Julia Neiman writes a blog focused primarily on youth employment through entrepreneurialism. It’s a decent site worth checking out. Whether parents, business owners or mere citizens, developing smart strategies to help graduates survive and thrive through honest endeavors is going to be a major issue in the coming years for all of us. The cogent posts on this site are good for getting the conversation going.
© Photographer Mistercheezit | Agency: Dreamstime.com
A recent post suggesting a quick jump into business prompted a lot of comments, with a number noting that merely calling yourself a professional without the qualifications doesn’t make it so. Strategic marketing is more than words.
As one who’s been in the communications industry for more than a couple of decades, I get this reaction. Anyone who’s seasoned in the marketing, copy writing or advertising fields understands there are production precepts that must be followed.
Forget about creative genius for a moment (and even that requires some solid understanding of consumer behavior), simple technical expertise is critical before anyone can rightfully call themselves a professional.
Production is part of the strategic marketing and creative process
Take graphic designers. It doesn’t matter how pretty the solution is, if the client and/or printer can’t read the files, this is a problem.
A number of years ago, I decided to give a friend a chance who claimed to be a professional graphic designer. I knew from past experience it’s a bad idea to test a new vendor’s stated qualifications on a client (I generally have them do a job for my company first), but let a personal desire to help her quickly override smart business sense.
I created the text for a fairly standard 3-fold brochure in a Word file.
She re-keystroked the text sent into a design program no one else in the industry was using then saved the entire document as a graphic image in that software.
The client couldn’t see it, the printer couldn’t open the file and I couldn’t edit to fix thick finger and careless eye typos (which I realized were there after asking for a fax).
Once we were able to get to the document, it became clear she didn’t understand how to render and mark a document with standardized industry tenets, so the printer had no idea how to lay the page.
She required the client prepay for the work then wanted to bill him double for the time it took her to edit her mistakes. I reimbursed the client for designer fees paid, engaged a qualified provider to restart the project and she huffed off with the money angry that we didn’t appreciate her effort.
Skill almost always trumps cheap or enthusiastic. If you’re seeking support for projects that require technical knowledge of industry norms, you’ll usually wind up paying a lot more to fix the deal pricing you initially embraced.
Consider hiring seasoned pro if . . .
Some fields don’t require deep knowledge, so you can learn as you go or do OK with a provider that’s relatively new on the scene. If you’re looking to hire someone to help support your business, though, it usually pays to invest in one who understands the big picture, particularly as it relates to what other project participants need to do their job well with strategic marketing as an aim. It’s worth spending extra time and money to find the right:
- Graphic designer
- Marketing consultant
- Advertising specialist including content creator and media buyer
- Ghost writer
- Online specialists
- Printer (my favorite has more than 100 year history – and the equipment to prove it – if you’re doing any kind of specialty production work, take the time to find a craftsman)
- Administrative assistant (some need painstaking direction and others operate independently with ease)
- Photographer (specialization is a consideration but a basic understanding of quality equipment and good composition is always a must)
- Technical support (the best ones can coach you through what they do so you learn)
Can you jump off a cliff and build a successful business?
Sure you can. I get Julia’s point. She’s advocating for action vs. excuses. Sometimes this works. Usually, it takes a lot of learning and experience to build a company profitable enough to support you comfortably. You can do this after launch or before, just plan on taking the time needed to earn professional status.
Even after expertise and knowledge comes, sometimes you miss. That’s OK too – it’s part of the small business owner’s reality. What’s important is know when to bail.
Small business owners tend to give up too soon. Most start-ups I’ve watched grow take about two years before referral business keeps the company sustainable. It’s amazing how just about the time one is overcome with frustration, strategic marketing efforts and networking connections made months or years earlier start paying off with surprising returns.
How’s a start-up supposed to survive?
- Plan like any other investment you make. It takes time to realize returns.
- People rarely consider their time in the value equation, but it’s the most valuable resource we have – and is something that can’t be replaced.
- Be smart about how you position your business, including the prospects you identify as ideal.
- Keep your focus on long-term goals, your energy charged with some mapped out activities and enough variety to keep work exciting, interesting and rewarding. If you figure returns will come in two years and keep marketing, learning, networking and persevering in your quest to get there, you will. Learn from your mistakes, relish constructive feedback from others who have realized success and be determined to keep reaching.
- Take the pressure off of you and your business by supplementing your income with other activities until the momentum starts. Plan on two years.
- Pick a field that gives you a lot of joy and satisfaction. You won’t last if you’re just in it for the money.
It’s not so much about whether you fly or fall into business. It’s more in how you handle the challenges, what kind of long-term commitment you’re willing to make to stragegic marketing and continuous learning, whether you’ve taken the time to really visualize where you’re going and committed a plan to paper and if you’ve chosen an activity that you’re truly passionate about.
Young or old, being smart about how you choose and promote your business isn’t tied to intelligence. Determination and commitment can be far more important to success.