Posted May 17, 2011 1:35 am by with 4 comments

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You can’t walk down the block anymore without stumbling over a study that combines a version of the truth with the PR of a company. The latest target has often been the SMB market as everyone and their distant cousin is trying to get attention for their efforts to cage this elusive animal.

The latest study comes from Constant Contact which is an e-mail marketing company. So we’ll give you three guesses at which is the most effective way for SMB’s to reach their customers and prospects and the first two don’t count. Did you guess e-mail marketing? You get a gold star!

No surprise there but there is a little bit of one in the finding that the telephone was the second most effective tool. In the age of ‘unmarketing’ that technique is supposed to have gone the way of the dinosaur. Maybe the the automation of the world has its limits?

What is more intriguing though is the following chart that shows what keeps these folks up at night. As one might guess it’s getting new customers.

The trouble is that this is a worry that is useless because it has nothing to do about action. It’s just a reason to freeze and not perform. If an SMB was concentrating on the right things they would be putting all of their concentration, effort and resources into the things that attract these customers. Worry isn’t that tactic. It keeps them from doing the right thing because they act out of fear and end up spinning their marketing tires in vain.

There is a pretty cool quote from a famous book that says “Do not worry”. Seems to make sense, right? But that’s not what business people do. They worry about everything and SMB’s, in particular, are burdened with worrying about it all. In the end, however, the only thing that matters is what they do to bring in new customers. Worrying about not having those customers is a waste of time and energy. No wonder many businesses in the study (48%) also stated that they didn’t have the cash flow to effectively run their business. They are worrying and not acting or even worse they are acting out of fear rather than business rationale and logic.

Maybe the mystery of the survival of the SMB is not a mystery at all. In fact, maybe it’s pretty simple. They just have to concentrate on the right things. Unfortunately, reality often gets in the way of what makes perfect sense. The SMB’s of the world are doomed to continue to struggle and ultimately fail if they are not being helped to concentrate on action oriented behaviors that will move them and their business forward.

So what could be the most effective tool in the arsenal of an SMB trying to figure out how to survive in a rapidly changing world? Education. Guess what though. When you talk to most small business owners the last thing they think they can do is take time out to be educated. Then they wonder why the wheels fall off the wagon and they have to worry about getting new customers. It’s a vicious cycle that isn’t anyone’s fault but the business owner themselves. Slow down to educate and strategize and they might find something that resembles success. Do it the other way, which is to act blindly to try to put out fires and you get worry which nets nothing of value.

This cycle is not likely to change, though, no matter what research is done. Until SMB’s slow down long enough to learn how they can get out of their worries they will never be anything more than the self-imposed limits their worries represent. That’s too bad.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? What’s your take?

  • I think a lot of SMB owners are so focused on their bottom line that they miss the forest for the trees. Getting caught up in the daily grind makes it harder to see the opportunities and dangers as they pass by. They focus on the day-to-day, which means they could be missing the bigger picture.

  • I totally agree, Frank! Many SMBs are too overly focused on what everyone else is doing, never mind if it applies to their own situation. Benchmarking like this has its place, but more importantly, companies need to spend more time learning what their own customers want, the language they use, and what motivates their behavior, instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing. Thanks for the post!

  • I agree . I would take the same step as well.
    World is changing rapidly. Why not just take sometime into it like everybody does.
    For example social media as a marketing tools. Everyone start bring their business to Facebook since the culture have changed. Why don’t you? What you need is take sometime and learn it and implement it.
    Everything will keep you worries unless your business not growing.

  • Having worked for several SMBs the one commonality that I see is their love for what they do. Usually the founders have started the company because of a passion / love they have for something. This “love” for what they do can blind them.

    Have you ever been around a proud parent of one of the most obnoxious kids you have ever met? The parent’s love for the child keeps them from seeing the true colors of the child. The same is ture with the owners and their company.

    The owners in a lot of cases are unaware of what other people think of their company. Many times they have come to me asking me to market a message that was NOT indicative of who we are. It seems it was who we use to be. Their love blinds them which in turn makes it hard for them to make the changes they need to succeed. IMHO