The marketing rule that everyone knows, but no one admits.
The marketing rule that everyone knows, but no one admits.
You were expecting some cool tech-startup pic here and that’s the problem.

Marketing is my passion. When I was 20 I dropped out of college after making money selling marketing. For about 5 years I was a glorified freelance marketer. I had a full time employee, numerous contract employees and we were branded as a business. At our peak we were a low 6 figure business which paid the bills and gave me financial freedom. I was a bonafide entrepreneur and I hated every moment of it.

I now own a company that scrubs toilets and I love it.

With the marketing company, every business we would market fell into two major categories:

  1. Businesses that sell things people want to buy.
  2. Businesses that sell things that they have to convince people to buy.

For businesses in category number 1, marketing was easy. You’d get them in front of the right customer with the right message, and if they were halfway competent at selling they could close the deal. They would get tons of new paying customers from us each month, we were heroes.

For businesses in category number 2 things weren’t as simple. We would build solid campaigns, reminding customers of the obvious “need” that they have for a Business 2. We would show off how trustworthy and sexy Business 2s are. Look at these accolades! Watch these testimonials! A-B test this page! First month free! Download our white-paper! (what is this 2011?) And after all that, if we were lucky, we had mustered up a handful (much less than business 1) of people to inquire about Business 2. And then, business two wouldn’t be able to close them.

The reason I hated my marketing company, was because it was a #2 business. It was slow to grow. Hard to scale. I was sick of selling all day long. I felt like a bottom feeder, begging people to buy our service. I was sick of networking, sick of explaining our value to our customers and sick of competing with people from all over the country. Most of all, I was sick of selling marketing to other #2 companies that had a flawed product. What was I going to do? Tell them my advice was to give up and start a new business?

Selling marketing I felt like a bottom feeder

Home cleaning company on the other hand? My phone rings all day long. Some days I don’t go into the office. The business has grown so fast it has been hard to keep it staffed. I get to do marketing all the time, but for my own company. I treat my employees the best that I possibly can, with high pay and benefits on the way. They love coming to work. I have created an organization that I am extremely proud of and though it is a challenge, I always see a light at the end of the tunnel. Oh, and did I mention the phone rings?

Why does this happen?

Why does no one want to purchase anything from your travel agency? Why is your pizza shop having trouble making payroll? Why is no one downloading your white-paper?

I’ve tried to narrow it down to a few reasons:

  1. You are trailblazing a new path. Blue Ocean! Well, what if the ocean is blue because of lack of fish not lack of sharks? What if your business will take years and millions of dollars to design, patent, produce and then teach your market about?
  2. Your customers need you to explain the value of your business, and they will survive without it . E.g Social media management, personal training, branding
  3. Your industry is too competitive. Why compete nationally (or globally) when you can compete locally? Why compete with Amazon when you can compete with some bozo down the street? E.g. Restaurants, digital marketing, yoga studios, retail stores, graphic design and more
  4. No one wants what you are selling. Why on earth would I use a travel agency?

The bottom line- Demand matters. People need to actually buy your product or service for you to make money! Sell something people don’t just use, but they spend money on all the time. Don’t sell something people want tomorrow, sell something people need today. And don’t pretend your city needs more pizza places. Scrubbing toilets doesn’t make you happy? Neither will teaching yoga when you can’t pay your bills.

Don’t sell something people want tomorrow. Sell something people need today. And don’t pretend…

Nick from Sweaty Startup has an expanded list on this that I mostly agree with. However, we differ on software, real estate and a few other things.

Even bad companies do well in great industries.

If you are ever around business owners in any volume, you know this person. The person who can barely articulate a coherent point on Facebook, but takes home 6–7 figures a year from self-employment. I know business owners with 1-star on Yelp , no website and no teeth that drive nicer cars than me or you!

Why? Because while all of us are discussing blue-ocean strategies, passive income, the 4 hour work week, the next app idea, how to build a following, how to become a thought-leader, how to do content marketing (no one wants your white paper), how to win negotiations, the challenger sale, which brand color means synergy, blockchain, machine learning, ai, social media strategy, Big Hairy Audacious Goals, the company newsletter, and my personal favorite, company meetings where you try and define what makes your business different (hint: If you don’t know what makes your company different, then the answer is nothing) these people are out doing the most important part, making money.

If you don’t know what makes your company different, then the answer is nothing

Cleaning isn’t even the best industry! It super crowded, there is 0 barrier to entry and it is sometimes hard to explain why someone should pay more for our service. Plus, it is an intimate thing that requires constant quality control. There are tons of great industries that even I am jealous of, including: carpet cleaning, window washing, junk removal and more.

I don’t hate Purple Cows and Blue Oceans.

I’m not advocating that everyone should open a simple service business. I understand that companies like UBER, Airbnb, and Google have completely reshaped our world. But, we have so idolized these companies that we forget that they are called unicorns for a reason.

And being different is great! I consider our cleaning company a purple cow. But, we are not so different that it requires an explanation as to what we do. Our customers love us because we are the {insert differentiator here} cleaning company, not because we are {insert 20 minute talk that explains what our product does here, followed by two supporting videos about why you need us}

For the want-to-be business owner who has an idea for the next Facebook/Uber/Crypto, I am not against it. I hope you are able to get investment and bring it to the masses.

But I just want you to know there is another option. Start a local business and be slightly better or different than your 4 competitors. Make millions of dollars and grow a company you can be proud of. And then in a few years if you decide you want to make the next app, you’ll have a pocket full of a cash, credibility, and tons of practical knowledge that will help you do so.

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