>Report: Small Businesses Struggle with Marketing


The fourth edition of Network Solutions® Small Business Success Index has been released. It’s packed with loads of insightful stats and commentary, but the thing that jumped out at me is that small businesses are struggling with marketing in a tough economy. That’s not surprising and I think there’s a cause-and-effect relationship.


Of particular interest was this quote from the report:

“For example, the critical area of marketing and innovation has experienced a drop in performance in the last six months
primarily due to businesses coming up short with creative new ideas to grow their enterprises. This provides a glimpse into how deeply small businesses are struggling, as the sector is known for its ingenuity, but small businesses appear to be running out of ideas given the economic constraints affecting them.”

Of particular note is the passage I highlighted above: “small businesses appear to be running out of ideas.” What I think is really happening is that small businesses are running out of tactics. The trend I see is that entrepreneurs are focusing on tactics to get business now, meaning immediately. Small businesses are feeling the pinch of a tough economy resulting in a desire to do something something that will get them business now. So they turn their attention to tactics, thinking that if “I try this tactic over here,” for example: social media, “I can get some business today.” Most of the time they come up empty, and jump to another tactic, hoping to find the magic formula for attracting new customers. Again, the new tactic does not work and thus the assumption from the report that “small businesses appear to be running out of ideas.” What they are really running out of is tactics to try.

Business writer and problem solver Paul Williams calls this tactic lust: the desire to solve your problems with tactics in the absence of a strategy. The cause is the tough economy. I’ve spoken with many small business owners feeling the recession pinch, and they feel the need to do something now to replace the business they’ve lost. The effect is to try something new; some new tactic that you’ve heard is a miracle marketing drug that brings customers in your door immediately. Tactic lust is flawed thinking and a road that leads to marketing frustration.

Shift Your Lust to Branding and Strategy

The cure for tactic lust is to get a strategy. But successful strategies are not created by the objective to “get more business.” Successful strategies are borne out of attention to branding. If you have built a successful brand identity, the strategy will reveal itself. The difficulty for entrepreneurs is that this takes some patience and a long-term perspective. You may feel like you don’t have enough time to work on branding. I assure you that you don’t have enough time to ignore your brand identity while you go on a tactic search. As you can see, from the Small Business Success Indexreport, you will eventually run out of ideas (tactics).

I suggest you take a step back from the tactics and the desire for instant business and spend some time on brand building. I have assembled ten branding articles into a sort-of branding mini-course: The Best in Branding. When you work on your brand, a natural strategy will evolve, and tactics will reveal themselves.

Download the PDF version of Network Solutions® Small Business Success Index: State of Small Business Report

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