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Two of the Biggest Hurdles

By Kevin P. Dervin
Posted Thursday, January 27, 2005

As I was preparing for a presentation recently, I was trying to figure out why small businesses have trouble marketing themselves consistently. If we know we need to be marketing, why don’t we just do it? Is it for a lack of planning or that we’re just not sure what to do or where to start?

Yes, maybe. But in trying to figure out what those hurdles are that keep us from marketing consistently; I came up with two hurdles that I think might be as big as any other for most. Like a lot of things with regards to our business, if we’re aware of the hurdles that keep us from achieving effective marketing, then we can plan and act accordingly on how we can either go around or over them.

So what are these hurdles? Well, they certainly aren't the only hurdles, but the two I keep running into time and again with many small businesses are Perfection and Fear of Failure. In fact, I'm sure they have played a part in delaying some of my own marketing including the launch of my web site and my monthly eZine. Let’s take a look at each hurdle and how we might overcome them.

Hurdling Perfection
Many of us tend to be perfectionist in the things we do. You might say... "When I put out this marketing piece, it really has to hit a home run." But because we know that perfection is really not attainable, it can be a big roadblock to effective marketing. In our quest to make our marketing PERFECT, we may never even get a GOOD marketing program in place.

Perfectionism in creating a direct mailing piece or a web site or an electronic newsletter can result in significant delays of weeks, months, or even years.

The funny thing is that most of us verbally buy into the concept of "continuous improvement". But then we often get stuck trying to endlessly improve before we ever put the idea into action. The pursuit of perfection in itself is not bad. But it can certainly result in great failure when we're unwilling to call an idea "good enough", put it out there, and then look for ways to improve it and put it out there again –- until it's perfect, or almost perfect.

If marketing has been a struggle for your business because you're not sure what works best or where to start, then you can't expect to be great at it overnight. It's going to take time. So be willing to start somewhere and learn from mistakes.

Notice the importance of the pursuit of perfection, or "continuous improvement". The opposite side of this hurdle is settling for "good enough". Sometimes marketing is treated as a one time event and even though it's dull and only yielding mediocre results, it keeps getting put out there again and again without ever trying to make it better. What would you expect to eventually happen to a business that operates this way?

Hurdling Fear of Failure
I believe the second hurdle -- Fear of Failure is closely related to the first. For most of us, the notion of facing rejection or failure is unsettling at best. And because this whole marketing thing can be an unknown or uncomfortable for us, we sure do hesitate to put something out there and not have it be good. If it fails to produce results, we may feel like we're failing in our business.

Unfortunately, one of the most common approaches to avoiding failure is to avoid taking action in the first place. Or maybe just as unsuccessfully, we spend all our time looking for that magical marketing idea that is going to end all of our client acquisition problems. I call it the "Power Ball" marketing strategy. Guess what? It's not out there -- so you might as well quit looking.

Marketing will take time and effort on your part. But, with persistence and a willingness to potentially even make a mess of it with your first attempt, you can succeed! Be willing to learn from your mistakes and get better as you go.

Do you see why I think the two hurdles are closely related? "I need perfection, and if it can't be perfect, I will have failed. And I just hate the thought of failure, so if it can't be perfect, I'm better off not even doing it."

Let’s look at this using a baseball analogy. Former Kansas City Royal and Hall of Famer, George Brett, was arguably one of the best third basemen of all time. And anyone who followed the Royals in the prime of George Brett’s career would agree that he was a great, great hitter.

What if George Brett had approached his baseball career as follows: "When I come to bat, I just hate the thought of getting an out (or worse yet, a strike out) -- Fear of Failure. But even more so I'm a Perfectionist, so when I come to bat I need to hit a home run every time. Therefore, I'm not even going to swing the bat unless I know that I can hit a home run because I sure don't want to make an out."

What do you think George Brett's chances of having the Hall of Fame career he did would have been if he had taken this approach?

Sounds like a silly example, but are we doing this at all with our own marketing efforts? Don't get me wrong. I don't suggest that you just start going up to bat and swinging away. Marketing efforts do need to be thought out and planned. But don't let these two hurdles keep you from moving forward.

Take Action To Overcome The Hurdles That Keep You From Marketing Success
If you love what you do and believe in the results you can produce for your customers, then you can experience great marketing success. Be willing to get some help if the "know how" is beyond your means. It just might be the best investment you make in your business.

Don't focus on perfection, but rather the continuous pursuit of perfection. Brainstorm it, plan it, design it, write it, tweak it, and then GO FOR IT. Be willing to try it on a small test basis and potentially fail. But only if you're willing to learn from mistakes. Then improve it and try it again.

Don't settle for "good enough". If you have marketing tools that aren't consistently producing results, don't just keep using them (at least not in the format they're in). You may have to tweak again and again so you can start to learn what works and what doesn't work. Testing is critical.

Hurdling "Fear of Failure" takes some courage. Courage doesn't mean you don't have fear. It means finding a way to overcome the fear in order to achieve some result. Courageous people get over worrying about feeling like a failure or looking like a fool, because they focus on achieving the ultimate result. They are passionate about what they can do for their clients, and that's what drives them.

I’m sure that someone somewhere has told you to embrace failures because it's the way to learn the path to success. My advice is to keep the failures from being catastrophic by testing. Again, I say test it out on a small basis so the taste of failure isn't so bitter in your mouth.

On the other hand, if your test works, you can always go back for MORE of the sweet taste of success.

(c) - Kevin Dervin, KPD Marketing

About the Author:
Kevin Dervin is the owner of KPD Marketing and creator of the ABCD Growth System. If you find this article useful, you’d probably enjoy Kevin’s FREE monthly eZine called ABCD Grow. To subscribe, just go to ( and follow one of the links to the FREE Stuff page!


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