I was listening to a new client tell a story that I’ve heard many times. She is in a creative field and passionate about her work. She really wants to work, but contracts aren’t coming and she is struggling financially. I asked the obvious question: “How are you marketing and selling yourself?” She looked a little blank; and then she scrunched her face; and then she launched into an explanation of the ways in which she was kind-of sort-of maybe marketing herself. Which really was to say: she wasn’t.
Through years of working with small business owners, many have come seeking answers to their financial issues. As an accountant, I would like to think that good accounting would provide the answers. But the truth is that it’s usually not about the numbers. The truth is that the most important component of impacting one’s financial issues is sales and marketing.
If you’re tempted to stop reading because you don’t own a business, please keep reading. I also work with people around their personal finances, and one client comes to mind. She’s a baby boomer with no retirement and no assets. She’s preparing to leap from a $90,000 job to a $115,000 job. How is she going to do that? Selling and marketing herself. I could work with her for the next five years on reducing her spending and building an investment portfolio and blah, blah, blah. Or….I could lovingly push her out of her comfort zone, make her pick up the phone, and start selling herself to headhunters and leaders in her industry.
Fortune 500 companies spend upwards of 10 to 20% of their budgets on sales and marketing. As small business owners, we often spend time, rather than dollars, on those areas of our businesses. What I like to ask every new client is: “How much time are you spending selling and marketing your business?” If the answer is significantly below 20%, they are usually having financial issues, and I have an answer for them. But it’s usually not the answer they wanted to hear. They usually scrunch their face at me. In the case of my new creative client, she quoted an expert in her field who advised that about 75% of a newcomer’s time should be spent on selling, networking and marketing activities. 75%! This expert had built a very successful business, but my client was hoping I’d have a better answer for her. We often know what we need to do; we just don’t want to do it. After all, we opened these businesses of ours to do the work we were passionate about, not so that we could spend 30 hours a week selling!