Do As I Say: How New Business Owners (like me) Shoot Themselves In The Foot

Do As I Say: How New Business Owners (like me) Shoot Themselves In The Foot

It’s like the cobbler’s children going without shoes: As of the first draft of this article, Precision Impact has only had a social media presence for about a week. This despite a launch in February of this year—a full quarter earlier.

I knew how powerful a tool inbound marketing can be. I knew that, with each passing day, I had been robbing myself of leads. All it would take was one day of work to get it all moving.

My online presence remained invisible. My site remained a ghost town. My blog fell dormant. In retrospect, there is one question, the answer to which I can only hope will help you and your business avoid the same pitfall.

Cafe-table-350-525How Could This Happen?

The simple answer is “Human Nature”. The chaos of a new business hits a whole array of psychological buttons in the owner, resulting in a perfect storm for half-assed websites and neglected online presences. Here I’ll try to break them down, and dig into what I remember of undergrad psychology (with support from the Internet) to propose solutions so that you (and I) can identify and avoid these in the future.

bird-mountain-525-525The Mountain

Starting a new business isn’t easy. Most people who take a swing at it know this going in, but until you’ve sat behind the wheel, you don’t realize just how difficult it really is. Depending on your business, you need to deal with financial and logistical planning, branding, the acquisition and renovation of real estate, setting up utilities, shopping around for suppliers, hunting down staff, building your inventory… and all of this before you even flick on your open sign.

Wait—did you forget to buy an open sign? How much have we got in the budget? We were going to get one that worked with the branding… but we just dedicated the last of our signage budget to street banners. We want to look upscale, so we can’t use a cheap or home-made one… maybe if we get the cheap plain mats for the entryway…

…you get the idea.

Your responsibilities are a mountain before you, spearing the heavens as it dares you to try to reach the top. With so much responsibility, and so many balls to juggle at once, it can get very easy to ignore anything that won’t sink your business if left unattended.

Hike-350-525The Solution: Descend

I’ve found that the larger obstacles aren’t so much a question of grit and effort as they are a matter of perspective. Yes, the tasks before you are the face of a mountain—but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re at the bottom.

Scaling a mountain is a poor example for most tasks that use the metaphor: A mountain climb is much easier to start than to finish. You begin fresh, the environment is hospitable, and there is a network of locals at the base to offer you support if needed. As you climb, you become exhausted. The weather gets colder. The wind becomes harsh and cuts through you. Every inch you ascend brings you a little farther from your support network.

Starting and managing a business is more like a descent from a mountain. It’s easy to stare down from the peak in horror, marvelling how far away the ground below rests. And yet, once you begin your descent, momentum works in your favour. Each inch brings you closer to comfort and support. Every step makes your environment that much more hospitable. And the further you go, the easier it becomes.

It’s just a question of shaking the height from your mind and taking that step.

Rusty Gears sqFriction

A lot of the basic digital marketing options are easy. I know, I’m not doing myself any favours saying it about anything we do, but it’s true. Making a basic Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ page takes about ten minutes apiece if you know what you’re doing.

This is great, and testaments to the user-friendliness of those networks… but works against something known in the field of market research as ‘Friction’.

Friction is the reason why we only trust antiseptics that sting or cough syrup that tastes bad. We’re hard-wired to link cost with value; if something is expensive, time consuming, or even painful, our brain assumes that the result is going to be worth it.

Basic digital marketing is free, quick, and relatively painless. In terms of friction, it’s a dime your subconscious brain can’t be bothered to bend to pick up. Everything else seems so much more valuable, because it’s so much more difficult. After all you’ve got a whole mountain to climb (or descend, depending on whether or not you’re misusing the metaphor).

ThinkingManThe Solution: Think.

Brand Friction is a knee-jerk reaction: Resisting it might be impossible and acting against it might be uncomfortable, but it certainly doesn’t control our rational brain. The truth of the matter is that an online presence has serious long-term benefits; while it might take a while for your online presence to be felt (unless supported by an Online Marketing Campaign), the fact of the matter is that our online presence will bring interested customers to your doorstep at little-to-no personal expense.

Acknowledge that it’s more of a great deal than a disposable freebie, and that ‘Later’ might never meet ‘Now’, and get your online listings out of the way as soon as possible.

Or, of course, you could find some awesome people to go beyond the basics and make a professional, branded, high-quality social media presence. *cough*WeDoThat*cough*

pigeon-smThe Skinner Box

There’s a pigeon in a cage with a box. That box has two buttons. The pigeon pecks the left button and the box dispenses a food pellet. The pigeon pecks the right button and it dispenses nothing, but makes a slightly better future for all of pigeon-kind. The pigeon again pecks the left button and the box dispenses another food pellet. He then pecks the left button again. And again. And again. The pigeon spends the rest of his days pecking the button on the left, being showered in delicious food pellets, effectively ‘making it rain’ (in pigeon terms). He then presumably earns enough pellets to buy his freedom, with enough left over to invest in the stock market. He makes some millions until he’s busted for insider trading, having manipulated the pellet market in which he was investing by way of the left button. His pellet assets are frozen, and when he’s released from prison, he finds himself living on the streets, having to beg for hand-outs of stale bread in the park, his pigeon dreams haunted by the bittersweet memories of his time as a pellet baron.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, right—the box.

A ‘Skinner Box‘ is a model of managing behaviour through positive reinforcement. The theory behind it is that behaviour can be changed, often drastically, through periodic bursts of instant gratification. It’s the theory behind any weighted gambling system and a number of the more ‘addictive’ video games on the market.

How does it work against us?

Simply put: Inbound advertising is not a game of instant gratification. It’s about slowly cultivating an audience, nurturing a community, very slowly proving your mettle and building goodwill until a visitor decides that they want to be a part of what you’re doing.

Anything that requires ongoing attention—blog posts in particular (especially ones like this, which attempt to tackle large, complicated topics), but also news updates, social media interactions, and so forth—in the above story, inbound marketing would be the right button, while cold-calling, pavement-pounding, flier-mailing, email-bombing old-school marketing are the left. They all bring in much-needed income, which is particularly important for a start-up… so how do you bring yourself to hit the right button when the left has so many tasty pellets?

laptop-sqThe Solution: Reprogram the Box

The real world isn’t a science lab, and you’re not a bird pecking buttons. (Unless you want to get all Cartesian on me, in which case, yes, we’re all in the Matrix. Whatever.) You have the capacity to add your own rewards to the buttons you know you ought to push. It might not be automatic, but associating a positive reward with your inbound marketing can help forge those frighteningly powerful Skinner Box motivations, effectively programming your subconscious to make you want to get things done.

The reward could be a treat of any type: Perhaps you could take an extra break after updating your social media. Maybe you could treat yourself to a fun night out (or a relaxing night in) after finishing a blog post. You could even reward yourself like a literal skinner box and follow each social media update with something sweet or indulgent that you don’t get to enjoy very often, like chocolate or candy. If you’re consistent enough, you’ll actually trick your brain into wanting to keep on top of your inbound marketing using the exact same mechanism that had been throwing you off.

339px_White_knightThe White Knight

Finally, we fall on our swords. This might apply a bit more heavily to those in marketing-related fields, but it still holds at least some sway in all industries

Most business owners are driven by a desire to share. Whether we have a unique product that will improve the lives of our customers, a unique vision that we want to share, or if it’s simply a question of having an intense passion for what we do and a desire to share that passion with like-minded people, we’re not in it exclusively for ourselves. (Undoubtedly some are in it for the ‘get rich quick’ reasons, but I will neither cater to nor work with them—besides, those types tend to shun and fear the transparency that comes with inbound marketing anyhow.)

The fact of the matter is that self-promotion is, in a manner of speaking, very much a masturbatory pursuit. It neither involves nor directly benefits anyone other than ourselves, and it’s not the reason why we became business owners in the first place. It’s also very easy to ignore; after all, failing to self-promote won’t let anyone down but yourself. Given the choice between doing a great job for a client and getting a self-promoting piece out there, the client will win out every time.

Pub table sqThe Solution: Chill, Winston.

By not updating, you aren’t heroically jumping on a grenade to selflessly save your clients. Yes, given the choice between missing a blog post and missing a launch window, you’re absolutely right in neglecting your blog. But the fact of the matter is that, unless you’re terribly overstretched, there’s time enough for both.

Responsibly budgeting your time and making sure that you have enough time to post to your blog while still finishing all your day-to-days should be pretty simple, even if you have to designate a dedicated blog-writing/social-media time frame.

If finding the time to write a blog is a struggle, there are alternative options. If you can get your thoughts down but simply don’t have the time to polish and post, you might want to consider hiring a content editor to take your post from first-to-final drafts. You could also hire a copywriter to produce the content from the ground-up, working off of a hastily scrawled bulleted list of points you’d like covered. You might also want to consider looking into guest blogs to both fill an empty space and attract new readers.

typewriter keysConclusion: Whoops.

Yeah. Neglecting my inbound wasn’t exactly my brightest hour. I let myself get swept up in the challenge and excitement of casting off into the seas of commerce at the helm of my own humble little ship, and as a result, my website has had next to zero organic or referral traffic. The only interaction I’ve had via comments have been with marketing bots (and oh, what times my robot friends and I have had), and many members of my social network don’t even know that I left my previous job, let alone started my new business.

It’s unacceptable. Shameful, even. And yet, it happened.

I can only hope that, through this post, I can help you understand why it happened, what I could have done (and will now do) differently, and let us both learn from my mistakes.

That was a long one. Was that worth the time it took? Mention that you made it to the end of this monstrous article, and get 10% off the setup of any AdWords campaign. Want to learn more about how Precision Impact can help you do things right? Contact Us to set up a consultation. Have any questions, comments, or corrections? Leave a comment below.

William Hull
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