Market Your Business or FAIL: Why Marketing is a Key Piece of the Puzzle to Success

As BetterWeb celebrates our one-year anniversary I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people - coworkers, clients, partners - you name it! The past year has flown by. These milestones hit hard when you see stats showing that 20% of businesses who started at the same time as we did are no longer in operation.

That’s right - in the first year, 20% of businesses fail. That increases to 30% in year two and 50% by year five!

graph of small business failure rate

So why is this? I did some digging - and there are oodles of articles out there with information at the ready to answer this question. Turns out, marketing is one of the common threads you’ll see amongst them. It makes perfect sense; without sharing your product or service with your potential customers and getting them to buy, of course your business can’t thrive. But there’s more to the story than just that. Here are the key takeaways from what it means to Market Your Business or Fail and some steps to get you started on the right track to ensure you don’t go down that dreaded path:

1. How to Understand Your Target Audience

We can get into fancy schmancy personas and all of that in a future deep dive - but for now, you need the basics. Just jot down a description of the potential buyers of your product or service. Think about the following, write down the answers, and then vet the list with your team to get a consensus:

  • Are you selling to businesses or individuals?
  • Who is the primary decision maker (in either instance)?
  • Does this person need to get buy-in from others during the decision process? If so, who?
  • What questions and information do these people have/need or want to know before they make a decision to buy? Do they even know a service or product like yours exists or do you need to start by educating them?
  • What might keep them from buying?

Using these bits of info to tailor your marketing to what your buyers are looking for will make you more successful. Failing to understand your target audience and their needs can lead to major business mishaps.

2. How to Tell Your Buyers What You Offer

One of the most common and fundamental reasons businesses fail is that they can’t clearly articulate their product or service. You need to be able to tell your buyers in a single sentence why your product or service stands out from the competition. Is it better? Cheaper? Offering a new solution to their problem? This needs to be clear and simple enough that anyone can understand it.

Next, this needs to be communicated first thing in ALL of your marketing. Your website, social media, sales materials, etc. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and, as marketers, we have a limited window to catch the attention of potential customers. Within 0.05 seconds of landing on your website, your visitors have already formed an opinion about your company. Is it a good one? Do they understand what you do? And do they want to do business with you?

This becomes the basis for your marketing plan - How are you going to tell your target audience exactly why your product or service is the right one for their needs?

3. How to Measure Marketing Performance

Ever heard the saying “what gets measured gets done”? Measuring your marketing performance on a regular basis follows this same rule. To set yourself up for success, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Establish a baseline of where you’re starting from. Pick a handful of the most important metrics for your business and record these numbers. Here’s a good list of some to get you thinking.
  • Understand the goals you’re trying to achieve. As best as possible, make them measurable (something you can quantify somehow - even if it’s using KPIs to see if things are heading in the right direction).
  • Set up a regular review cadence and stick to it! Look at your metrics at each interval and start to reveal trends that will help tell a story of what is working and where there is room to improve.
  • Keep iterating. Make a change, measure it, and repeat.
  • And…don’t be afraid to test things out. The best marketers run experiments to see what works best and learn from them.

4. How to Set a Marketing Budget

Last but certainly not least is your marketing budget. The number 1 item on most lists of why businesses fail is money - and a solid marketing budget definitely plays a role. Understanding how you are going to market your product and what this is realistically going to cost is critically important to the organization’s overall success.

Setting a marketing budget that will weather the ups and downs of sales cycles, seasonality, and competition takes equal parts planning and persistence.

  • Budgets can be created top down or bottom up.
    • Top down = Management gives you a total that you have to stay within for all of your marketing activities.
    • Bottom up = You total all of the marketing activities you believe are needed to achieve your goals for the [year] and determine a budget based on this plan.
    • Most often, it’s a combination of these two approaches where there’s some give and take to come to a final budget that you’ll be working with.
  • Since you already have your target audience, marketing message and goals - you know what’s needed for the year. List all of these items out in priority order. Assume you will need to cut something, so listing by priority allows you to be prepared for these conversations.
  • Estimate the budget needed for each line item. Pull in help where needed to get the most accurate numbers you can. It won’t help in the long run to underestimate the spend needed to accomplish your goals.
  • If possible, show how this spend will translate to a positive impact for the business. How many leads will this drive? New quotes? New sales? Having these numbers at the ready will make it much more likely to get the budget you’re looking for to get approved.
  • Just like with your goals, it’s not set-it-and-forget-it. Set up a regular review cadence and stick to it. Are you over budget, under budget or on track? Make sure you’re staying in line with where you should be and adjust accordingly. As needed - communicate changes early and often!

None of this is easy - especially when it’s new or you’re juggling a million roles like in many small businesses or start-up environments. But, setting time aside to get these things in order will pay off in the long run - and give you much better odds of success.

If you aren’t sure if you’re on the right track with your marketing, need some help with budgeting, measuring performance, messaging, etc - or just need help getting things done, we’re here to help. Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to jump in.


About the Author, Erin Kerrigan:
A seasoned marketing strategist with two decades of expertise, Erin thrives at the intersection of business strategy and the dynamic world of marketing. She loves to collaborate with clients across diverse industries and growth stages, harnessing marketing for meaningful and measurable business outcomes. With a unique blend of client and agency experience, Erin ensures that companies unlock their full potential. Hailing from Cleveland, she's an outdoor enthusiast, often found enjoying quality time with her husband, two girls, and golden retriever.


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