I have consulted on and worked with many different businesses in the region. I have seen how panic takes a solid business owner from a solid business idea down a path of business destruction. It kind of reminds me of that scene from OZARK where Wendy talks to Mason about evil. That happens to a lot of business owners who try to be too smart and end up harming their businesses.
Here are 5 mistakes that different types of small and medium business owners do that harm their businesses:
This is a big one! It is so because it comes disguised as “money saving” efforts in the early stages of setting up a business. Yes, when you are starting up, you are trying to stretch every Dollar (or dirham and riyal) and therefore you end up taking it upon yourself to do everything. That is perfectly fine and I believe that you should experience this at least once in your life to know what it takes to do all these things (it gives you a sense of what is possible and what is not possible, what is costly and what is not costly). But then when you are able to afford outsourcing or hiring people to do these things, please do it, and then focus on the things you do super well AND yield to you the highest return on your time investment.
Think of the following example: You are CEO of a Fortune 500 who is able to type 60 words per minute. You have a secretary who is able to type 40 words per minute. You have a 2 page document you want to create. Knowing that you are faster, do you do it yourself? Or do you leave it to your secretary and free yourself to focus on something that only a CEO can do well?
I think the answer is pretty obvious.
I think it is fair to say that this mistake probably sits on the other end of the spectrum compared to the previous point. From my experience, this happens because there is a subjective angle to it. Sometimes it comes because the business owner does not know that there are options where you can deal with one entity. Or sometimes it comes from the idea of not keeping all your eggs in one basket. This is not a bad approach especially when you are dealing with very cheap agencies. These cheap agencies will have a tendency to squeeze you for money every turn (or request). The approach therefore allows you to quickly switch things around. But it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You will keep outsourcing to different cheaper agencies (to mitigate the risk) and then one of the agencies tries to squeeze you for extra cash and you changes things up and so on and so forth.
I am not saying do not keep your options open. What I am saying is do your due diligence before giving agencies your jobs and track their performance (objectively and subjectively). You will get a good idea pretty quickly who you can work with AND rely on to be behaving as a business partner quiet quickly. And more often than not, you will find yourself with one agency.
This has always baffled me. The interesting thing is that even multinational companies do this. They have their reasons like corporate approvals, Global contracts, etc. In the case of small and medium businesses, it is mainly a cost thing.
A lot of business owners do not have the digital marketing experience and background. They have a background in Beauty Care, Food, Repairs, etc. So they neither fully understand what can be done, nor do they have the time to educate themselves to figure out what can be done. And so they eventually end up crossing paths with an agency who promises a lot of good stuff for a very cheap price. Then the problems start popping up. A simple example is: An agency that, is in country Y, is running ads using images that are related to people in Country Y but have nothing to do with your country and audience. Another one would be getting backlinks from websites that tell google to start ranking your website higher in Country Y. This top ranking in country Y is quiet useless for a Microblading or beauty spa in Jumeirah
One of the things I notice quiet frequently is that small and medium business owners are very impatient when it comes to Digital Marketing. A lot of them feel that the moment they turn on Google Ads, the clients should be raining from the sky like it is a monsoon. Yes digital marketing has made it 100 times easier and cheaper to reach people all over. But that same reason is why it takes time. There are OTHER business owners trying to reach the same customers. So you need to exert more effort and show patience.
I know what you are thinking “Yeah but our digital marketing budget does not grow on trees”. First let me say that I think we all agree that life would be more interesting and fun if indeed money did grow on trees J
Second, you have to sit down with your agency and have a transparent chat. It can be as simple as “right now, I have 100 customers. I would like to increase them to 120 in the next 3 months, is this possible? And let’s have monthly performance reviews on what is happening”. Have those reviews, understand the numbers, the funnel they created, the logic, and then decide what is next. Maybe your additional 20 customers are too much to make happen in 3 months. It could be that the funnel is garbage and the agency can’t find its nose in a mirror. Or it could be that they have done a great job but the person closing the client in your business is being rude or simply is not the right person to do so.
This last one is a juicy one and very often overlooked by countless small and medium business owners. I have audited lots of local business here in Dubai to understand what common issues they face from a digital marketing perspective. The one that surprised me the most is that many of them appear to freeze in time. I am not referring to lack of activity digitally (some of the might be posting daily). I am referring to the fact that it feels like the business owner started the business, and then the excitement and the energy was just…gone. No new products or services, no creativity in their offerings, nothing extra to share with clients or potential clients, no effort in finding special angle to position the business in.
It could be that the business owner is satisfied with the current business results and does not desire more. Or it could be that the business owner is overwhelmed to think of or update his/her original plans. Or simply they are not sure what to do and how to elevate their business performance. The best advice if you are not sure what to do, is to have a chat with someone who running his/her business and have them share with you their experience. It might be a book you need to read, a business association membership to network, or they might refer you to someone who has been helping other businesses in your niche.
The other point you need to watch out for with this mistake is that, it sometimes creates this thing where your digital marketing efforts (whether in house or outsourced) do not yield the most optimal results. One thing I like to say about Digital Marketing is that it is a force amplifier (if you are into military movies, they use “force multiplier”). But if you do not have any kind of overarching marketing plan, there is nothing to amplify or multiply.
To conclude, whether you are running your business for a while or just about to start, be mindful that it is very easy to slip into one or a mix of these mistakes. And if you find yourself already there, fear not, it takes a bit of re-planning and you will be back on track in a short period of time.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so please don’t be shy and leave a comment or a question 🙂
Founder of Digitopia.Marketing – Your Digital Marketing Chaperon