I have met and helped many different entrepreneurs during my time as a volunteer business coach for my local chapter of SCORE, a division of the U.S. Gov. S.B.A. While I've helped them make their businesses better, I've also learned that most entrepreneurs of all ages share several similar personality characteristics and daily practices.
Life of an entrepreneur
Most entrepreneurs start out small and quickly learn all the jobs needed to make their business run. If you're a small business owner, then you are probably the best sales person for your business because you know your product the best. Many business owners also manage their own bookkeeping, human resources, employee management, cleaning, and they even dabble with different marketing methods. While necessity, and lack of money, probably forces a business owner to do all these jobs, most business owners are only really good at one of them, which is usually the sales process.
I've noticed a lot of similarities among business owners who have been in business for 20 or more years and are doing all those jobs on a regular basis. Specifically, they struggle to exceed more than $750,000 in annual sales. There's just not enough time in a day, week, or year for them to handle all the work while also trying to build the business.
I can do this myself
Another similarity I've noticed among business owners is their choices for hiring outside help. Many would rather continue to maintain their own bookkeeping than hire someone who could do the job more efficiently. Many business owners would also hire an ad agency to handle traditional out-of-home marketing than try it design a billboard or newspaper ad on their own.
On the other hand, these same owners attempt website management and online marketing on their own even though a far greater number of people will see their online marketing than billboards or newspapers. There are a lot of DIY marketing websites that make people believe they can do it themselves without any help from an experienced online marketer.
Do you really want me to tell you what you did wrong?
In my local SCORE chapter, I'm often asked to review the marketing efforts of the entrepreneurs that had poor or zero results from their own attempts. When someone asks me for my honest opinion, I will give it to them, and so the first thing I usually tell these business owners is that they should never have wasted their money trying to do it themselves. It's my job to explain the error of their ways so they can learn from their mistakes.
I have two different philosophies when helping business owners. My philosophy as a "consultant," and why I get paid, is to provide direct answer based on my experience. Sometimes the business doesn't understand the reasons why I give them answers, but they are interested in short cuts to better success. My philosophy as a "coach" is to ask questions so the business owner will understand different points of view and recognize better methods. This method allows them to learn so they only need my help in the short term. It's my belief that anyone can learn the basics of online marketing, if they have enough time. However, I also believe that small business owners simply do not have enough time to wear all their other job hats while still fully attempting online marketing.
Name 10 online marketing methods
When asked to name the obvious online marketing methods, most people will list their own website, Google Search, and Facebook. Among the less obvious are ads within your favorite apps, other social media sites, YouTube, and local news websites. There are still many other ways to use the internet for marketing, and many advertising platforms to deploy ads. It's virtually impossible for any one person to understand each advertising platform and how to use it best for their business, which is why it really is silly for a business owner to try this on their own.
Internet marketing agencies usually have specifically trained employees for each marketing method, but no one knows how to do it all. Agencies also spend a lot of money making sure their employees are continuously reeducated with each advertising platform to stay in compliance with new policies and to correctly manage marketing budgets.
Exercises in DIY online marketing futility
As a coach, I am always trying to convey the complexities of internet advertising in hopes that small business owners will realize the futility of attempting online advertising without help. If an owner is willing to hire an agency to work on traditional marketing, then they should also be amenable to hiring an agency for their internet needs. Alternatively, a business can be equally successful if they hire talented in-house employees to manage their online marketing.
Small business owners across all industries, including retail jewelers, seem to share the same set of daily woes and time limitations. I've met many people in business for 20 or more years that just have difficulty finding the time to keep up with the fast paced changes of online marketing. Part of their lack of time is because they are still running their business the same way they were 10 years ago without implementing helpful technology short cuts or automation. Instead of looking at the heart of their business to fix their overall problems, they look for short cuts to get new things done.
This has led many business owners to buy into the belief that websites and internet marketing will be easy to manage and will not be time consuming. Advertising from GoDaddy, Shopify, Squarespace, Snap Retail, Wix, and many other providers claim that anyone can do it. Yet I usually meet business owners who started with the best of intentions but never had the time to finish. Their lackluster results led to disappointment and they eventually gave up.
Your own creativity gets in the way
Being an entrepreneur myself, I'll state that we are a very creative people. Sadly, what we can imagine as an online marketing campaign (or website) very seldom becomes reality when attempting it on our own. Even though I'm a skilled website professional, my own attempts never come out as well as when I'm working with a creative design team. This is what I try conveying to my coaching clients in hopes that they will recognize how to correct their own online marketing problems.
Time for self reflection
Most of my writing and training focuses on how jewelers can improve their online identity, or how to use new technology. Instead of telling you about the purported latest and greatest idea you should look at, I'm hoping you will use this post for some self-reflection. Consider how much money you think you are saving attempting to manage your online identity alone and if your results look professional or if they look sloppy. Your own efforts to save a few pennies on your marketing are probably contributing to your own financial decline.
Each one of us needs to admit when we're trying to take on too much work that's outside our area of expertise, and to ask for help. The internet isn't as easy as you might think. Seek specialized, outside help for better results.