Marketing Strategy: Avoiding the "I Can Also Do That" Problem
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.
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.
- 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.
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© 2015 Heidi Thorne