How to avoid getting distracted by success stories

You know how it goes, you hear about how another small business owner is getting new customers for her business and think, I should do that for my business and off you go, down the rabbit hole trying to replicate what she’s doing. 

But your businesses aren’t the same and you don’t get the same results.  Then you feel deflated and wonder why it didn’t work for your business.  Sound familiar?

There are 3 questions to ask yourself before deciding whether what someone else is doing is going to be a winner or a time waster.

  • Is the right fit for my business and what I’m trying to achieve?

I met a business owner recently that is generating around 70% of her leads from her business Instagram account.  The rate was even higher – around 99% – before she had her own website. 

She has an organic beauty therapy business that appeals primarily to women (Instagram’s main demographic) and lends itself to imagery.  She posts 2-3 images per day of before and after photos, product shots, tips, group photos and now has over 2,000 followers. 

While she is achieving great success in her business via Instagram, this approach isn’t right for every business.  It works for businesses that have an aesthetic focus (ie are more visual), sell direct to consumers and primarily target women in the 18-40 age group. 

It also needs to be something that you’re passionate about doing and are prepared to commit to in order to make it work.  You won’t get to 2,000 followers without being focused on creating great content, disciplined about posting several times each day and enjoy interacting with other users.

  • Does it make sense from a business perspective?

Let’s say everyone in your industry exhibits at an annual trade fair and you reluctantly do too because you worry that you’ll miss out on opportunities if you don’t. 

But when you take into account the costs involved and the stress leading up to the event to make sure you’ve got everything right you continually find yourself questioning whether the returns are there and if you should do it.  Instead of signing up again, take a step back and thinking about it from a different perspective. 

If you didn’t spend that money on a stand, you could:

    • use the money to put on a dinner for your top 5 referrers and get their advice on where the people they know would want to find products like yours
    • organize to catch up with potential partners for one on one sit down meetings before, during and after the trade show, something you’re normally too tired and stretched to do when you’re exhibiting
    • use the money to get a great video made for your website that demonstrates your product without the endless repetition that a trade fair demands

By not following the crowd and worrying about missing out, you may be able to uncover more opportunities that better suit your business needs.

  • Am I getting sucked into the PR value without knowing the substance?

If you’re in the restaurant game then food aggregators (businesses that offer a range of delivery options for consumers by negotiating distribution deals with restaurants) can seem like a good deal.  They do the marketing on your behalf and take care of delivery.  You get to focus on what you do well – make great food. 

The flip side is that unless you can reduce your costs then you give away your profit, typically 10-15%, to the aggregator.  You also have less control over how your product is presented to your customers and less interaction with them, including their contact details.

Because of this arms-length arrangement you are unlikely to receive customer feedback if something isn’t right with the order.  Or if you do hear about it, you have limited scope to make it right.  You’re effectively giving over your branding to another company that is unlikely to present it as well as you would. 

While it can seem like a good idea, look closer to see what is really involved and see if it stacks up for your business. 

While it is good to be open to new ideas and approaches, it’s important not to waste your resources getting pulled off track doing activities that aren’t the right fit for your business. 

About Your Guest Blogger: Jill Brennan is a marketing consultant and founder of Harbren Marketing with over 20 years experience working in, with and for small business. Harbren Marketing works with ambitious small businesses that want to create their own marketing engine in order to grow. Get a copy of her book ‘Get Smarter Marketing’ to discover what you need to know to make good decisions about marketing your business.