Marketing won’t save your business. Unless you respect it.

Fake It MarketingI got an unexpected phone call recently from an acquaintance that was calling for a friend. The friend owns a business near a college campus, and is desperate to reach out to the student population. She wanted to see if I would be available to do some freelance work to for the business’ social media marketing.

I called the owner. She didn’t use any social media herself. In fact, she doesn’t use much technology at all, “My cell phone is for calling people. That’s all I do with it.”

I asked if she had some goals in mind to accomplish, and how much time they would need someone to spend. She didn’t know. They hadn’t been doing any social media marketing, or any marketing in general. How much did she want so spend? “As little as possible,” she said.

And yet, the business owner spoke as if Facebook and Twitter might be her last hope to reach out to the college population.

I declined the freelance gig. This business has a lot of work to do. They’re starting from scratch, and that’s going to take some time that I don’t have.  I’ve already got a full-time job that I love.

I walked away from the situation feeling really annoyed. And I tried to figure out why.

It’s not because the business owner doesn’t use or understand technology or social media. It’s because the business owner obviously knows that marketing is important for the survival of her business, but doesn’t respect it enough to spend time or money on it.

I think there’s a few things that factor into the lack of respect:

  1. The unknown. Most people don’t know much about marketing at all. If you went to school for your profession to be a pastry chef, accountant, teacher, etc., you probably didn’t take a course on marketing. You learned about how to do your chosen profession, not about how to brand and promote yourself. And – for us old school folks – 10 years ago, branding wasn’t really something that businesses talked about, unless you worked for a large company. And marketing consisted of taking out an ad in the newspaper or radio station every once in a while. Or mailing something and handing out flyers. The craft of marketing and the new tools you use to do it – at least the social networks themselves and at most those networks plus a number of analytics, scheduling  and design tools as well as training and keeping up with the industry – are a big black hole for some folks. They just don’t have any idea how much time, knowledge and work it takes to do marketing. right
  2. The tools themselves. If you talk about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any of the top networks in casual conversation, peoples’ minds naturally gravitate towards what they do with them personally. It’s a tool they use to find out what their friends are doing, to share gossip, to look at baby photos, or to follow celebrity antics. It’s free. It’s what they do when they’re bored or have down time. They also judge the tools for what they think they know about them. I personally hate the cliché “I don’t use social media. It’s all about people posting what they have for breakfast.”

So put that together, and for some people, social media marketing means promoting your business using some marketing stuff that they don’t understand themselves by talking about it on these free tools that you use in your spare time to pass the time. They just can’t make the connection on how this all works together and why it’s valuable. How does this possibly work?

Well it’s working for some people, isn’t it? Social media is how people are hearing about what’s happening at their favorite businesses or companies. It’s how they discover things they want to buy – to spend their time and money on. Twitter and Facebook are now publicly traded companies. They’re valuable communication tools. They’re making money. And they’re helping plenty of other people make money. We’ve moved past that cliché about how social media is about posting what you had for breakfast, haven’t we?

Marketing takes skill. It’s not something that just happens. And marketing ain’t free. I know that some businesses can’t afford to hire a marketing person. And if you can’t do that, you need to be open and willing to learn a little bit yourself or to assign someone on your staff to do so. As you grow your business, you’ll eventually have the money to dedicate to a full time marketing position on your staff. But you’re never going to get there unless you step out of your comfort zones, overcome misconceptions, and accept and respect marketing enough to make it a priority.

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