The Entrepreneur’s Misguided Love Affair With Marketing

I love marketing. I chose my college major in 2005 and never looked back. For the last thirteen years, I’ve helped businesses study, target, and message to their audiences. I’ve driven millions of dollars in revenue for my clients and I 100% believe in the power of a well executed marketing campaign.

HOWEVER…you knew this was coming right? HOWEVER, marketing is not the be-all, end-all of running a successful business.

According to one survey, 67% of millennials want to start their own business and, as with any trend, a sort of cottage industry has popped up around entrepreneurship. If you explore the “entrepreneurial” sides YouTube and Facebook, you’ll find thousands of marketers marketing classes about how to build a six figure business through list building, Facebook advertising, influencer marketing, or a number of other marketing tactics.

Can you build a business this way? Yes. 100%. But it will take more time and money than most young entrepreneurs estimate to lock into an ROI positive marketing system. Additionally, a marketing-first approach to business often teaches entrepreneurs the bad habit of caring more about vanity metrics like traffic and followers instead of revenue.

What I would love to see emphasized more in these classes targeted toward entrepreneurs is sales. I’ve worked with a number of successful small businesses and a common denominator between all of them is that they prioritized sales over marketing in their early days. For the first years of their businesses, most didn’t even have a website.

Selling usually doesn’t cost you money. It just costs you time. Building up a client or customer base that can fund your marketing budget is in my mind a smarter approach for 90% of businesses out there.

When you add marketing to a business that already has a satisfied customer base, has already established the messaging that will drive sales, and has the monetary freedom to experiment with marketing tactics, then your marketing efforts are guaranteed to succeed.

A sales-first methodology doesn’t just apply to brand new businesses though. It’s a mindset that I wish more experienced businesses would apply to their marketing strategies.

Marketing is typically viewed as getting the right message in front of the right consumer at the right time in order to sell them a product or service. Sales is typically viewed as developing a rapport with someone, understanding their needs, and then providing a solution that meets their needs. It’s relationship driven and consultative.

Sales is 1:1 communication, a two-way dialogue. Marketing is one-way messaging that does its best to feel personalized. Marketers have so much to learn from salesmen and here at DIRT we have some thoughts on how to make marketing feel a little more like sales. But, we’ll save that for another post.

For now, we just want to leave you with this food for thought. Are you selling or marketing?

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