Small Business Owners: Do You Have a Marketing Problem or a Management Problem?

by Frank Swiatek

Having spoken to several groups of small business owners recently, marketing seems to be top of mind with them.

Getting more prospects, increasing conversion rates of prospects to customers, and increasing customer worth are all important subjects of discussion at the small business forums that I have spoken at.  But I had an experience recently which indicated that the owner did not have a marketing problem but, in fact, had a management problem.  The group was 15 owners of small businesses ranging in size from $3M in sales to $45M in sales.

This particular small business owner said he is always concerned about where the next customer is coming from.  He said, “We’ve got to get our name out there!  We should be doing better”   I said, “Do you have a marketing opportunity with your product?”   He replied, “Yes, we have prospects, but I can’t seem to get my people to make some calls.”  When I asked for the reason, he said, “We trained some of our office staff to make calls to prospects, but they always seem to be too busy.   When I asked him, if he had any performance discussions with his office staff, he replied, “I just touched on it recently, but I don’t want to get them too upset. They might leave.  It’s tough to find good people”

I said to him, “You don’t have a marketing problem, you have a management problem!”  It hit him like a splash of cold water, and he agreed.

His marketing results were suffering because he was violating some of the principles in our book.  First of all, he had no clear performance targets for his employees.   He asked his employees “to make some calls.”  Instead, he should be setting specific call objectives for them.

Secondly, his employees lacked accountability in delivering results.  As long as they had an excuse, it was OK to not make calls.  Thirdly, he did not have any accountability techniques in place for reporting out on the calls.  Instead, he said, “I just touched on it recently.”   I suggested that prospecting calls be place on their monthly meeting agenda, and the office staff would have to report out on their results, based on their monthly targets.

Lastly, he was focused on befriending people and not focused on results.  In our book, we identify this approach as a major reason that managers struggle in all sizes of organizations.

Small business owners can create better results if they:

  1. Set clear and specific objectives for their employees
  2. Make accountability a core value of the business
  3. Create accountability techniques to ensure performance
  4. Focus on results and not on befriending people.  Remember though, a manager who focuses on results must also possess respect for people.

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