March 29, 2021 by  Ashley Guberman

Many people call themselves entrepreneurs or solopreneurs, when in fact, they have a hobby or side-hustle that makes them a bit of money. Some genuinely have a great product or service, but they get stuck trying to create the traction they need to confidently leave their day-job to do what they love or to grow their revenue into something more sustaining.

The biggest mistake these people make is to believe that they need to learn marketing to grow their business.  So that I’m clear, you do not need to become a marketer to grow your business, and doing so can be a significant barrier to growth.  Instead, you have to learn to become a better customer for marketing services.  That’s the premise I want to explore in the next series of articles:

You don’t need to become a marketer to grow your business.  You need to be a better customer of marketing services.

Imagine for a moment that you broke your ankle.  Who among us would think we needed to go to medical school to learn how to fix it?  It’s an absurd example, but the marketing world is so huge that no person (or even an agency) can know all of it.  Yet solopreneurs do it all the time by diving into Facebook, LinkedIn, AdWords, or the social-media strategy that’s prominent in their minds.  Dabbling in these tools is little more than a first-aid course. Meanwhile, you have internal bleeding, and that broken ankle will not heal correctly on its own.

We know we need help with a broken ankle, or we literally won’t have a leg to stand on.  But with our businesses, we wait far too long before getting help and then pick a professional who might as well be a witch-doctor.  At this point, the analogy starts to break down, and we need to look at why.

In the case of an orthopedist, we know what to expect.  Any competent doctor will start with primary screening and take a few X-rays to make a proper diagnosis before prescribing a treatment plan.  We know the treatment may hurt a bit (setting the bones), and it’s going to take time to heal and rebuild strength.  We also know that they can make a reliable and trustworthy promise that we’ll get better if we follow their recommendations.  Leaving the issue of insurance aside for the moment, we pay for services, and we expect and receive results.  And when our doctor cannot help us, they will refer us to one who can.

On the other hand, marketing professionals have a reputation for being skilled in the arts of illusion and placebos.  On some level, that reputation contributes to our desire to learn marketing (for real) on our own.  We start the process, only to get lost or frustrated.  We try another approach, only to repeat the cycle until we give up.  Then we limp along with our business failing to meet its potential while our would-be customers go undiscovered and underserved.

It would be easy to blame the marketing industry as a whole for being such charlatans.  It would be tempting to demand an equivalent of board-certification for marketers to make it easier to find those of good repute.  The ultimate solution, however, is far easier and entirely within your control.  

First and foremost, you need to be clear about the audience you serve, the problems you solve, and the results you produce for your customers.  Gaining that clarity comes from The Seven Elements of an Effective Marketing Message

After that, you need to know:

  1. 1
    What results do you expect your vendors to produce?
  2. 2
    What requests do you need to make of the vendors who offer to serve you?
  3. 3
    How do you shift a vendor’s offer from performing a service to promising a result?
  4. 4
    How do you assess the trustworthiness of the promises you receive?
  5. 5
    How do you measure progress toward your stated goals?

What are your thoughts on the fundamental premise that businesses need to be better customers of marketing services rather than seeking to master marketing on their own?

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Primary Goals sits at the intersection of three core ideas about communication:
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