Business 101: The Real Reason You Can't Make Any Money

A few years ago I attended this super awesome {this West Virginia girl isn't cool enough to attend} conference in New York City. I know! Fancy.

It was full of amazing women entrepreneurs doing amazing work. A business girl's candy store. The attendees were great on their own but the speaker line up was rockin'. A wide variety of topics from understanding financials to marketing. Obviously being me, the marketing stuff piqued my interest.

On the first afternoon of the conference one of the sessions was with an online business that has one of those success stories that we all hope to tell one day. You know the one, 'I was broke + in debt on the verge of losing everything but had an idea and grass rooted it until a year later I'm sunning on Richard Branson's private island.' You know it. We all want to know how'd they do it because we want to replicate the process and be sunning on Richard Branson's private island.

In the Q&A session one of the audience members (not me) asked, "What's your marketing budget?" I might be over simplifying the question but you get the point. Very plain as day, rags to riches online business owner said, "Zero."

And the room goes silent. And if we were in a movie the camera would zoom in on the heroine of the story {moi} and I turn to my friend and say in a stage whisper, "I call bullshit on that."

Luckily, no one but my friend heard me or that could have been embarrassing :/.

I have several reasons as to why I call bullshit on this {warning! I'm about to stand on my soapbox + start screaming}.

First, there is absolutely no way that anyone, not even Oprah, can build it and they will come. That's just a Field of Dreams reference. Bullshit.

Second, everything in your business is marketing. Down to the logo on the invoices you send your customers. For this particular online business, they send lots of emails to their clients {that’s how they sell stuff}. Let’s just take out the fact the email is a marketing discipline in and of itself but you can’t tell me they don't put their logo on it. First, email is marketing plain + simple and I’m guessing said company pays for the service with a list as big as its. But remember zero dollars are spent on marketing {cough, bullshit, cough}. Second, they put their logo on that email. And if we are going to go as far as to say that there are zero dollars spent on marketing then email must not count as marketing + that logo must have been free. Bullshit.

Obviously I’m being a little extreme here but my real problem with this whole, ‘we don’t spend anything on marketing’ spiel is that it devalues marketing professionals' knowledge + skills {and this isn't just marketers problems}. Professionals that are extremely good at what they do and work hard. Conversations like these give business owners the idea they don’t need to + shouldn’t pay for professionals.

But how do we as professionals {all professionals not just marketers} get over this devalued hump. Here’s my two cents for what it’s worth.

  • Don’t give your shit away for the promise of good exposure: Just. Don’t. Do. It. We all deserve to be compensated fairly for our skills. But unless you demand that you get paid for your services people will always try and get it for free. I’ve been so bold as to say, ‘yes, I barter. For cash.'
  • Create ‘helpful’ boundaries: What I mean by this is be helpful to people when they ask for it but you need some boundaries so that you feel good about what you are giving them versus what products or services they should be expecting to pay for. This one is great for those ‘can I pick your brain’ requests.
  • Make amends that those that don’t pay for services just aren’t your kind of client: We want to help + serve everyone. That’s what we were put on this earth to do. But we just can’t. Just be OK with not everyone is your client. Especially, those who don’t spend any money on anything.

I’ve seen it first hand that non-traditional strategies + building relationships have made some of my clients very successful and generated lots of money. But producing a good product + treating people right is a brand + marketing strategy. And while that only costs time, time is money hence you’ve spent money on marketing.

Have you encountered this ‘money just flows in without me spending any of it’ stance in your profession? Let’s start a conversation on the things we call bullshit on. Leave me a comment below on what you call bullshit on.