Just because you can do marketing doesn’t mean you should do marketing

Just because you can do marketing doesn’t mean you should do marketing

I’ve always held the opinion that marketing is a mix of common sense, commitment to do it, and a smattering of gut instinct. Sure, measuring the returns on investment does require an understanding of analytics, tracking software, marketing automation, KPIs, etc. But what comes first is actually rolling up your sleeves and diving into marketing. But recently, I encountered a scenario that shook my “marketing is simple” philosophy.

We had a mini-tornado and lost a tree in front our house

How does a severe weather event spur me to question my “marketing is simple” philosophy? Well first, it doesn’t; I still think it’s easy to get started, and if you’re bootstrapping your business then make sure you’re marketing it too. However, what I now think might be my new mantra is… while marketing is simple, do you really have the time and knowledge to do it right?

Allow me to explain better. When the storm took down our tree it destroyed our sidewalk and driveway. So like everyone else in my neighborhood I started getting quotes. The first “concrete guy” came out - a grizzled, decades-of-experience fella - he knew his stuff. He counted off the blocks, took some measurements, and made some calculations. Then he gave me a figure $2,000 and said he’d mail me the written estimate in a day or so.

Two things happened immediately after he left

First, I immediately thought the price seemed high even though I had no clue or anything to compare it with. So like most, I fired up my computer and started looking at the price of Quickcrete at Home Depot. Pfft, it’s only $4.00 per 80 pound bag. A quick calculation had me needing about 60 bags for the sidewalk. That’s only $240 bucks. Add some more for the wood framing, the strips between blocks, etc. and I could probably do the sidewalk for way under $1,000. Hey, I’ve mixed and poured small batches of concrete before… maybe I could do this myself?

But then I recalled the chat we had as he measured….

As he was evaluating he was chatting, spouting off requirements; about additives, sealants, drying times, etc. In ten minutes I gained a brief and quick education in concrete. His chit-chat let me know code required the sidewalk blocks to be four inches thick, the driveway must be six inches. He spoke of compression psi, additives to help strengthen the concrete, an option to seal it later to better protect it, etc. He said it’d normally be a one day job, but because we had to have the stump and roots removed - it’d probably be a two day job. One day to demo the concrete and a second day to frame it and pour after the tree remnants were removed.

But then logic erupted

I was only talking about the sidewalk – the driveway was not included in my DIY estimating. Nor was the rental of a jackhammer to demo the concrete. Plus, I’d have to pull the permits from the township now… and pass inspection? Not to mention, when the hell would I do this? It certainly would take me far longer than one or two days. Heck, I didn’t even know if an 80 pound bag of QuickCrete would do one sidewalk block or if it would require more than one bag per block.

Just because I could do it… should I?

Which brings me back around to the premise of my blog. Sure, I could figure out all the details about repairing my own sidewalk and pull the permits and I’d probably save a little in materials. But after adding in the time and labor and the potential for doing it wrong - was it really worth it? My end conclusion was just because I could do it – and even though I might save a little – it’s more than likely I would spend more time completing the task, and in all probability the work would be of lesser quality.

DIY marketing isn’t always the smart play, even if it will save you a little

Marketing, at it’s core, is fairly straightforward. Determine what’s unique about what you’re selling and what will motivate someone to buy it. Figure out what need or want you’re solving, and then examine how best to reach your prospects. Then do it. It all seems so simple right?

But once you start the process, even if you know a little, you can quickly realize you shouldn’t be pouring your own concrete. First, it’s very difficult to be objective about something you’re vested in, and many entrepreneurs struggle immediately with positioning. It’s also exceedingly tough to compare your widget to the competition without bias. Moreover, you often quickly encounter scenarios you’re unfamiliar with, and learning on the fly tends to cost you money you might not have.

We advise clients all the time on web design, web marketing, social media, pay-per-click advertising, direct mail, postal rates, etc. We pull from our decades of experience and our day-to-day industry knowledge. We can navigate good and bad pricing on printing, packaging, ad rates, etc. And while savvy entrepreneurs can certainly learn their way as they go - it’s going to cost them time and money. And will the results be as good?

Often it’s better to spend on experience rather than skimp and DIY

No, I’m not advocating handing a blank check to a marketing guy. As in my concrete story, yes I could do it all myself. But it will likely take me several weekends and many phone calls and trips to city hall and I’d be learning as I went. Undoubtedly along the way I’ll discover I need more materials or that I haven’t accounted for something. And there are so many unknowns - to me. I finally decided it’s smarter to spend my time and efforts elsewhere and hire a concrete guy to do my concrete. Marketing can quickly become a similar circumstance.

Get multiple estimates

Once I decided it was smarter to hire someone than to try my hand at DIY concrete repairs I obviously solicited other estimates. I’ve been careful to compare apples to apples as I get more bids - and I’m not just looking for the lowest price. But I’m also not blindly throwing money away - I want to make a smart, informed choice

Similarly you should do the same once you decide to outsource your marketing. Interview multiple agencies and get proposals. Just make sure you’re comparing apples to apples - prepare a creative brief or a scope of work so everyone can quote on the same things. That’s not to say you should exclude suggestions outside your scope - but to be able to compare confidently, you have to have some established guidelines.

In my concrete example, they’re able to count out the sidewalk blocks and look at the damaged driveway - so the parameters are similar. I didn’t call several concrete guys and ask for their suggestions on what concrete repairs I need. They’re all quoting 10 blocks and the driveway skirt - apples to apples.

So the point to all this? Well as I stated at the start, marketing isn’t hard; but just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean that’s the smartest strategy. Your time and effort may be better spent elsewhere - such as in running your business.

Jun 30, 2015

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