What's holding you and your business back?

A simple question with complex answers right?

Not really.

I have spent years as an employee in what I call, "the trenches of small business," and the past seven years as a marketing entrepreneur helping those (business owners just like the ones who once employed me) grow their companies. While I've learned a lot from my experience, when it comes to business owners, some things never change.

Here's one thing that holds so many owners back from growing: Their relentless pursuit of certainty.

Forms of this debilitating mindset are often expressed as:

"Can you guarantee that?"

"How do I know it'll work?"

"What if it doesn't work, can I get my money back?"

What is not helpful is a response like, "what do you have to lose?" While a very common solution to indecision, why would you make a decision with a stated possible 'lose' outcome?

I think this dates way back to when our moms or dads said the same thing (but they were smart enough not to include a negative word), "just try it" and more often than not we did. While it's not a comparable scenario because entrepreneurs face a financial 'risk' if they try and fail, that's not really the point is it?

How did we go from having an open mind to trying things to not wanting to do anything unless a positive outcome can be guaranteed?

"I tried email a few times, I didn't get anything."

"No one is going to see my ad. Look how many ads are on the phone already."

"I don't need a better website. People know where to find me and it already has my email and phone."

"I sent 500 postcards and didn't get one call. Everything gets thrown into the garbage just like I thought. "

I stopped at a light the other day and saw a lawn sign: "Business slow? Get on page 1 of Google. Guaranteed." I couldn't help but laugh out loud - I am in ‘the business’ and I know that no one (in their right mind) would ever guarantee a page 1 result on Google. The most common scam is to rank your business for a search term that no one will ever use - a phrase that has no search history will get you on Page 1, but here's the thing: if your ideal buyer is never going to use this phrase, your Page 1 ranking is a closely guarded secret.

There are two quotes that come to mind that illustrate why the search for certainty is unproductive.

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not making decisions.” - Catherine Cook

"The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing." - Seth Godin

If you accept the reality that nothing is guaranteed and that there are no 'certain outcomes', then adopt the 'scientific method' of trying, failing and trying again. Marketing is a science, of testing and re-testing hypotheses; from A/B testing of ads to demographics to platforms.

Smart marketers say, "I don't know. Let's find out." Many of the paid Facebook ads we test are at a $5 per day budget. If you can't spend $35 to test, you have to reallocate your marketing budget.

“Don’t have any money?” or, “it’s not in the budget?” Here’s a tip that will make this blog the best thing you’ve read in years:

  1. Print your credit card statements and detailed bank transactions.

  2. Look for recurring charges that can be clearly identified as “marketing expense”

  3. Look for not-so-obvious expenses ( under a corporate name or a vague identifier) and question it! For example, ABC SEO services, $300, or recurring charges for something you haven’t used in months. “THERE’S GOLD IN THEM MOUNTAINS.” — trust me.

  4. Now that you’ve stopped spending money on things you don’t use, or that don’t yield results, hire the right marketing professional and hit the restart button.

If someone guarantees marketing results, walk away. Marketing is not a "scratch and pray" lotto ticket; it is a deliberate, thoughtful and detailed quest for answers while also recognizing, that because we market to human beings, anything or everything can change. That doesn't mean that everything is random - many of the hypotheses we make when we send a carefully crafted email, or design a social media ad, are based on reasonable expectations. For example, we know that content that educates and entertains is preferred to selling; we know that video provides the best ROI, etc.

Fight the urge to do nothing because something didn't work in the past. As a marketer with three decades of experience who is frequently confronted with "I tried it doesn't work", my answer is always the same: "Let me take a look. From my experience, marketing works it's the execution that often fails." Anyone can send emails or post ads; a select few take the time to do it right.

Better execution leads to better outcomes.

I guarantee that.

Zev Asch