It can be hard to admit you don’t know everything, or that you may not have the right answer to a question. It’s something you get more comfortable with as time goes on, but you’ll never know it all.
Let’s say you started your own business. You are a catering company focusing on weddings. Now, since you just started you don’t want to spend money on a marketing firm. You decided to go at it on your own with a little help from Google. You know what marketing is, but do you know the best way to do it for your business?
You decide to try out some experiments. You buy some Facebook ads, because you hear so many people talk about them. You check how the ads are doing then realize you ran them for the entire country, rather than your local area. You go back and try again. But you still aren’t seeing any clicks to your website. Now you realize you need to put a pixel on your site to actually track clicks. You go back and have the ad fixed, but still nobody clicks, maybe it’s the wording? The image?
Getting your hands dirty like the example above means you might make some mistakes but you’ll also learn along the way. As long as those mistakes aren’t costing your business tons of money, there’s not much harm. The problem comes when you keep jumping from one idea to the next, or don’t have a way to track if your idea is actually bringing in customers. Marketing success is not an overnight thing, it takes time and patience.
It can take a long time to start understanding the different aspects of marketing. There’s print, events, digital, social, content. It’s not enough anymore to just buy an ad in the newspaper to promote your store. You need to know who your audience is, where they are spending their time (and actually paying attention), and how you can get in front of them without being too intrusive.
Seth Godin talks about the Purple Cow. It’s the idea that your business needs to be noteworthy and interesting enough (like a purple cow) to get talked about, not just a plain old cow that everyone passes by without noticing. You drive down the road and see hundreds of black and white cows, but if you saw a purple one, you’d stop and take notice. Your business needs a purple cow.
Now what does this all have to do with asking for marketing help? Well, asking for help, going up to customers, doing research, talking to people online, these are ways you can get ideas to find that remarkable thing that will make people want to buy from your business. It is sometimes hard for you to see that others may not find your business as great as you do. As in the example above, if you’re promoting yourself as a wedding caterer, that’s a good start, but there are likely dozens of competitors offering the same thing. How are you going to position yourself to stand out against the rest and make customers want you?
You should start by asking customers. Your customer base is your audience, they are who will make or break your business. You could have the best food in the world, but if nobody finds your catering business appealing you will be out of luck. Ask customers what they look for in a caterer and why they picked you. Also ask people who are in your target market, find people who are engaged and looking for caterers. Maybe they want their caterer to come to them with samples, or maybe they want a caterer who has a food truck. I’m not saying that if 2 people say they want a food truck that you should go buy one, you should just listen to common themes that they are bringing up.
If you can’t find your target audience to go speak with in person, try heading online. Go to Reddit and find the proper subreddit to ask questions. For our catering example, you’d want to post in r/wedding or r/weddingplanning.
Now that you understand what your audience wants, you want to start fielding ideas as to how to reach them. You can try sites like Growth Hackers or Reddit.com/r/marketing. There are usually plenty of members who are happy to dispense their wisdom and ideas.
You can’t get all of your marketing done through asking online. Soon you’ll have to start learning and learning and learning. That means reading, experimenting, figuring it out. Just try things! If your business is local vs. distributed online, you should know the varying tactics to use to market. Marketing a local caterer will be much different than marketing an online sunglasses website.
Just start going out and doing! Ask question, get help, read, experiment, fail, try again, gather the data. Don’t just do what every other business in your area is doing, try something new and see how it works. Check your local event sites to see if there are free marketing workshops or talks. Start giving and asking advice on marketing websites. And when it’s finally time to bring on an outside marketing firm, you will know exactly what to ask for and exactly what you need from them.