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Do You Need to Make Money Now? Avoid the Heartbreak and Myths of Marketing

Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 203 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

The person on the other end of the phone was crying so hard that when she first started talking, it took a minute to even recognize her voice.

It was a friend who made a major career change three years ago from being a well-paid human resources manager to a massage therapist. Juggling massage school while working full-time was grueling. But after dealing with the bureaucracy of a large organization, the one-to-one healing aspect of her new work was highly satisfying.

In the last few years, she’s managed to attract a handful of regular clients. But, with her school loan still not fully paid off and office rent, it’s been tough going. On this particular day she was calling me from her car. She’d just come from her tax appointment and her accountant told my friend that her income was so low she should consider applying for food stamps. FOOD STAMPS! After all her hard work, I’d cry too.

My friend needs to find a way to make more money NOW. So I immediately leapt into marketing mode, offering concrete steps she could take to get new clients right away. We’d had this conversation many times before. Despite her desperate predicament, my friend’s response was the same as always. “I hate marketing.”

Not everyone hates marketing. Some people actually enjoy it. They just stink at it. Like the acquaintance who sent me a link to the Web site for her new corporate consulting business. Given the time she’s spent in the corporate world, I wasn’t surprised that her web site was all, “Our mission is to provide our clients with excellent blah blah blah… so they can (yawn) achieve their organizational mission to blah blah blah” and other tired corporate brochure sounding language.

She wanted to know what I thought. So I told her. The first thing she needed to do was change the copy to talk “to” her customer and not “about” them or “at” them. I checked in on her site last week. Turns out she really didn’t want my advice.

Finally, there’s a Changing Course Club Member who has one of THE best business ideas I’ve heard in a long time. He was all set to roll out his business when the economy tanked. Instead, he shelved the idea explaining, “It’s just not a good time to be in business.”

Now *I* want to cry.

What breaks my heart is that even in this economy, all three of these existing and new business owners SHOULD BE SUCCESSFUL. How? One word – marketing.

Marketing Myths Guaranteed to Doom Any Business

If you have never run a small business before, then you’re probably operating from a lot of myths about what marketing is and how it works. Succeeding in this, or any, economy means smashing through these four myths that are guaranteed to doom any business.

Marketing Myth #1: If you build it they will come.

Once you come up with a great idea or find the perfect niche, people will line up to pay you for it. Right? Wrong.

I understand how people would think this. I mean, my friend went to massage school to be a healer, not a marketer. The reality is though, when you start out in any new business, only about 20 percent of your time will actually be spent doing the thing you went into business to do. The other 80 percent is going to be spent on attracting people who want and can benefit from what you have to offer.

Over time, these percentages flip flop. But it takes time. There are things you can do to speed up the process. Specifically, the more time you spend learning about how best to serve your clients or customers – which is what marketing is all about – the faster you’ll be able to create a marketing strategy that is more automated and less time consuming, and the faster you’ll be able to get back to doing what it is you love to do.

But if you absolutely, positively want nothing to do with marketing, then you have one of two options. You can get a job and let your employer worry about marketing. For example, my friend could work in spa. Of course then she’d be right back to being an employee which would defeat the purpose, but it is an option.

The other thing you can do is outsource your marketing. Obviously this is going to cost you money, but if you either refuse to market yourself or just don’t want to take the time to learn how, then you don’t have a lot of options. Creative types like former consulting client Tom Kennedy of Kennedy Creative Construction Company, and Chief Marketing Implementor Shannon McCaffery of Marketing Implementer LOVE to market. I say let them. (If you do work with Tom or Shannon mention my name to get the Changing Course discount.)

Marketing Myth #2: Marketing is slimy, tacky, or otherwise immoral.

Unfortunately, when a lot of people think about marketing, the first thing that leaps to mind is a high-pressure used car sales rep. If my massage therapist friend went around saying, “So, what’s it gonna take to put you on this massage table?” that would be one thing. But if you look at marketing as a means to solving somebody’s problem, then you realize that marketing is a means to serve.

A month before Christmas, my own massage therapist sent me the same holiday letter she always does. It’s the letter I look forward to every year and the one I would be disappointed not to receive. That’s because I know she’s going to offer her clients gift certificates for half price massages to give to our friends or family plus a discounted massage for myself.

Whenever she sends that letter, my massage therapist gets a steady stream of revenue during an otherwise slow period, plus the opportunity to potentially gain new clients. As a time-strapped holiday shopper, the gift certificates definitely solve a problem for me because I get to knock at least one item off my shopping list. And, as a stressed out holiday shopper who would otherwise put myself last on the giving list, the discounted massage is just the push I need to treat myself. It’s a win-win.

But whenever I try to get my massage therapist friend to send a similar offer to her clients, she refuses because she says, “Marketing is so tacky.” Not only does my friend suffer financially, but her clients don’t get all the great benefits I do. It’s a lose-lose.

Three days ago I got an email from a guy named Keith who was writing to basically thank me for selling him into the Changing Course Club. After feeling lost for the past ten years and several false starts, Keith says he is finally, “…putting one block on top of another and becoming the architect of my life as an entrepreneur.” Adding, “I made a commitment to myself this January that 2009 will be my year! No excuses, no detours, no turning (or looking) back.”

Remember when I said marketing is really solving a problem? Keith ended by saying, “I have been seeking for a long time what you are offering,” he wrote. “I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was as I grabbed my credit card.” If you’ve bought into the marketing is tacky, bad, slimy, evil and all the other success-busting myths, think of Keith’s email and ask yourself, “Who am I to deprive anyone of such excitement?!”

Marketing Myth #3: A down economy is the worse time to launch or market a business.

Nonsense. Some of the most successful businesses were started during rocky economic times. Hyatt, Trader Joes, Fed Ex, Microsoft and hundreds of other companies all began during a recession, and the iPod came out right after 9-11!

I know there’s a tendency to cling to a false security of a job right now. But you can still get your business going on the side. When you think about it, you have a lot more control over starting a business than you do over finding a job!

When I launched Changing Course in the mid-90s, every day brought a new headline about huge corporate lay offs. Sound familiar? Still, I knew that it takes no more effort to think big as it does to think small. That’s why one of my first marketing tactics was to try to drum up some PR from major newspapers and magazines.

I sent out about a hundred press releases. Not one, but two reporters from The Wall Street Journal called. Soon after, I got a call from an editor at USA Weekend magazine. They were doing an entire edition around the recession. The theme of quitting your job to work at what you love was not quite a fit, but they were writing an article on going from a two-income household down to one and wanted to know if I had any tips.

Not really. But with the prospect of getting an entire sidebar with my name on it, you can bet I came up with some tips pretty fast! I even hopped on the phone to call a few subscribers and found three couples who USA Weekend ended up interviewing for the piece.

Marketing Myth #4: Marketing is too expensive.

Depending on what approach you take, marketing a business can cost nothing. Zero, zilch, nada. You just have to be creative!

With that USA Weekend article coming out in a month, I was poised for millions of people to learn about Changing Course. There was just one problem… it was 1997 and  I didn’t have one of these new fangled things called a Web site! And I definitely didn’t have the thousands of dollars it took at the time to get one built.

I tracked down the instructor who taught a course on Web design at a local community college to see if her students were looking for projects. I was able to get two 40-something career changers to design a great starter site in time for the USA Weekend magazine article at no charge, and these fledging business owners got to list a live site in their design portfolios. Another win-win.

It was during this same lean economic time that I partnered with a local bank to offer a lunch-time workshop called "Taking Your Business to the Next Level." I think I charged something like $100 a person for the four-week series.

The bank got potential customers in the door and some good PR. The fact that the bank was co-sponsoring it gave me the credibility I needed to get a free pitch in the local newspaper. Plus, the bank let me use their conference room and even printed the flyers so I had no marketing costs. Another win-win.

Are there times when you do have to spend money on marketing? Absolutely. Spend wisely and marketing will pay you back many times over.

Over the years, I’ve probably spent $100,000 on marketing. But, of that, “maybe” $3000 was on paid advertising. The rest of my marketing dollars have gone to filling shelves with self-study courses and books… attending teleseminars and live events… paying to be in high-priced Mastermind groups with some of the best and brightest marketing minds in the country… and other means of educating myself about how to serve my market in a way that solves a problem for them, is in line with my personality and values, and allows me to continue to support myself so I can continue to help others escape the job world and create the life they really want!

Common Sense Meets Creativity

Valerie with Drayton Bird

There is nothing magical about marketing. In fact, a lot of marketing is nothing more than common sense. In his book Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, British marketing legend Drayton Bird tells readers, “Try to sell something connected to your own favorite hobby or interest,” adding that a good friend of his lived off a business in rare coins for 30 years. “It’s much easier to work hard at something you know and love.”

Drayton’s book was originally written more than twenty years ago. Reprinted numerous times, it continues to be a must have on the bookshelves of many of the world’s top direct marketers.

I had the privilege of meeting the 70-something year old Drayton at Yanik Silver’s Underground Online Marketing Seminar last week where he shared his “Ten Commandments of Marketing.” My three favorite are…

#1 Start with the customer, not the product. We get so enamored with our ideas that we forget who they are intended to serve. When you begin with the end user, your product will take care of itself. A great way to find out what your customer really wants is to put together a survey using a free survey creator like SurveyMonkey.com.

#6 Use a proven formula. People sometimes make the mistake of trying to be original. It’s actually a lot smarter to follow people and companies that have already figured out what works and learn from them. (See Learning Opportunities below for some great places to start including the chance to get some free advice.)

#10 Never, ever give up. Drayton understands that too many people try something once, get poor results, and give up. But, like life, marketing is a process of trial and error. The first time I marketed my Outside the Job Box Career Expert and Small Business Idea Consultant Training Program it was to a small, but very enthusiastic, list of about 50 people who had been begging me for this opportunity to train to do what I do.

Not a single person signed up. Two days later I sent a slightly revised version of the same marketing copy to a larger number of people. That time it worked to the tune of $78,000.

There is nothing more heartbreaking than talented people who squander their gifts by never figuring out how to share them with the world. And marketing myths are just that... myths. Even during these challenging economic times you can be successful, you can make money, you can grow your business -- and your dreams. So what are you waiting for?

Marketing myths are just that. Even during these challenging economic times, you can be successful, you can make money, you can grow your business and your dreams. So what are you waiting for?

P.S. Don’t forget to grab your fully downloadable Making Dreams Happen program featuring Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter, and me at the insane sale price of $67. This 3-Day Rewarding the Action Takers Sale ends Thursday, February 26th. This offer will not be repeated any time soon. To listen to an excerpt, or to learn more about Making Dreams Happen, go to ChangingCourse.com/makingdreamshappen.htm.

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There are 8 comments. Add yours.

  1. rich simpson

    Kudos to Drayton Bird and your publication for proclaiming that “A down economy is the worst time to launch a business”. I agree with your comment: “nonsense”. I am building a web site, (URL above), not yet on the internet. I’ll be offering downloadable eBooks on business subjects. Oh, by the way, I am eighty years of age and am looking forward to success.

  2. Hi Rich,

    Congratulations! Please keep us posted on your success!

    Valerie

  3. This is an excellent article Valerie. I see evidence of these very ‘beliefs’ in many of the people I encounter with ThePerfectBizFinder. The truth is period of economic crisis are the absolute BEST times to start a business.

    Thanks for your clarity.

    Steve

  4. Valerie, you have once again provided another ah-ha moment when you said, “When you think about it, you have a lot more control over starting a business than you do over finding a job!”

    My last two downsizings left me with pages of j-o-b leads from all the popular j-o-b sites that produced nothing but disappointment. This very last downsizing was not only exhilarating (I hated being there), it has propelled my little business into a full-time venture.

    Am I making a ton of money yet? No. Is that my aim? No. Do I want a lifestyle I am in control of? Yes! Do I want to take as many sick days and vacation days that I need and want to? Yes!

    You are so on the money when you talk about having more control over starting a business. I set my schedule. I produce the required amount of self-discipline for the amount of income I want/need. Ooh-rah! Go for it people!

  5. Barbara Reuschle

    BEST Newsletter EVER!!! Thank you so much, perfect timing 🙂

  6. Valerie, thank you for such a timely and on target article. I’m always amazed that you seem to always know what we need and when we need it! Your words rang true and let me know I’m on the right track with learning all I can about marketing and that it’s not the evil thing I thought/felt it was :-}. I want to also thank you for sharing yourself and valuable knowledge with us so that we can improve who we are.

  7. Val, always love your articles. Today you reminded to get some press releases out -thanks for the nudge!

    P.S. Thoroughly enjoying the OJB consultants material I bought -practical AND exciting ideas I’m now sharing with my clients

  8. I love it when someone saids “I Don’t have enough money to market” I do almost all my marketing for free! People just have to be open to hear what exactly you have to say!
    Thanks for this,
    Jeremy
    qsave

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