Since ‘The Secret’ unveiled itself on our newly purchased flat screens and sent punters into bookshops to wish away their credit card balance, bloated from the aforementioned brown goods, it seems that the world of Small Business has been increasingly shrouded in secrets and conspiracies!  Daily I am bombarded by email, direct mail,  print advertisements that are all promising to reveal the secrets of… well just about everything:  ‘zero budget marketing secrets’, ‘free media exposure secrets’, ‘sales secrets for those that hate cold calling’, and the list goes on. It certainly looks like the marketing secrets have outlived the buzz created by Rhonda Byrne’s version of the Law of Attraction.

The high price of secrets:
1. The cost of marketing secrets is much greater than the admission to the seminar or workshop.  Greater than the cost of the webinar, podcast, or down loadable PDF!  The cost is your time, time you will never get back.

2. The best case scenario is that you have learned something new on the subject of marketing and have been inspired to implement your new found knowledge.  And here is the problem:  IMPLEMENTATION.  Knowing what to do, and the ability to do it – is not one and the same!  I have a problem with members of the marketing fraternity promoting “band-aid one-size fits-all solutions” and lulling their audience, the buyers of the so called secrets, into a false sense of ‘marketing ability’.

3. As a SME business owner, your time is your most valuable resource. Money comes in a close second!  Should you be spending both on trying to implement something that you are not an expert in?  Would you go to a plumber to get a dental filling, or a hairdresser for legal advice?  Yet, so many small business owners try to develop and then implement their own marketing (communication) strategy only to waste their hard earned cash.

So who’s selling secrets and are they helping?
Many marketing practitioners have been seduced by the premise of on-line sales: CD’s, PDF’s and e-classes, rather than working one-on-one solving individual marketing challenges for their clients.

On the surface, it may seem that this is a valid approach.  Lower the cost of the service by making it a product and help more business people learn how to promote their business, in the process selling more of your own product by touting these ‘marketing secrets’.  Unfortunately, if this was the case, the standard of marketing communication amongst SME’s would be much, much higher. It isn’t. Just open the local paper, look in your mailbox or jump on the web and see for yourself.

The World Is Full Of Secrets but Marketing Is Not One of Them!
Another problem with so called ‘Marketing Secrets’ is that they’re not really secrets and are known by all Marketing graduates, are available from every Marketing textbook, from a plethora of websites, and from professional Marketing publications.  Knowing this, I would feel a little cheated if I was a business owner investing money and time trying to learn new and effective ways of finding, attracting and retaining customers, when the information is readily available.  What is not available inside these secrets is the unique solution to your business challenges.

When it comes to SME businesses, it seems that the whole art and science of marketing has been reduced to “tips” which is no different to the so called marketing secrets when they both advocate and imply “band aid solutions.”

Marketing is marketing!
Small Business Marketing is based on the same marketing principles as Big Business Marketing, or at least it should be! Marketing is about SATISFYING WANTS. Marketing is about understanding human psychology and behavior, yet the result we regularly see is SME Marketing advice simplified to the point where it loses much of its usefulness.

The Secret Is Out – Marketing Needs a Makeover!
There has never been a more exciting and challenging time to be a marketer. The demand for professional marketers is greater than ever but so is the pressure to produce quantifiable results. One day every business will have a marketing advisor to assist them to plan for the future, just like they have an accountant today to report on their past!

Today, marketing is in trouble because of the lack of a common marketing language and of course the resulting metrics. Can you imagine if this was the case with a profession like engineering or medicine? Blood pressure measured differently by different doctors? Hmmm.

Until marketing professionals develop a common language and appropriate metrics, they will struggle to attain respect and to educate clients. So where do we all go from here?

But firstly we need to understand how we got here in the first place:
Marketing as a science is still largely misunderstood by SME business owners. Marketing principles are not applied with diligence or rigor and results are not measured.

Professional marketers with the knowledge and experience that is required to deliver a successful outcomes or at the very least a systematic process that will improve the possibility of optimal outcomes do not practice their profession in the small business arena. The vast majority of professional marketers work with large companies or advertising agencies to look after these companies as clients.

The few marketing professionals with the experience necessary to apply generally proven marketing principles to the needs of small business are faced with the never-ending challenge of business development which includes the very labor-intensive task of client education and the minuscule fees that most small business owners are willing (and able) to pay for professional advice –the very advice that can make or break their own business.

Advice for Marketers:
Surely there are many ways each of us can differentiate our services without having to do it through making up new names for the processes we follow to achieve results for our clients. Start speaking in plain English and stop hiding behind jargon. Ban the brand pillars, brand onions, and every type of ‘Brand Geometric Figure’ you can imagine! More to the point start using your creativity and imagination to sell more for your clients. Isn’t that the same advice many of us have been giving I.T., Financial and Legal industries that are full of jargon! Let’s all practice what we preach.

Advice for Business Owners:

  1. Educate yourself by reading reputable marketing texts and journals.
  2. Put a stop to ‘Hope Marketing’ or in plain terms – insanity! Doing the same things over and over yet hoping for a different result.
  3. Become a better marketer by truly understanding your customers and satisfying their needs more effectively than your competitors:
  4. Stop selling the same product / service at the same price through the same distribution channels as your competitors
  5. Start thinking in terms of solutions rather than products or services
  6. Understand that the price of the product or service is more than the dollar cost of the item. It is all of the opportunity costs associated with obtaining this product, like the drive to the store which costs both time and money
  7. Start thinking about how you can make your customer’s experience more interesting, enjoyable, convenient…
  8. Once you get your marketing mix above right, begin communicating your uniqueness to your customers and prospects. Consistently, frequently, concisely and clearly.
  9. In the long run the only long term competitive advantage that your business has is the perception your customers have about your brand. This relationship is created through effective communication. Your competitors can and will copy everything else! This is why marketers and advertisers focus extensively on this thing we call CREATIVE in order to be noticed, to be remembered and to be trusted!
  10. Finally, focus on what makes you an expert and when it comes to promoting your business enlist a true marketing professional who has the appropriate qualifications and experience to assist you in your marketing journey.