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