Top 3 Reasons Small Businesses Fail at Marketing

I often speak to groups of small business owners and I keep hearing the same comment over and over again with many of them saying that marketers don’t matter or marketing doesn’t matter anymore.There are many reasons I’ve heard as to why marketing doesn’t matter: “all my business comes by referral,” “I never spent money on marketing and my business grew,” “marketing is a waste of money,” “I see no value in marketing,” “marketing is all luck so why spend money on it,” and so on.Oh, how they are so very wrong! Below are the top 3 reasons why:1. Their definition of marketing is wrongWhen business owners tell me that marketing doesn’t matter, they usually have a totally different understanding of what marketing is than those who recognise how marketing contributes to business goals where it enables you to charge the most money you can for your services and products.Marketing is first about spending time building a solid foundation based on strategy before proposing a series of tactics aimed at lifting sales. Until the business finds a way to change the context of how their ideal customer views what they do, and then becomes become the obvious choice provider, they’ll find that their marketing efforts never seem to build momentum or gain any return on investment.You must be able to enter the conversation taking place in the head of your customers. Or, to look at it in a different way, to be able to address the number one question on your customer’s mind at exactly the right time.So, how do you do this? The conversation that is taking place in every prospective customer’s mind revolves around two major points. There is a problem they have, and that they don’t want… and there is a result that they want, and they don’t have.Those who often misunderstand marketing believe that it is only about advertising campaigns, brochures, flyers, website, email marketing, SEO, tradeshows, social media, copy, etc. These are the tactics – the way you implement your marketing. I’d argue that marketing is essentially the core of business strategy because it is about understanding the current customer, tapping into their fears, their goals and their aspirations and then creating products and services that the ideal customer is willing to buy from a brand they now they know, like and trust.2. They believe either they or their co-worker can do itSometimes in the “do it all yourself” world of small business (or even big business when it comes to it), it’s difficult to identify the areas that require outside help. A business may be able to set up their newsletter, add plugins to WordPress, write a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and clumsily create header graphics, but you need somebody who is trained, practiced, and skilled at looking strategically and holistically at the marketplace, understanding the customer, and then creating unique opportunities based on this understanding.Just think about it for a minute; just because you have a calculator and excel does that mean you are an accountant? If you have a ruler, pencil and have watched some episodes of Grand Designs – does that make you an architect? If you post regularly to your friends on Facebook and Instagram – does that mean you are a social media expert?So why do small businesses believe that by buying a Mac and some software they will become a designer, marketer and communications expert?It needs to be led by a strategic marketer who can then develop an integrated marketing approach. Can you or your co-worker do this? In some cases, you can. But those who can are most likely to either come from marketing or consulting backgrounds where they have transferable skills and experience defining AND delivering against a growth strategy.If you are a small business, you need somebody who will have a very solid, process, streamlined, consistent, repeatable approach. First, they will research and learn about your company in great depth, the dynamics of the marketplace and identify shifts, trends, and changes. From there, the strategic marketer will be able to present the different elements of your marketing plan in logical order of how you should construct them, update them, or revise them; and identify the key areas you should be focusing on – be it generating leads, converting leads, increasing transactions right down to changing prices.3. They hire the wrong marketing helpThere is a huge misunderstanding around marketing strategy, marketing tactics, and marketing execution.There is a difference between being strategically capable, creatively capable and executionally capable.Small business owners don’t hire a strategic marketing coach/firm to develop creative graphics and headers; nor should you hire an advertising/graphic design agency to handle marketing strategy. A small business doesn’t need to hire a consultant or a firm who is a strong marketing executor when their biggest need is a strategy for sustainable growth. You may get more attention, but not the best results.

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Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?