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Marketing Strategy: Avoiding the "I Can Also Do That" Problem

Updated on April 24, 2015
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

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Was commiserating with a fellow marketing professional about how we take on projects that are unprofitable and unsatisfying, often as favors to loyal clients or friends. "Why do we do that?" we asked ourselves. We both concluded that we're suffering from the "I Can Also Do That" problem with our marketing strategies.

Understanding Your Competitive Advantage Can Help Keep Your Marketing Focused

Symptoms of the "I Can Also Do That" Problem

The "I Can Also Do That" problem can exhibit itself in a variety of ways:

  • The Never Ending "We Do" List. A small business website listing every possible product or service that could (emphasis on "could") be provided by the business is the tell-tale sign. Surely, a potential customer has got to find something they want in this list, right? For example, a small business that offers marketing services lists that they do website design, graphic design, direct mail, SEO, copywriting, public relations, mobile marketing, promotional products... the list goes on and on. Having competency in all of those areas would be a trick for even a large company!
  • Clinging to Corporate. Many small business owners and freelance micro businesses are "refugees" from the corporate world. In that former life, they may have done a wide variety of projects and tasks, all under the banner (and budget!) of their corporate home. So their assessment of the true costs of doing a buffet of projects is skewed and unrealistic. They might know the mechanics of getting any of these projects done. But should they actually take this work on? Probably not since it might be way beyond their capabilities, both financially and logistically. Click to see what happens when small businesses try to sell the impossible.
  • Multiple Business Cards. "Here's my card for my such-and-such business and here's my card for my other business." This situation is often encountered at networking events. One has to ask, "So, which business are you really in?" In many cases, this happens when small business folks take on another opportunity and cannot mix the two businesses, either due to legal restrictions or it just doesn't fit well with the other work they do.
  • Unusual Increases in COGS and Overhead Costs. Taking on work that is not ideal for the business can often be very costly in terms of both time and hard dollar costs. If cost of goods sold (COGS) and overhead expenses are increasing out of control, taking on work that is unprofitable might be the culprit. Regularly monitoring profit margins and pricing strategies can bring these issues to light. Click here for methods of calculating profit margin.

Have you ever taken on projects that were less than ideal for your business?

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The Fear Behind It All

One of the greatest reasons why otherwise smart marketers and small businesses take on less-than-ideal work and pursue conflicted marketing strategies stems from fears of loss:

  • Loss of Clients. At some level, they feel that if they stand up to loyal clients and tell them that they cannot or will not take on a particular project, they'll lose those clients. They feel that unless they go above and beyond what is realistically possible, they'll be seen as providing poor customer service. Click here for a discussion on customer service versus servitude.
  • Loss of Opportunities. Similar to the fear of losing current clients, they fear that they'll miss out on opportunities for new sales if they don't take on some not-so-ideal work.
  • Loss of Cash Flow. When economic times get tough, it's all the more tempting to take on work that is inappropriate to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, what happens in all of these scenarios is that this unfit work takes up the time and energy needed to find and service ideal clients and projects.

Source

Avoiding the Marketing Strategy Mashup and Mismatch

Avoiding the mashup and mismatch of conflicting marketing strategies and target markets is done in two simple (but often not easy!) ways:

  • Focus! Self-doubt over being able to find enough appropriate clients and work causes small business owners to chase everything that even looks like a lead. Be absolutely clear on what constitutes an ideal customer or project.
  • Just Say No. It is essential to learn to say no to free up time, resources and energy to pursue only ideal opportunities.

... Unfit work takes up the time and energy needed to find and service ideal clients and projects.

— Heidi Thorne

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2015 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi lawrence01! So, so true. There are often so many distracting opportunities that it can be difficult to focus. But that's really, as you note, a life lesson that us business owners absolutely need to learn. Thanks for chiming in and your kind comments! Have a terrific day!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      My Dad always said that if a job is worth doing the its worth doing well. As I read this hub I realized these are great life lessons. Ones we all need to take on board.

      Just as business prospers when it's leaders focus so we also prosper when we 'cut the dross' and focus

      Awesome hub Heidi

      Lawrence

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Got that right, FlourishAnyway! I've totally regretted saying "yes" when I shouldn't have so many times. But I'm getting better... really. Comes with age I guess. :) Thanks for chiming in! Have a terrific Tuesday!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Great advice, Heidi. People have a lot of trouble saying "no," even if it's best for all parties involved.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi AliciaC! True, some of these same ideas can definitely be applied to small business. So appreciate your kind words and support. Have a great week!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your hub contains some great advice, Heidi. It's useful for both small businesses and writers.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi CMHypno! You offer another primary reason why we slip into the "do it all mode": pride. You're right, we all like to think we're multi-talented and omni-capable. I've gotten a LOT better at passing along less-than-ideal work to really competent colleagues. And, surprisingly, I now have more time to pursue more ideal clients. Thank you for offering that additional insight! Have a beautiful weekend!

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 2 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Thought provoking hub Heidi. I think we all like to think we can do a wide range of things, when the truth is to be very good at something takes focus and time. We want to satisfy all a clients needs, but they would probably have far more respect if we told them straight that certain things they needed were beyond our remit and passed them on to another company/person who did have requisite knowledge and experience.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi purl3agony! True, this mismatch and over-reaching is not the exclusive problem of small businesses. Nonprofits can be especially prone to the "all things to all donors" malady. Ironically, as has been said by many wise people in business, when you narrow your focus, you expand your appeal to those that need and want you. Thanks for adding your experience and insight to the conversation! Happy Weekend!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      I've seen this approach time and time again from businesses, non-profits, and consultants. Although I can understand these entities wanting to be all things to all people, and their desire to earn the pay/funding that goes with trying to provide a wide range of services, it's rarely the best solution for the customers or clients needs. Particularly with consultants, it often seems like they're more focused on finding their next paying gig than working on the project they've been hired to do. Thanks for another enlightening and well-written hub! Hope you have a great weekend!!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Thanks, amine-sehibi! Glad you found it helpful. Have a wonderful day!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Billybuc, I figured you were in the choir on this one. :) Thanks for confirming that. You have a great weekend, too!

    • amine-sehibi profile image

      amine sehibi 2 years ago

      Wow, that was a magnificent article,very informative, well done Heidi.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You're preaching to the choir on this one, Heidi. I'm about as focused a human being as you'll want to meet. Now my wife...that's another matter completely. :) Have a great weekend my marketing guru!