Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When a business fails to take off, don’t be so quick to blame the marketing. You need to understand that marketing is not a magic pill that will fix all your business woes. While it may be true that your marketing campaigns could be improved, it’s very likely that the real problems are coming from other, more foundational areas of the business. So, before putting all of your focus on fixing the marketing, ask yourself the following five questions:
Do I know how to run a business?
That might seem like a harsh question to ask, but one of the reasons most businesses fail is because the founder lacks some business acumen. You don’t need an MBA to qualify for running a business, but you do need some knowledge.
If you lack basic skills — like setting a budget, writing a business model, reading a profit and loss statement, managing cash flow, setting the price to make a profit, accounts payable, accounts receivable, etc. — there are resources available. Consider reaching out to the Small Business Administration and asking about their mentoring program, SCORE. You can also consider asking someone you know who has been successful in business to mentor you in the areas you are not skilled in.
Do I have the right people in place?
A business is only as good as its people. One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is hanging on to the wrong people for too long. Hire slow, and fire fast.
As the CEO of a company, I have to think about my entire staff, not just one person. I will take the time to make sure we are training our team well and give them chances to correct any problems. But at the end of the day, if one person is not able to do their job — or worse, they are causing drama for the rest of the team — I will let them go.
Sometimes you have the right people, but in the wrong position. I have moved someone out of sales into fulfillment. They were great with people, and our clients loved them, but they were not good at closing sales. The move benefited the company, clients and that employee.
Do I have a product or service people want?
Have you taken the time to test your product or service? Have you done your research to determine that what you are offering is, in fact, something that is needed. Ask your customers.
Products fail all the time, and sometimes research gets it wrong. But most of the time when a product or service is rushed into the marketplace, it is destined to fail. The idea might sound great sitting around with your team over coffee, but it must be a product that is needed.
Are we delivering on fulfillment?
Your marketing campaign might be successful, but do you have the resources to fulfill the product or service? Any money spent on marketing will backfire if your customers have a negative experience.
This has proven more challenging in the past year with supply chain issues. If your product is reliant on supplies shipped from overseas, you need to make sure you can get the supplies you need before you start your marketing campaign.
Do I have a marketing plan?
Too many business owners know they need to be marketing their company, but they don’t take the time to write out a strategy. Instead, they take the trial-and-error approach and start spending marketing dollars without a plan.
I run a content marketing agency, and the first question we ask our prospective clients is, “What is your target demographic?” Who are you trying to reach with your product or service? The answer needs to be specific. The more specific you can get with your target demographic, the more you can spend your marketing dollars wisely. This is where a marketing agency can come alongside and help. They know which outlets perform best for your key target demographics.
Spending money on marketing will not teach you how to run a business, hire the right people, fix a bad product, fulfill the product or write a marketing plan. But, with the right business model, team, product, fulfillment and marketing plan, you will be successful.