity for your company. Take an active role in getting quotes, sound bites and videos published with the media and industry sites and journals. Use these free tools to get started.
- Collaborate with your agency, consultant, internal team, whoever you pay for marketing functions. Be available and collaborate on business brand tasks.