The highest quality standards and best tools won’t be enough if you can’t sell, sell, sell.

A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with a marketing executive friend of mine. I was excitedly telling him all about the new marketing course I just developed and how awesome it was. He patiently sat and listened to me.

He could see that I was really enthused about what I created. After I finished my boasting and gloating, he got up to leave and said, “That’s great David, now the real trick will be getting people to buy it.”

My first reaction was, “What do you mean? Of course people are going to buy it. It’s the best work I’ve done to date.” But I soon realized that I had fallen into an age-old small-business mistake: forgetting the principal objective of my business.

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My marketing friend subtly reminded me that my principal occupation is not marketing consulting; it’s the marketing of consulting services.

Sell the soap

An old advertising adage goes, “Any fool can make soap. It takes a clever man to sell it.” This is as true today as when it was first uttered many years ago. Anyone can make a bar of soap. But even if it’s the most advanced soap on the planet, it won’t matter if no one buys it.

It’s the same with my marketing courses and your oilfield services business. And failing to understand or accept this principle is so poisonous that it can kill any small business fast. You see, to make a small business successful, you need cash flow. To get cash flow, you need customers. To get customers you must sell your product or service.

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You might be a wizard with a hydroexcavator, but so are many of your competitors. No matter how great your technical skills are, your business will wither away and die like 80 percent of all small businesses if you can’t sell it.

Let’s suppose you agreed today that your most important function is marketing your products and services. What would you do differently tomorrow morning? Would the contents of your daily to-do list change? Would you allocate and prioritize your time differently? Would you consider changing your role in the organization? Would you change the criteria for hiring new employees? Would your personal training agenda and employee training change?

If you really believe deep down your primary business objective is to market your products and services, your to-do list, the way you allocate your time, your role in your company, the hiring process and your personal and employee training would be radically different than it is today.

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Your to-do list

In my prior life as a corporate consultant I was sensitive to how much my company billed clients for my time. I often asked myself, “Am I adding value equal to the price my client is paying?” It helped me to prioritize my activities. I suggest you make a habit of asking yourself that same question every day.

Here are a few activities you should consider: Create something unique in your product or service. Attend direct response marketing conferences or workshops. Find low-cost targeted advertising opportunities. Study the marketing strategies of your competitors and other businesses outside of your industry. Network with other owners of businesses that target your market.
Test your advertising and marketing to improve your current response rates. Write expert articles for trade journals, local newspapers and magazines. Write sales letters and manage your direct-mail marketing campaigns.

In a bigger company, a director of marketing would perform those activities. In a small business, you must become the director of marketing. That should be your new role in your business. Why leave the most critical part of your business to someone else?

I can hear you saying, “But I’m already doing all those things.” And my response is, “How much time are you devoting to those ‘high value’ activities?” Do you need to hire a manager or assistant to relieve you of other duties so you can focus exclusively on the activities that have the most impact on your business?

Author and speaker Brian Tracey has said: “To be really successful, you should stop doing any activity that wouldn’t normally pay you what you’re worth.” For example, if you think you’re worth $50 an hour, why would you be filing papers when someone else can do it for $8 an hour?

Crack a book

If you only had $1,000 to market your services or products, you should spend it on your personal education. As I have interviewed many successful business people over the years, I have found one common trait. Each person had an insatiable desire to learn and invest heavily in their own private education.

As an example, did you know that every year Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates goes away for a week with a suitcase of books to read? If he can find time to do it, so can you. Let me recommend a few business-building books to consider adding to your reading list:

  • Getting Everything You Can Out of All You Got by Jay Abraham
  • The Ultimate Marketing Plan by Dan S. Kennedy
  • An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Commonsense Marketing, by H. Brad Antin and Alan J. Antin
  • Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries   and Jack Trout
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
  • Nobody to Somebody in 63 Days or Less – The Ultimate Guide to Business Networking and Word of Mouth Advertising by Joseph C. Ilvento and Arnold Sanow
  • How to Market a Product for Under $500! by Jeffrey Dobkin

A final word

One of the worst mistakes you can make as a small business owner is to be fooled into thinking that you are in the business of producing and delivering products and services. Wrong! You’re in the business of marketing products and services. The faster you realize this, the faster the cash will flow.

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