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20090916_fingers_crossed A friend of my wife manages a local business. She contacted Kay and I today to get our opinion on an advertising opportunity that came her way.

The opportunity itself isn't important (even though it does involve my-badly-managed-country-club-whose-leadership-still-thinks-they-know-how-to-run-a-business-but-hasn't-been-in-the-black-in-something-like-six-years-and-doesn't-know-the-first-thing-about-marketing-and-growing-a-business-and-never-will-accept-help-because-that-would-admit-weakness-and-and-and…and like I said, the opportunity isn't important.)

The question presented to us was, "Do you think this advertising is worth $450?"

As my buddy and client, John Krisko, would say, "There are just so many things wrong with this picture."

I'm struck by how many businesses, small and large, play this type of roulette with their marketing dollars. Too many companies don't have clearly articulated marketing strategies in the first place and practice what I call Serendipity Marketing – a blind reliance on good fortune and hoping to accidentally grow their business through some $450 magic beans.

As silly as this sounds, Serendipity Marketing is extremely common and in no danger of extinction anytime soon. And as nice as I want to be to people who cluelessly practice this voodoo, sometimes I just want to shake them violently and take their lunch money.

Look, we ALL fall into the ominous snare of working IN our business and forgetting to work ON our business. We're all too busy, distracted, pulled in multiple directions, stressed out, and under appreciated. We get so wrapped up in staying busy we forget we must also stay effective. And despite our proclivity to slip, we must also be diligent and aware of such traps before we get in too deep.

What's the #1 problem of businesses around the world today? It's not finding good leadership or great employees. It's not about getting more done or finding the tipping point. These are important factors to be sure, but the #1 problem in business today is GETTING MORE CUSTOMERS. Peter Drucker didn't say the purpose of business is to be great leaders and get more done. Drucker said, "There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer."

Kay and I had dinner with friends David and Janet Long last night. They just completed a six-week car trip through the Northwest. David is a whirling dervish of energy. He doesn't drink coffee because it slows him down. Janet, however, is beautifully calm and collected, and handles him well. If Kay and I spent six weeks in a car together, one of us would come back tied to the front of the car.

David owns a successful engraving company in North Carolina. His best customers fall into three categories – Retail, Restaurant, and Real Estate. His primary products are employee recognition plaques. He understands the purpose of business. He described to us how he spends his first four hours every day growing his business and the rest of the day running his business. No wonder David's successful! No wonder he and Janet are able to take six-week trips away from the office!

Okay, so I'm taking the long way around to make a point. Kay's friend wanted to know if this advertising opportunity was worth $450. The biggest problem facing businesses today is getting more customers. The purpose of business is to create customers. David Long understands this. Where's the connection here?

  • You must know who your prospective customer is.
  • You must know why your customer would want your product.
  • You must know where your customer hangs out, what he/she reads, and where they get their information.

If Kay's friend already knew the answer to these questions, she would know whether the advertising opportunity was worth it.

But in addition to these answers, there is the small issue of action. You MUST make it a daily priority to contact your prospects and customers. Be like David. Frankly, I don't care how you do it, as long as it's a method your prospects agree works for them.

If you don't have a well thought-out, clearly defined, and written-down marketing strategy, AND you aren't making it the #1 daily priority of your business, then you are probably a Serendipity Marketer – wishing and hoping and praying that my failing country club comes up with an advertising opportunity for you.