Editor’s Note:This blog is penned by Introduction to Marketing instructor Scott Aughtmon. Aughtmon began his marketing career back in 1999, when he published a website covering a small music sub-genre and read up on everything marketing-related to drive traffic. Since then, he has published the How Your Business Can Survive and Prosper in a Recession e-book, which compiles a slew of interviews with business, marketing and sales experts who reveal their methods to help business owners survive and prosper in a recession.
He continues to blog on RecessionSolution.com and Content Marketing Institute (CMI), for which he is most known for penning the “21 Types of Content We All Crave” post. Aughtmon’s recently published 51 Content Marketing Hacks Kindle book was nominated for Smallbiztrends.com’s 2016 "Small Business Book Awards."
Scott, take it away:
The February 1966 issue of Popular Mechanics told an interesting story: For more than 20 years, Professor Edwin R. Keedy of the University of Pennsylvania Law School used to start his first class by putting two figures on the blackboard: 4 2.
Then he'd ask the class, "What's the solution?"
Enviably, one of the students would call out, "Six."
Another would say, "Two."
Then several other students, after seeing the other answers were incorrect, would finally shout out "Eight!"
But again, the teacher would shake his head, and respond, "No."
That's when Professor Keedy would point out their collective error and reveal the lesson he was trying to teach his class. He said, "All of you failed to ask the key question: What is the problem? Unless you know what the problem is, you cannot possibly find the answer."
Businesses face three main problems that could be solved with one main solution. But they don't realize their problems and so the solution continues to evade them.
The Three Problems All Businesses Have
Let me first explain what the three problems are and then I'll reveal the one solution to them all.
1. If you build it, they won't come.
"If you build it, they will come" might have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but it won't work for you as a business owner! Just starting a business does not guarantee that people will come rushing to you to make a purchase.
One of the things that keeps many business owners from succeeding in business is that they think people are going to find them. They think that people will know that their business exists. That these customers are just "lying in wait" for you to open your doors so they can come flooding in.
If your business is unknown to them, then it will continue to remain "lost" and out of their reach.
Here's an interesting story from James Hamilton's book Directions, in which he writes:
"Before refrigerators were invented, people used ice houses to preserve their food. Ice houses had thick walls, no windows and a tightly fitting door.
"In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer.
"One man lost a valuable watch while working in an ice house. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn't find it.
"His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the ice house during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch.
"Amazed, the men asked him how he found it. 'I closed the door,' the boy replied, 'lay down in the sawdust and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.'"
Many business owners have some fantasy that their prospects are like that little boy: waiting, lying completely still, listening for any sign of their business' existence. But they're not!
If your business is unknown to them, then it will continue to remain "lost" and out of their reach. That's why you must make your business known to your prospects. And the more known your business is, the more of a opportunity you have to grow your business—and a successful business at that.
But potential customers not knowing that your business exists is only the first problem. Here's where current customers come into play.
2. The undiagnosed problem of prospect/customer amnesia.
There was a local steakhouse that closed down awhile back. When I drove by and saw that the building was vacant I realized that I never thought about eating there when I was thinking of a place to dine at.
I totally forgot they were there.
I bet the restaurant owners never realized this. They just thought people were choosing not to eat at their restaurant. In reality, there were probably many people who didn't even have them on their radar.
"Out of sight, out of mind" is true about your customers.
We are all thinking about our business and products and services all of the time, but the honest truth is that our customers aren't.
Businesses think that one of the reasons they aren't more successful is because their prospects and customers are rejecting them. But this is probably untrue. (Unless you have a generic or lousy product, then you're right—they are rejecting you.)
The real reason they're not more successful could be something as simple as: Their prospects simply don’t remember them.
In an article called "How to Build Billionaire Habits" by Nick Papple, he quotes a statistic that's unbelievable but reveals the reason why prospects (and even customers) don't remember businesses.
Papple wrote, "According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. That's one second less than the attention span of a goldfish. Research shows the decrease is due to an increase in 'external stimuli.' In other words, the harder you try to stay 'connected' [checking Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email], the less connected you actually become."
We are all thinking about our business and products and services all of the time, but the honest truth is that our customers aren't. If you don't make your business memorable and/or figure out a way to stay on the top of your prospects' and customers' minds, then you will have a hard time staying in business.
But there's one last problem. And it's the problem that businesses that are known face.
3. There's no reason to choose your business over your competition.
I was driving through my city and saw a van with a generic sign on the door that just said, "Air conditioning and heating service." It only had a phone number on the sign— I couldn't believe that was all it said!
Did they think someone who needed that service was going to see the van, and scream, "Yes! I finally found an A/C and heating service!" and call them right away?
In a small town with no competition for miles around, that might work, but not in most areas today.
Why didn't this guy at least have a name on his A/C and heating sign? At the very least "Steve Smith's A/C & Heating Service."
Better yet, why didn't this guy also have something on the sign that explained how his service was unique. "We offer the guaranteed best priced services that are fully guaranteed for 1 year." That would've been much more powerful and attractive to someone in search of A/C and heating services. My prediction is that he won't be in business for very much longer.
To be a successful business, you need to make it very clear that your business is different than the competition. How are you different than other businesses selling the same product?
The One Solution to These Three Problems
Many businesses are unaware that they’re facing these problems—and yet the solution is right in front of them. Marketing.
- Your business known
- Keeps it on the minds of your prospects and customers
- Gives people a reason to choose your business over the competition.
Effective marketing is often a seemingly unreachable goal for many business owners because they don't really understand what marketing is.
In fact, if many businesses began to market themselves, they would solve these three problems as a natural result of their efforts.
But the key is effective marketing. And effective marketing is often a seemingly unreachable goal for many business owners because they don't really understand what marketing is.
Many business owners believe that is marketing is "trying to talk someone into buying something they don't really want or need." That’s not true!
To be able to market effectively, you must understand:
- What marketing is at its core level
- The difference between marketing, advertising and sales (and how they work together)
- The common mistake marketers make (even established marketers still do this sometimes)
- What marketing can and can't accomplish (its true power)
- And then, the essential steps to all effective marketing (These are the steps you will always need to take no matter the medium or tool.)
We will cover all of these things and more in my "Intro to Marketing" course this summer and fall.
If you want to understand marketing in a way that many marketers don't even understand it, and if you want to know how to use it in any arena and with any medium or tool, then I'd love to have you a part of my class! (Note: I will also have three awesome guest speakers that I am excited to have come share their knowledge and experience during a few of our classes.)
Aughtmon will be teaching sections 76 (starting June 13) and 85 (starting Sept. 26). Sign up today!