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

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

I 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.

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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2015 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 29, 2015:

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!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 29, 2015:

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Read More From Toughnickel

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


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 28, 2015:

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 from USA on April 28, 2015:

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

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 27, 2015:

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!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 26, 2015:

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

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 26, 2015:

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 from Other Side of the Sun on April 26, 2015:

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.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 25, 2015:

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!

Donna Herron from USA on April 25, 2015:

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!!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 25, 2015:

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

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 25, 2015:

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

amine sehibi on April 25, 2015:

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

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 24, 2015:

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!

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