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21 Reasons You'll Fail at Marketing

What is it about Marketing that makes everyone on earth think they can do it themselves, despite failure after failure, disappointment after disappointment, and excuse after excuse? Do people not recognize a Marketing failure when they see one?
Written Jan 24, 2012, read 5955 times since then.


I constantly see business owners try the same marketing tactics over and over again; wasting more money, more time, and more energy. If I had 1/10th of what business owners waste on stuff that doesn't work, I’d be the most successful marketing consultant on the planet. But I'm not - and so many business owners would rather go it alone and fail over and over again than reach out and get professional help. I don’t get it.

I know there are those out there who will always try to do it themselves so in the spirit of not getting it, here are 21 reasons why most small business owners fail at marketing:

  1. Guessing- Great marketing isn’t an accident. It takes research, educated decisions, testing, tracking and measuring. Guesswork will leave you customer-less and broke.
  2. Doing what everyone else is doing- Every business is different and your marketing mix should be too.  Following the crowd isn’t going to help you stand out from the competition!
  3. Listening to sales people Marketing is a long term strategy, not a special advertisement, publication, or website; but every sales rep you come in contact with will try to convince you otherwise. Marketing is a process, there is no magic pill and don’t let a slick sales person try to tell you there is!
  4. Not asking questions –Question EVERYTHING about your business and ask everyone you come into contact with as many questions as possible to learn, grow, and constantly improve. 
  5. Doing nothing – It’s simple, if you don’t Market your business, you will fail.
  6. Putting all your eggs in one basket – Marketing is like investing, the more diversified your strategy, the better off you will be. Don’t invest all your time and resources in one medium or on one marketing tool – mix it up.
  7. Not tracking results – How the heck are you going to know what works and what doesn’t if you don’t track the results? If you’re not tracking you’re guessing, and we covered that in #1!
  8. Assuming you have all the answers – Yes, I know: you know your business better than anyone. But do you know marketing?  I mean do you REALLY know how and where to reach potential customers and convince them to buy from you?
  9. Not talking to your customers – No one knows your value – or faults - better than the people who actually buy from you. Talk to your customers - often. It’ll provide valuable insight and ideas.
  10. Ignoring your competition- If you don’t know how you’re different from your competition how are potential customers supposed to? Knowing your competition’s strengths and weaknesses will help you differentiate.
  11. Not setting goals –Goals keep us on track; they give us direction. Without them you’re wandering aimlessly and most likely wasting a lot of time and money.
  12. Not building an email list – I don’t understand how anyone can market a business in today’s world without an email list! Email is the easiest and most inexpensive way to stay in touch with customers and prospects.  If you aren’t building a list you’re missing out on huge opportunities.
  13. Not having an opt in form – Emailing current and past customers is a great start, but what about the people who visit your website, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages and then go away never to be heard from again? Wouldn’t’ it be nice to engage the serious window shoppers in some way? An opt-in form is the way to do it!
  14. Selling all the time.  We’ve all met the slick schmoozy salesy types, right? And how long does it take you to high-tail it in the opposite direction? Don’t be one of those. An effective marketing strategy eliminates the need to sell all the time… really!
  15. Assuming because you have a great product or service you don’t need a marketing strategy - Sure, some products and services might market themselves, but that’s rare. Real marketing success takes strategy, planning, and work.
  16. Assuming that just because you have a good product or service you don’t need a referral system- Again, there are some products and services that people just love to talk about, but building a successful business solely on organic referrals and “buzz” is rare.  Getting solid referrals, consistently takes planning and solid execution. .
  17. Assuming anyone with a pulse is a potential client- Repeat after me:  “NOT everyone is a potential client for me”. Now look in the mirror and repeat that every day! Find your niche - that segment of the population you are born to serve and you will uncover a gold mine!
  18. Not building relationships – I can’t stress enough how important this is. Hiding behind your computer screen, desk, or counter isn’t going to get you the level of success you want. You have to get out there – mingle, be helpful, connect people, and build relationships with the right people!
  19. Networking in all the wrong places –Not every networking group is right for you. Find the ones that will help you get where you want to go and avoid the ones that won’t.
  20. Ignoring the internet – Facebook and Twitter may not be right for your business, but chances are your target market is going somewhere on line for information about your product or service.  Your job is to find out where they’re going and be there!
  21. Not hiring a professional- If you want to build an addition onto your home would you do it yourself or hire a professional?  I mean, you know your home better than anyone, so why not do it yourself? Ridiculous, right? So then why would you try to “add on” – or grow – your business yourself?  Hire a professional who has the right tools, experience, and expertise to make your business grow! 

By the way, if you liked this post, I'd really appreciate your Retweet!!! Thank you. :-)

Learn more about the author, Carolyn Higgins.

Comment on this article

  • B2B Sales Professional 
London, UK United Kingdom 
Roz Bennetts
    Posted by Roz Bennetts, London, UK United Kingdom | Jan 24, 2012

    Well said Carolyn - I really can't get my head around why some of these need spelling out but they do. It's really common sense isn't it?

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 24, 2012

    Roz - I'm not sure it is common for lots of business owners. A lot of people are great at what they do but when it comes to marketing they think it looks easy or something.. not sure, as I said, I don't get it! :-) . Thanks for your kind comment! - Carolyn

  • Mentor For Hire 
Kirkland, Washington 
Nadir Zulqernain, Ph.D.
    Posted by Nadir Zulqernain, Ph.D., Kirkland, Washington | Jan 25, 2012

    Great topic and very useful information Carolyn.

    The 'criticism' of small business owners is a little harsh, isn't it? For a lot of small business owners, specially in this scrunched economy, it is almost impossible to afford the costly, albeit 'essential' (at least according to you) long-term marketing. Statistically, less than 8% of marketing plans show long term success.

    Of course, there is no denying that using a professionals services, when feasible, is always a good thing.

    Also, not sure what your point # 3 is all about?

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 25, 2012

    Hi Nadir,

    I didn't realize I was "criticizing" small business owners... My goal here was to point out mistakes I see many of them make and offer a professional perspective on why they aren't getting the results they want.. I apologize if I came off as harsh. My job as a consultant is to give business owners the truth, and anyone who knows me knows I'm not great at sugar coating! (For better or for worse....)

    I'm curious where you got your statistic about the effectiveness of marketing plans; and I wonder, if that statistic is correct, is the lack of long term success because of the plan or failure to follow through with it? I'd bet it's the latter. There is no way having a plan can be worse than not having one...

    And number three is about putting all your trust in a sales rep who is trying to sell you an ad, or a commercial, or some other marketing tool.. I've heard so many stories of these reps making promises they can't possibly deliver on and business owners end up wasting thousands of dollars. My point is this: take a holistic view of your marketing... do your homework, know your business and don't trust what a sales rep with a quota has to tell you -learn to ask the right questions so you can make educated decisions.

    I agree, in this economy money is tight - so doesn't it make sense to make sure you are investing with intelligence and forethought rather than chasing empty promises and guesswork? Getting help is not that expensive. If you can't afford one one one help there are classes, workshops, books, and group learning programs. Hiring a professional can come in many forms..

    Thank you for the comment. -Carolyn

  • Mentor For Hire 
Kirkland, Washington 
Nadir Zulqernain, Ph.D.
    Posted by Nadir Zulqernain, Ph.D., Kirkland, Washington | Jan 25, 2012

    I fully agree that having a plan is better than not having it. In fact, I am a believer in 'plan you work & work your plan' approach.

    Too often people write about sales, selling or salespeople in a non-positive, sort of critical way; the fact is that most of the activities of any business are designed to 'sell'. As an example, you wrote this article to provide information to readers and to raise your own profile and hopefully attract customers and perhaps 'sell' your services, that is 'selling'. Selling is the lifeblood of every business.

    The 'stories of reps not delivering' exist in every aspect of the business. In fact, in every profession, there is a percentage that performs poorly.

    A prudent marketer understands that marketing generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments. Therefore, they recognize their key function is to support the salespeople and work with them. My experience is that marketing plans that are developed without any resentment for salespeople and are implemented with their help, are the ones that succeed.

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 25, 2012

    Hi Nadir, I made a 15 year career in sales and I am in no way trying to insinuate that all sales people are slime balls. I sold marketing solutions that supported sales teams for huge corporations; I understand the tenuous relationship between sales and marketing and I completely agree that they go hand in hand and must work together to make a business work.

    In fact, part of my process of working with small business owners is sales training. There is a right - and a wrong way to do it. But this article is not about developing a sales strategy, it's about helping business owners succeed at marketing by opening their eyes to common mistakes many make. My goal is to educate and inform; I want to help business owners make better decisions - period.

    A "prudent marketer".. seems almost an oxymoron to me and made me chuckle!- :-)

    Thank you again for the thoughtful dialogue.


  • Certified Cat Behavior Consultant 
Nashville, Tennessee 
Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC
    Posted by Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC, Nashville, Tennessee | Jan 25, 2012

    I have printed this out and posted it on my wall right by my computer. I'm good at some things on your list but have dropped the ball in other areas that are obviously very key. Thanks for the well-needed nudge!

  • Eventologist 
Mount Vernon, Washington 
Trina Bol
    Posted by Trina Bol, Mount Vernon, Washington | Jan 25, 2012

    These are great points. Marketing has been something I have struggled with for years. Just like Pam I am going to print it out and post it where I can refer to it regularly. I don't think there is a business out there that doesn't need help in some are of marketing.

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 26, 2012

    HI Trina and Pam - I'm glad you thought this article was helpful! There is so much to running a business; it can sometimes be hard to remember what we need to do to ensure our long term success. I wish you both the best and hope the list helps keep you on track. Thank you for the comments! - Carolyn

  • Brand Consultant 
Phoenix, Arizona 
Ken Peters
    Posted by Ken Peters, Phoenix, Arizona | Jan 26, 2012


    Good stuff here. Your debate with Nadir regarding marketing and sales illustrates how many organizations often operate in silos. Marketing, finance, IT, sales, and executive teams approach things from differing points of view, and often with goals that are misaligned. Misalignment costs money.

    A comprehensive brand strategy provides clear thinking, cross-company consensus and visual tools and communication solutions that align the organization. When all facets of the organization are aligned within a singular branding strategy they move forward with focus and a much greater chance of success.

    Start with the customer perspective and brand outward. Let the brand strategy drive the marketing.

  • writer/director audio/film 
San Francisco, California 
Paul Kyriazi
    Posted by Paul Kyriazi, San Francisco, California | Jan 26, 2012

    That's the best marketing list I've ever seen. And weeks before I start marketing something. Perfect timing and article to make me think. Thank you, Carolyn.

  • Sales Mentor, Sales Coach, Sales Trainer, Consultant, Speaker, Humorist, Social Entrepreneur 
Southamption, Hampshire United Kingdom 
Terry Murphy
    Posted by Terry Murphy, Southamption, Hampshire United Kingdom | Jan 26, 2012

    Thanx for the article and great insights. I do agree somewhat with Nadir that it could be read as critical and negative, but isn't that one of the two distinct approaches to advertising and marketing...shiny attraction or scary negativism? (a bit "carrot or stick")

    The salesman debate above is also interesting. I have always believed that the expression "Sales and Marketing" designates the priority order. Marketing works for the sales department. Marketing is there to provide sales with leads. In a clever organisation the the two operations are so intertwined, you can't see the join. In fact, as Ken suggests, they should all be driven by a strong brand strategy which is reflected across the company, in ALL departments, meaning the whole team is focused on their part of the sale.

    Whether scary or critical, these 21 points are totally valid. Point 22 has to be choosing the wrong marketing advice or advisor...:)

  • Interior Designer 
Stuart, Florida 
Tammy Dalton
    Posted by Tammy Dalton, Stuart, Florida | Jan 26, 2012

    Hi Carolyn, I really enjoyed this article. It's a great checklist to review often to see if you're covering all the bases, and see what a true marketing person can do for you and your business. I was really struck by your exchange with Nadir, and thought I would add an analogy to the mix, specifically regarding your point #3.

    A salesperson to a marketing pro is like an insurance salesman to a financial advisor. Honestly, I can't tell you how many times I speak with self-proclaimed financial advisors only to find out that what they really do is sell life insurance.

    A marketing consultant, like a financial advisor, sells advice about strategies, which may include buying an ad here and there, but only buying an ad is not marketing. However, because buying an ad is tangible and buying advice is not tangible, it is difficult for people to truly understand what they're buying when they hire a marketing consultant.

    It's the same with selling (interior) design services (which is what I do). Even though the end results are tangible, the design process is not really tangible. People seem to understand it better when there is a tangible "thing" or "product" attached to a service. Do you find that to be the case with marketing as well?

  • lab courier/webmaster 
Manchester, New Hampshire 
Deborah Rowell
    Posted by Deborah Rowell, Manchester, New Hampshire | Jan 26, 2012


    I am copying this list also. I'm no expert and these basics are easy to understand and I appreciate your "telling it like it is" approach.

    I really struggle with building an email list. I won't spam. I have a an affiliate marketing gift site which is making a profit and growing slow but sure. I have not been able to come up with a good way to get visitors to opt in to my "smokin hot' deals" newsletter so I can keep in touch and build relationships. I can't give anything away because of my affiliate status. I know I am missing an important part of my business and feel helpless to do anything about it.

    Thanks again for this great article!

  • Speaker/Marketing Consultant 
Toronto, Ontario Canada 
Marc Gordon
    Posted by Marc Gordon, Toronto, Ontario Canada | Jan 26, 2012

    Great article! 18 and 19 are my favorite. As a marketer myself, I see too many business owners thinking a Facebook page and Titter account will compensate for getting out and meeting people - or better yet, just picking up the phone and making some calls.

  • Solve Technical Problems 
Federal Way, Washington 
Marty Grogan
    Posted by Marty Grogan, Federal Way, Washington | Jan 26, 2012

    Thanks for your insights. Now if someone would write an article "21 Reasons Why Your Business Will Fail and How Not To..."

  • Sales Manager 
Pflugerville, Texas 
Kevin Vaughan
    Posted by Kevin Vaughan, Pflugerville, Texas | Jan 26, 2012

    Great information. I agree with everything. The hardest part I have with marketing is getting my company's key players to buy in to the theory.

    Today's environment demands new strategies and tactics. You either need to evolve and be part of it or get left behind.

  • Web Design and SEO Specialist 
Toronto, Ontario Canada 
Kerstin Hutchinson
    Posted by Kerstin Hutchinson, Toronto, Ontario Canada | Jan 26, 2012

    20 resonates with me being a web designer and SEO specialist and actually think it deserves to be higher up on that list :)

    I actually still come across companies who don't have websites (I'm dead serious) or have the 1999 website they have never updated.

    The internet is where everyone is.. you have to be there!

  • Guerrilla Marketing Specialist 
Denver, Colorado 
Judy Murdoch
    Posted by Judy Murdoch, Denver, Colorado | Jan 26, 2012

    Excellent list! If I may be so bold as to add #22 & #23

    22 Assuming you'll get instant results.

    Marketing isn't like putting coins in a vending machines and getting a candy bar. It takes time to build the familiarity, trust, and confidence prospects need in order to actually step over the line and become paying customers.

    23 Assuming All Prospects are Ideal Customers

    Some prospects are just not worth pursuing. This doesn't mean you should keep a connection going (for example they can subscribe to your ezine) but if you're pursing every prospect with equal intensity you're wasting time that you should be spending on the people who really want what you sell, will pay for it, and become raving fans.


  • Marketing Strategist 
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 
Marilyn Oliva
    Posted by Marilyn Oliva, Fort Lauderdale, Florida | Jan 26, 2012

    Thanks Carolyn. I give your article a 10! As a marketing consultant in Florida, I see the same mistakes being made. It is an extremely honest article and I find it funny that some people found it "harsh". In my opinion if you can't be honest about issues in business, you will never succeed. Thanks again, Marilyn

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 26, 2012

    @Ken – Aligning sales and marketing is a challenge as old as business itself. I agree with you and a couple other people who commented – the entire business must be in alignment on strategy, goals, branding, etc. or there is a lot of wasted money, time, resources, and effort. Thank you for your comment! – C

    @Paul – I wish you the best of luck in you new venture, I hope this list is helpful to you as you build your new strategy! Thank you for your comment. – Carolyn

    @Terry – some say critical and negative, I say constructive criticism and bold truth… this is just one of my articles – and, as you pointed out – one approach to getting read. I could have written it totally differently, but would as many people have read it? Would as many people been helped if I’d written “21 ways you might want to look at your marketing…” – probably not. Yes, the article is bold and a bit “in your face” but it has stirred up some good debate, got people thinking, and helped people. What more can one ask for in a piece they write? And my whole point about sales people had nothing to do with internal sales and marketing alignment but merely learning how to ask the right questions and make better decisions when someone tries to sell a new tactic. No one knows the big picture of your business better than you do. So no sales rep is going to know what is right for your business… Anyway, thank you so much for reading my article – and especially for the comment. I appreciated hearing for you! – C

    @Tammy--- You’re awesome! I LOVE this analogy. You are spot on with your comment. The reason so many business owners buy from every sales person that walks in their door is because they promise a tangible quick-fix. Our society is driven by instant gratification and claims of easy ways out (think about the diet industry) and selling strategy and long-term planning in this environment is a huge challenge. How do we get people to realize that long term success takes long term thinking and planning? Your comment was so refreshing... you get it! Thank you for reading, and thanks for the thoughtful comment. – Have a wonderful day... (I just realized it’s only Thursday and I’ve been writing happy Friday… that’s the kind of week it’s been!) – C

  • business advisor 
Danville, Virginia 
Wayne Wilson
    Posted by Wayne Wilson, Danville, Virginia | Jan 26, 2012


    This is a fascinating list; thanks for the effort to write it.

    Two observations:

    1. Many people confuse strategic marketing with tactical marketing - the big picture "go to market" plan with the short-term tactical support of sales (lead gen, etc.). The same problem occurs in financial advisory work - clients want help fixing "problems" with their bank loan rather than focusing on developing an appropriate financial plan and capital structure for the long-term growth of their business.

    2. Too many of our "prospects" as business advisors and consultants will never see the value of hiring a professional to do a professional job for a variety of reasons including business is too small, not very profitable, owner does not understand what is involved in running a successful business, etc. In those instances, we simply need to find new prospects for our services.

    Have a great day!

  • Local Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Business Development Coach 
Bothell, Washington 
Joni Kovarik
    Posted by Joni Kovarik, Bothell, Washington | Jan 26, 2012

    Love the bold statements and the bold discussion.

    This speaks to the common problems across all small businesses of 'overwhelm' and 'lack of time'. As a result, I find most business owners gravitate towards the 'path of least resistance' or they just do what they heard about at the networking meeting this morning.

    What I most often hear is some version of 'it makes me feel better to be doing 'something' even if it is not the right thing for my business and doesn't align to strategy or a plan'. They say they don't have time for strategy, or that is for 'large corporations' when in fact they are making tactical strategic decisions every day. Even as simple as scheduling to cover the floor in a retail business involves some strategic thinking. I wish I could reach all small business owners and let them know they are making time for strategy and have the intelligence to think strategically because they are doing it so well every day.

    It is just a simple horizon shift - if you can think strategically about the day - can you now try to think strategically about the week or the month? That step alone would be a great start towards making strong business building decisions vs. living in the moment marketing choices. Ask questions like: How many sales reps appointments should you take this month? If you don't have a budget for it (advertising or other) this month, then none.

    You just saved time, and stress and money - and gained control over when that rep should call on you again. Thinking and making time to gain control of longer periods of time is a key strategic, business building and LEADERSHIP move.

  • Leadership Coach & Organizational Consultant 
Melrose, Massachusetts 
Martha Hopewell
    Posted by Martha Hopewell, Melrose, Massachusetts | Jan 27, 2012

    Hi Carolyn,

    What a great list! I, too, have printed it out to keep me on my toes. I, too, struggle with marketing. At least I'm now over my fear of it's more a question of consistent application. This is a challenge for my life and leadership coaching practice when I am also carrying a full nonprofit executive director responsibility (gotta pay that mortgage and get those kids through college). So, it's a catch 22 - not enough effective marketing to make the coaching work, and now a full-time job that limits even more the time available for marketing (not to mention service delivery!!) Ugh!

    I know I don't have all the answers, or the expertise, to be a hot marketer. I think a good step is to accept that marketing isn't my strength, AND I can still apply myself, with a list like yours as a guide, to be as strategic as I can with the time, talent and resources I have.

    I know my practice WILL grow!

    Thanks again.

  • Mentor For Hire 
Kirkland, Washington 
Nadir Zulqernain, Ph.D.
    Posted by Nadir Zulqernain, Ph.D., Kirkland, Washington | Jan 27, 2012

    Martha, you have articulated the realities of life as a small business owner, perfectly. That is how life is for most small business owners. It is not that small business owners lack the 'smarts' to understand importance of strategic planning and careful execution of those plans – it is that the demands of performing several functions and meeting other demands of the business make it very hard for them to indulge in 'theoretically ideal' business practices.

    Tammy, your analogy of a salesperson and a marketer is exactly wrong at the very basic level. At the end of the day, every one in an organization, and if it is a one-man/woman gang, then all her efforts must go to 'selling' the product or service. Everything else becomes secondary.

    Nothing happens until someone sells something

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 27, 2012

    @Wayne – I love your observations – they’re spot on. Thank you for sharing them! – Carolyn

    @Joni – I love your point that small business owners are thinking and acting strategically every day. What a great observation. You helped me think in a new way about how small business owners operate and I appreciate that. Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful comment! – Carolyn

    @Martha - I love your enthusiasm! And holy cow, how the heck do you do it all? I know that the fact is that like Joni said, people are overwhelmed, overworked and just don’t always have the time to do all the things they know they “should” do. Growing a business is hard work! But it sounds like you are on the right track; you realize your strengths and where you could use help – and you aren’t afraid to ask for help. That’s the first step in achieving your goal – and you’re right, with that attitude, your practice WILL grow! I wish you the best of luck! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. – c

  • CEO & Co-Founder 
Hidden Hills, California 
Eman Talei
    Posted by Eman Talei, Hidden Hills, California | Jan 27, 2012


    I like to add one more bullet point to Carolyn's list- A common mistake by many small business owners: They assume Marketing is the same as Sales! Many business owners can't identify the two from one another. It would be great to get Carolyn's "clarification" on this for those who may not know the difference.

    Thanks for a great article.

  • Hairstylist / Makeup Artist/ Extensionist 
San Jose, California 
Susan Talamantes
    Posted by Susan Talamantes, San Jose, California | Jan 27, 2012

    Hi Carolyn, do you accept clients in san jose/ campbell area? If so please send me an email at

  • Corporate Sales Trainer 
Auburn, Washington 
Phyllis Kaplan
    Posted by Phyllis Kaplan, Auburn, Washington | Jan 27, 2012

    Hi Carolyn, I was impressed by your identifying the difference between sales and marketing. I created a co. based on training sales folks for b2b, trade shows, residential door to door, closing skills. This is my area. Sometimes clients think I can be their marketing expert. I simply train folks in "sales" process. My goal is to keep their biz doors open for a few more weeks or months. I hear and have personally experienced the dollars wasted on quote/ unquote $$ based on the pitch. I developed a way to bypass this. I tell them that as soon as I get biz based on their efforts, I will share 50-50. If they run, I've wasted less time and money. If they agree they can be partners in our client's success, we all benefit. A bit untraditional but it has proven to sift through the career marketing folks to those that actually deliver. Thanks for the article. It helped me identify the difference.

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 27, 2012

    Eman - That is a great question - people often confuse the two!

    The difference between sales and marketing is this: As a marketer my job is to bring the sales team the best, most qualified leads I can. The job of the sales team is to turn those leads into customers. With that said, I also believe that everything a business does is marketing, from how they answer the phone, to how they deal with customers, to how they close a sale, to how the end a project or a sale and follow up afterward. So Marketing certainly plays a role in the sales process - and every other aspect of business. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing says that the main function of marketing is to set the proper expectations of what a customer will experience when they work with you. Making sure proper expectations are set and ensuring no one is let down is what earns loyalty, repeat business and referrals - all aspects of a good marketing strategy. I hope that helps! Thanks for the question! - Carolyn

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 27, 2012

    @Susan, I work with clients all over the country! I will email you today. Thank you for your interest! - Carolyn

  • Business owner 
Helena, Alabama 
Dave Pastor
    Posted by Dave Pastor, Helena, Alabama | Jan 27, 2012

    Hey Carolyn, Great stuff as usual. I will say this, you missed one point that is THE most important point upon which all your other points hang. And that is: The business owner MUST accept that it is his/her (I will use "he" instead of he/she from this point on) job to market the business. Whether they are good at it or not it is still their job. Once he realizes that it is his job to market his business, then he will likely not keep making all those mistakes.

    My business serves many people in many ways. But at a rudimentary level, it exists as a means for me to turn $100.00 into $200.00. The only way most businesses can do that is through customers. I have to BUY the right customers at a price that allows me to make a profit. Marketing is the means by which I BUY customers. If a business owner is going to be so foolish as to allow some kid right out of college, or some work from home mom who has never owned a business, who works for an ad agency or magazine or whatever, sell him an ad and think that that sales rep knows better how to reach his customers and articulate a message that will interest his target market then he should expect to waste his money! And I don't feel sorry for him. (Well maybe I do a little bit) But he has to realize that people that sell advertising are interested in selling advertising, that's how they make a living. They still get paid whether it works or not! (let me finish, I know what you're thinking) Its the business owners job to select media, copy, message, headlines, delivery and everything that creates the right message. People that sell ads just want you to do whats everybody else does because its what is easiest for them. They can easily use a template from the ad of the last chump they sold a promise to.

    It is my job as a business owner to know who my customers are, why they buy, when they buy, what media they look at what emotions they feel that makes them reach for their wallet and so on. It's my job to know how much I can spend acquiring a new customer. No college grad, or work from home mom is going to know more(or care to know more) about my customers than me. I mean how can I claim I offer great service to my customers if I don't even know what's important to them! Its my job to know that. As the business owner its not my job to do the technical work, nor is it my job to answer the phones or file the paperwork. I may have to do all that, but my job- the one that my family, workers, workers families, are all counting on me doing- is to market my company. How can I think that someone else is a better spokes person for my company than me. If customers who are looking for what I have to offer don't know about my company, it is not my workers fault, or the val-pak guys fault, or the slick talking sales rep who sold me the latest greatest idea that everyone is having great success with 's fault. It is my fault! ME! I am the guy who needs to make sure that the marketing gets done and gets done right.

    I have been in business for 17 and I have made a lot of mistakes marketing my business and there is no bigger mistake I've made than believing that I can hire someone to market it for me. Anyone who is willing to accept that it is his job to market his company will be leaps and bound ahead of most other small businesses. Will they make mistakes? Sure. But they will learn from those mistakes. They will hire professional consultants, or attend seminars and become a student of marketing. Its unavoidable. You cannot successfully own a small business and have no clue how to market it, no clue who your customers are and where they live, (and shop) and no clue how they make buying decisions. And if a small business owner thinks he doesn't have time to learn all that, then what are they spending their time doing that is more important than that? Like I said, if a small business owner accepts that it is HIS job to know how to market HIS business, then even when he makes those mistakes you listed, he won't make them twice. Thanks for letting me rant :-)

  • CEO Optimum Business Decisions 
Seattle, Washington 
Melvin  Goldberg
    Posted by Melvin Goldberg, Seattle, Washington | Jan 28, 2012

    For my business the advice you provide is really consistent with a lot of what I'm finding in Book Yourself Solid, which I'm working with as a handbook to build a repeatable marketing plan for my management consulting business.

    It's pretty hard to argue with any one of the recommendations you have presented. It's about gaining visibility and trust from my target market.

  • PR 
San Francisco, California 
justina Richard
    Posted by justina Richard, San Francisco, California | Jan 28, 2012

    Great article! There are many ways to achieve marketing strategies I think social media marketing via Facebook and Google Plus is very effective and risk-free.

    Get free Likes for your Facebook pages fast and easy via powerful Like Exchange system on

    Get free Plus Ones for your Google Plus pages via Plus One Exchange on

    Get free Followers on Twitter via Follow Exchange on

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 28, 2012

    @Phyllis – You make a good point about the difference between sales and marketing; you said your goal is to keep business doors open a few more weeks or months, and mine is to help develop a strategy that will give them continued long-term success well into the future. But a good sales process is only as good as the marketing! If sales aren’t getting great leads then they’re not going to be as successful as they can be – I know I lived that in the corporate world. As many people have mentioned, marketing really comes down aligning all aspects of a business to help the sales process..

    I also love your 50-50 aproach, that’s a brilliant way to overcome the client’s risk and help them realize they are as much responsible for outcomes as the consultant! Thank you for the comment! – Carolyn

    @Dave – I think I kind of covered your point in #5 – “do nothing”. Although, I don’t know that I necessarily believe it is the business owner’s job to market her own business. Does that mean it’s my job to do my taxes, IT, bookkeeping, recruiting, and sales too? If you think that sounds ridiculous than why would marketing be any different? Why on earth should I, as a business owner spend all my time learning something that I either don’t want to learn, don’t get, or just don’t have time for when I can hire a professional to do it for me?

    I completely agree that a business owner should know the marketing basics of their business: who their target market is and their buying patterns and behaviors and how their business is different from the competition, but this can all be learned working with a professional. In my opinion – at least for my business, I want to run my business, I don’t want to do everything myself. I want to hire professionals who can do things better and faster than I can so I can focus on growing my business – and doing the things I like to do. I didn’t go into business for myself to be a bookkeeper (I HATE bookkeeping) – so why in the world would I want to do it myself when I can hire someone to do it for me? You could make the same argument – as a business owner I should know everything there is to know about my finances – but does that mean I actually have to do the work myself? No….

    I know many contractors, attorneys, doctors, CPAS who love what they do but they hate marketing – should they really take time away from their clients and the management of their business to learn marketing when they can hire someone to do it for them? And how long would it take them to “figure it out” themselves? How much money and time would be wasted (that’s the whole point of my article) trying to figure out themselves? Why not just invest that money you’d throw way trying to figure out yourself to work with a professional who can help you figure it out and guide you along the process to make the right decisions? - Carolyn

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 28, 2012

    @Melvin – I’ve not heard of that book but there are lot of great books out there on marketing planning and strategy for the do-it-yourself types. I wish you the best of luck, thank you for the comment! – Carol

    @Justina – Thank you for the compliment. I for one don’t believe in free likes and followers. That tactic goes against everything I believe as a strategic marketer. If you just want to be popular – these tools are perfect (and I’ll admit, I’ve done a few “Like Ladders” on Facebook to see how they work – and I did try to focus on getting the attention of business owners). But if you want to build a following of highly qualified and interested potential customers, tools like these are not the way to do it. Thanks again for the comment. - Carolyn

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 28, 2012

    I realized I missed a few comments from the top— So sorry…

    @Marilyn – thank you very much for the 10!!! And I completely agree with your comment, thank you so much for being brave enough to write it! :-/ - Carolyn

    @Jud y – I love your #22 – you are so right, that should have been there! I think I covered #23 in #17 – “Assuming anyone with a pulse” – I may not have said it exactly as you did , I was trying to keep the article somewhat short.. but excellent points. Thank you very much for the comment! Best, Carolyn

    @Kerstin, It’s funny you say that, I thought while writing the article about putting them in some kind of order but then forgot to do it before I published it – so this order is random – how it came out of my head! When I speak to groups of business owners I tell them if their website looks like it was built by Fred Flintstone they need a new one! It is so important to have a professional website - not just any old thing slapped up because you think you should! Best of luck to you in your own personal crusade to get rid of prehistoric websites! – Carolyn

    @Kevin – yup, corporate alignment of goals is a huge challenge. It’s so important for everyone to be on the same page for a good strategy to work! Good luck! – Carolyn

    @Marty - Isn’t the “how to” kind of inherent in this article?? If not, maybe you’ll find your answers in some of my others here on Biznik. I do write a lot about what to do to be successful! Thank you! – Carolyn

    @Marc – I know what you mean about using Facebook and Twitter as the sole marketing/networking vehicle.. it really does take a myriad of tools! Thank you for the comment. – Carolyn

    @Deborah – If you want to send me a message I’d be happy to spend a few minutes with you about your email list and see if I might be able to help you by offering a few suggestions… - Carolyn

    Ok, I hope I'm caught up on comments now.. I'm sorry if I've missed anyone.

  • Business owner 
Helena, Alabama 
Dave Pastor
    Posted by Dave Pastor, Helena, Alabama | Jan 28, 2012

    Hey Carolyn, you make some great points in response to what I said. I agree with them. You are right, there are some businesses that are structured just fine for that. And like you mentioned, doctors and lawyers are some of those professions that it just makes sense for them to be the one to actually be doing the work. It seems to apply to doctors, lawyers, accountants, consultants mostly professionals that have a skill to offer that mostly comes from them. I lumped all businesses together as having the same basic structure and now that I think about it what you say makes more sense for businesses where the owner never intends to not be a big part of doing the work that her business offers. I think I was speaking more to those who consider themselves to be small business owners.

    Let me offer this example. There is a dentist in town who advertises in the coupon magazines and val-paks. I've met him. He is a weight lifter guy with long curly "weird-al-yankovik" style hair. His ads feature him on his Harley with his 4 assisstants clinging to his legs and arms with come-hither expressions reluctantly on their faces. I'm not sure where he is going with that ad. Its kinda creepy. But my point is, if people see him as creepy and thats not what he wants to communicate, he can't blame that on the rep that sold him the ad. He is the one that okayed it. It is his responsibility to make sure his message and image is loud and clear to those who need to hear it. (His is certainly loud, I'm just not sure about the clear part). (it would be funny if they really work for him though huh?)

    Anyway, if someone offers their professional marketing services to me and their marketing efforts fail. Do they still expect to get paid? Everyone I ever met does. And who do they expect to pay them? Me the business owner right. So whose responsibility is it to make sure the marketing works? Me of course, its my money.

    Going back to your example of not liking accounting so you hire someone. Sure, I do the same thing but who is the IRS going to come after if taxes are not paid, my accountant or me? Who is responsible for making sure the my prices are competitive while profitable? My accountant or me? Me of course. I use her experience and judgement to make decisions but ultimately I have to make the decision not her.

    My point is that the business owner cannot afford to bury her head in the sand (or her work) and expect that a hired gun will care more about promoting her business than she does. (especially if they get paid the same whether it fails or succeeds) And how will they know a good marketer from a bad one if they don't have some things figured out? A small business owner does not have the luxury of passing that responsibility off to someone else just because they think they are not good at it. I'm not saying they can't hire someone who is really good at it to help them out. What I am saying is that they have to be involved. And that the biggest mistake they can make is to think that just because they are not good at it, then they don't have to be involved. They have to. Period. Thats part of owning a small business and they better take it seriously cause if they don't I can guarantee you they will keep making those same 21 mistakes over and over until they run out of money. You may disagree and thats okay. I'm just speaking from my experience.

  • Seattle Wardrobe Stylist 
Seattle, Washington 
Tannya  Bernadette
    Posted by Tannya Bernadette, Seattle, Washington | Jan 28, 2012

    I completely agree on mixing it up and keeping in touch through e-mail. I can't tell you how valuable it has been to build my newsletter and keep in touch with clients often.

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 29, 2012

    Hi Dave, Thanks for the follow up comment. I think we're on the same page. I absolutely agree that a business owner needs to have some basic knowledge of every aspect of their business. I work with small business owners all the time and I feel it is my job to guide them in the process of finding what is right for them. I always tell them - no one knows your business better than you - you are going to bring that expertise to the table and I am going to bring 15+ years of diverse sales and marketing experience to the table and TOGETHER we are going to find the right marketing strategy for your business. There is no way I'd go into a business assuming I have all the answers without input from the owner. That would be career suicide for me - and the business owner!

    Thanks very much for the thoughtful comments. I appreciate it!

    By the way, can you send me the info about that dentist offline - he needs me!!! :-) Just kidding, but that does sound really bad. :-p

    • Carolyn
  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 29, 2012

    Tannya - that's awesome! Thank you for sharing your success with email marketing and a newsletter. Newsletters are such a great way to stay in touch. I wish you continued success! - Carolyn

  • CEO/Founder 
Prince, New York 
Robert Livingston
    Posted by Robert Livingston, Prince, New York | Jan 31, 2012

    Thanks, this was a great read. Lots covered.

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Jan 31, 2012

    Robert - Thank you!!!

  • Marketer and Copywriter 
Aurora, Illinois 
Matt  Brennan
    Posted by Matt Brennan, Aurora, Illinois | Feb 01, 2012

    Good info. All of these are important things to do!

  • Marketing Consultant 
Fairfield, California 
Carolyn Higgins
    Posted by Carolyn Higgins, Fairfield, California | Feb 12, 2012

    Matt- Thank you, I'm so happy you found it useful! Best, Carolyn