Risky Business

Everyone needs a little encouragement from time to time. We often find it in social media posts urging us to keep trying, keep going, or pat ourselves on the back. I’ve noticed a plethora of quotes directed at entrepreneurs with the theme of starting before you’re ready and figuring it out as you go. This risky business includes “leap and the net will appear,” “jump off the cliff and learn how to fly on the way down,” and “jump into the deep end and then learn to swim.” While I appreciate a well-timed “feel good” message, sometimes I question the implied advice.

It is true that if you wait for something to be risk-free to get started, you may never take the first step. There are numerous risks in starting a business, and the risks continue as you go. It is also true that we often learn on the fly. It’s up to you to find a place where you can feel comfortable enough that you’re not going to lose it all overnight, yet still be uncomfortable enough to try new things and grow.

There are risks in marketing, as in any other functional business area. The key to success is to take calculated risks, the kind that will push your comfort zones and move you forward without breaking your neck because your cliff wasn’t high enough and you jumped anyway. I hate it when that happens.

As a small business owner, particularly as a solopreneur, your goal is to maximize your resources and leverage them in order to grow. Risky marketing behavior wastes precious resources of time, money, and effort. Here are a few common risky marketing behaviors you may be inadvertently practicing. Being aware of them and fixing them will make you a smarter marketer and business owner.

Risky Marketing Behaviors

  1. One-off marketing projects. I call this one doing “random acts of marketing.” Random acts of kindness are great, but random acts of marketing – not so much. I define a one-off marketing project as a single action not tied to a strategy or campaign (a single postcard, ad, post, email, etc.) Once is rarely, if ever, enough, especially when it comes to marketing. Good marketing involves multiple touchpoints (contacts) in order to build relationships and create a strong know, like, and trust factor. Things that help: Tie your marketing goals to a season (month, calendar season, target date) and work backwards from an end-date to map the entire journey of how to get there. For every marketing activity you are tempted to perform, integrate it with other marketing activity you have going on.
  2. Being inconsistent. Related to its cousin “random-acts-of-marketing,” please meet “inconsistency.”  This is one of the riskiest, yet most common, behaviors. I get it, you are busy! Busy doesn’t even come close to describing it sometimes, right? Don’t feel alone, I fall prey to this behavior, too. Do the best you can to show up consistently and you will notice an increase in engagement, prospects, and sales activity. Things that help: Batching content, creating time blocks on your calendar for marketing, and getting help (in-house or outsourced). Create some accountability by sharing your intentions with colleagues and customers. Having a designated accountability partner is priceless.
  3.  Creating content without identifying your Ideal client. This is perhaps the riskiest marketing behavior of all. Why? Because you can waste huge amounts of money reaching the wrong people, who aren’t interested and aren’t ever going to be interested in your product or service. The risk is increased by the false perception that you are doing something and getting somewhere since you are “getting the word out.” This wastes precious TIME. Things that help: Identifying your Ideal Client Avatar (ICA). This single activity, either done alone or with other professional help, is a game changer. Let me say it again: A GAME CHANGER. Creating relevant content is much, much easier when you have an intimate understanding of who you are talking to. We are not marketing to everyone, after all, only to a narrowly defined group of people— YOUR people.
  4.  Recreating the wheel without knowing what’s working. This risky behavior is specifically directed at those creative entrepreneurs. You know who you are! You don’t stick with the same platform, message, offer, or audience because you either get bored, get a “better” idea, get discouraged, or get nervous. Smart marketers know to make a plan and stick to it unless they have solid information telling them to change or stop. Things that help: Capture new ideas in a virtual “parking lot” where they can wait their turn while you keep doing what you’re doing. Track statistics as much as possible to back up your decisions. Just because you’re tired of seeing the same old message doesn’t mean other people are, and your open rates and engagement metrics may back that up. If you tweak along the way, be sure to note it so you can judge performance accurately.
  5.  Never getting started. There are many reasons we never get started on a particular marketing campaign or platform, and I will admit many of them are good and real reasons. HOWEVER (didn’t you know there would be a HOWEVER?), none of the reasons are valid enough to keep you from marketing because your business will not survive if you do not market in some fashion. Things that help: Taking a few minutes to clarify why you are hesitating. You can’t fix it if you can’t identify it! Do you struggle coming up with ideas? Is marketing at the proverbial “bottom of the pile” because it makes you feel uncomfortable or unqualified? You don’t know what to say, you don’t know if it will work, you don’t know what you don’t know, and the list goes on. When you identify the underlying reason, you can reach out for help or make a plan to address it. It’s important.

There are, of course, other risky marketing behaviors that can detour or derail us. Bad or no calls-to-action, poor follow up, unclear messages, brand disconnect, and lack of authenticity can all decrease your marketing effectiveness.

In an ideal world, you are knowledgeable and prepared to address every single one of these risks so you can mitigate them as much as possible. In the real world, however, we are learning as we go and pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps every single day. By sharing some of the risky marketing behaviors and how to help deal with them, you will be able to plan and execute your marketing more effectively.

As always, I am here to help with strategy, direction, and implementation. I don’t like to see entrepreneurs jumping off the cliff with no parachute. I care about your success and safety!

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