Marketing Myth #3: It Is Not Important To Know What You Don’t Know

This is the most pervasive, far-reaching and detrimental myth of them all! It is an equal-opportunity fantasy whose believers are corporate CEOs, entrepreneurs, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, tall and short, and moms and pops.

It is also the most difficult one to correct because the “patient” doesn’t know he / she is ill! It serves as the foundation for prejudice, ignorance and failure and influences all of the sufferer’s decisions and behaviors – personally and professionally.

Ironically, this myth often serves as the very basis for becoming an entrepreneur in the first place.

Michael Gerber, in his classic book, “The E-Myth”, says that most small businesses are started by technicians (folks who are proficient at some skill) with entrepreneurial “seizures”

It’s easy to recognize believers because they…

  • Believe that being the most skilled “whatever” – computer wiz, cookie baker, financial planner, doctor, photographer, chef, hairstylist, CPA, packaged goods manufacturer, technician – makes them qualified to own and operate a small business.
  • Assume that if they can do something, they should.
  • Confuse least cost with best cost.
  • Latch onto “cool” products that nobody wants.
  • Keep little or no data on current, or past, customers.
  • Believe all customers are worth getting and keeping so over serve low value customers and under serve high value ones.
  • Reinvent the wheel… Don’t know how, or refuse to, borrow success from others.
  • Base decisions on broad assumptions.
  • Conduct little, or no, research on customers, competition, and their marketplace.

Which result in …

  • Avoidable mistakes and rework.
  • Increased high value customer churn…
  • Wasted time (and money) dealing with unprofitable customers.
  • Less-than-expected customer acquisition results due to poor targeting, communication, and follow-through.
  • Lower profit, higher expenses…

Okay, what’s the truth?

Succinctly, it’s imperative that you to know what you don’t know – especially since advances in technology and affordable software make it tempting to try just about anything

For example, it’s fairly easy to design a business logo. However, if you’re not a skilled graphic designer resist the urge! (How do you think we know this?).

Consider how important your logo is, or may become, to your company. It is your visual symbol – one that should be included on everything you develop. It communicates your attention to detail, professionalism, personality and industry, among other things.

It must be pleasing to the eye in color, black and white, and reverse type; and easily read in large or small print. So, why risk having your logo scream, “We’re sloppy amateurs”? Consult a professional!

As they say, “If you pay an expert, you’ll cry once… if you don’t, you’ll cry many times.”

A caveat: There are times when it’s perfectly fine, and actually quite smart, to do things yourself. For instance, if you’ve got better than average computer skills or design talents go ahead and create those logos and letterhead … but please, assess your skills honestly first.

And although I said this earlier, it bears repeating…

Being skilled in the work of a business has nothing to do with being skilled at running a business that does that work!

Even though most of us acknowledge that if we want to do something, anything, really well – play tennis, paint, repair automobiles, dispense financial advice, etc. – it pays to study (e.g. take lessons, hire a coach, read books, attend seminars, go back to school, etc.) and practice, practice, practice.

Ironically, when it comes to owning and operating a small business, however, many entrepreneurs believe just the opposite, and “put out their shingle” certain they possess all of the business and marketing skills they need to be widely successful. After all, they figure, how hard can it be?

Unfortunately, these are the same people who finally figure out that technical “know-how” means little when it comes to running a well-oiled, profitable “machine.” So, they end up trading hours for dollars and wasting a great deal of time and money earning their degrees from “The School of Hard Knocks.” What’s more their businesses remain unprofitable, and many do not earn a sufficient income let alone one that allows them to enjoy the lifestyle they originally envisioned.

If you want to see this at work go online or look in the “Help Wanted” ads in your local newspaper. Assisted living facilities are searching for nurses; construction companies are looking for carpenters and accounting firms want CPAs…to run their marketing departments. Then after they’re hired, they’re understandably panicked because they have no idea what to do other than creating a brochure or mailing sales letters.

In other words, starting, growing and / or maintaining a profitable business requires that you study, learn and practice mandatory business and marketing skills – ones which are relevant regardless of industry.

That’s why it’s imperative that you find out what’s in your own skills tool box and put fixes in place to fill in your gaps.

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David A. Scarborough is a gifted business writer, educator, speaker and certified Guerrilla Marketing coach, who draws upon his “real-life” experiences and expertise in business and strategic marketing to help businesses of all sizes get and keep more profitable customers. He is also the co-author of the book “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Marketing,” (Publisher: Entrepreneur Press, November, 2007). He holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and MBA from Golden Gate University. Log onto his website: for free marketing articles, tools, tips and templates…or to learn more about his book and services.

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