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It’s Simple – Don’t Market, Go Out Of Business

In the past few weeks, two small businesses in my neighborhood have gone out of business - kaput. One was a fitness center for women and the other was a plaster/pottery shop where children and families could design and decorate their own clay and plaster creations (or something like that).

It really tears me up when I see that. Both of these companies really had a chance. But they blew it.

We're very close to the small business process. If you're reading this, you probably are too. When a small business goes under, it's not just a company that dies. It's a dream - potentially a lifetime of dreams. It's a flame that burns deep inside that is extinguished. It's the future of the families that are involved - for generations to come. It truly hurts me deep inside to see this happen.

But it happens every day thousands of times. The tough pick themselves up and try something different. You see, entrepreneurial success should not be measured in wins and losses. Frankly, most truly successful entrepreneurs find failure many times before they taste success.

But I know in my heart that probably isn't the case with these two companies. they both spent tremendous amounts of money building out their locations. One had to make a very steep franchise investment. Chances are great that these poor people put it all on the line - and in a few short months, lost it.

My first opinion is that it's not very smart to risk everything you've got on one idea. I think that each proprietor felt like they invested in "a better mouse trap." They probably thought that they had just the perfect product or service for this community - and that with such an advantage, success would be imminent. So they confidently plopped it all down.

I can tell you - from first hand experience and from witnessing it every day - success is not easy or imminent. Even when your idea is the best that has ever been, success is never guaranteed. Success must be created and pushed and forced and wrestled. It tries to get away from you unless you vigilantly pursue it. A good idea is not enough.

The best tool I have ever seen for manufacturing success in a business is effective marketing. That is TREMENDOUS news! Why? Because marketing is something that can be learned, taught, understood, mastered, tested, measured and controlled. Unlike the evasive success, effective marketing is tangible and duplicatable. Success alone is much more slippery.

Here's the truth: Neither of these companies did any marketing worth discussing. Now, they may have run an ad or two in a local magazine - but if you've read the 10 Tall Tales you know that a single ad in a small paper does not an effective marketing campaign make.

Marketing is a process. It's a string of failures punctuated by a success. Phase two is running the success into the ground, then starting up again with more failures. It sucks, but if you are diligent it really works.

But these two companies started out in life with a large capital investment in overhead expense like rent and build out and staff and franchise fees - then didn't bother to put the ad man on the list. Their fate was sealed from the beginning.

I live right down the street from the plaster place. Never received a single shred of information about why I would bother doing business with them. What were they thinking? I can guarantee they weren't sophisticated enough as marketers to figure out I wasn't in their target. At the most basic level, where they would have been operating - if they were operating at all - I would have been on their geographic list (being 3 streets away, less than a mile). Yet I never received a shred of info. Not an offer, not a post card, not a hello, not an introduction, not some garbage about how good their service was. Even bad advertising could have helped them a little bit. But no, they did nothing. And look what they have to show for it.

Even worse, I once sat next to the owner of the women's fitness center at a chamber of commerce lunch. She sang the blues about needing help. I gave her a copy of the 10 Tall Tales and suggested we get together to see what we could do to help. No return call. We could have saved her business.

I saw a little bit of advertising from her - a few bandit road signs with a weak offer and maybe a typical cliche ad in the neighborhood magazine. But, alas, it wasn't enough. In her case, my wife would have fit right into her target. But we never heard a peep. It's worth nothing. by the way, that less than 2 miles up the street from her was a competitor - another franchise - who happens to be the top franchisee in the nation. So it can be done. It just wasn't done properly by this company.

Moral of the story: investing a lot of money into fancy buildings and well known franchises in nice neighborhoods doesn't guarantee success. Frankly, unless it's McDonalds or Starbucks, I'm not sure it even moves you any closer to success at all. Success can be found selling men's socks out of your trunk (we actually met someone who did this) if you are tenacious enough to master the marketing process.

If you aren't currently making a very concerted effort to become the most effective marketer possible, you are falling farther and farther behind daily - and someone else (who may be my client) is moving farther ahead.