Marketing is a practical necessity for all businesses — big, small, new, and old — but unlike an area that’s fairly cut-and-dry (like accounting), it’s a bit more qualitative in its approach. There are dozens, if not hundreds of different strategies to choose from, and conflicting information can sometimes be an issue in trying to make sense of those strategies.
As a result of this qualitative, less-than-predictable nature, there are several myths that persist in the entrepreneurial community. There are big myths, like the idea that marketing is only a tool to increase sales, and smaller myths, like the one that paid advertising is the only way to get seen on social media. But there’s one myth that stands out among the others, because almost every new entrepreneur falls for it: the myth that somewhere out there, there’s a guaranteed formula for success.
Why the Myth Hooks So Many Entrepreneurs
It should be fairly obvious why the myth is appealing. If there’s a guaranteed strategy out there to earn you more visibility and sales, it gives credence to your marketing efforts and reduces the perceived risk of investing in it. If, sooner or later, you’ll stumble on the “right” marketing strategy, you’ll make money no matter what. The reality, that marketing is often unpredictable and rarely works the same for any two different businesses, is scary and intimidating.
Sources of the Myth
There are a few reasons the myth persists today. Part of it is due to its raw appeal, assuming it were true. If there isn’t a guaranteed method for success, that makes marketing scary and unpredictable, so some entrepreneurs hold onto this myth out of necessity. It’s also due to the sheer number of marketing agencies who have peddled their services under the false pretense that they have the “magic formula” for results. Some agencies guarantee their results; this isn’t inherently bad or deceptive, but it can be misleading to a new entrepreneur. For example, an agency might use different strategies, adjusted carefully and frequently along the way, to get those promised results for every client.
This is also a dangerous myth to spread by word-of-mouth. When a new entrepreneur hears about a successful marketing strategy from a more experienced entrepreneur, they may assume the strategy works for everyone. Similarly, if a new entrepreneur finds a specific strategy to be successful, they may genuinely believe it will be successful for everyone.
Why the Myth Is False
I’ve established that this myth is false, but let’s tap into the reasons why it’s false:
· Different companies have different needs. As a high-level example, you know that the sales cycles for B2B and B2C businesses are extremely different. Brands, industries, structures, demographics, competitive environments, technologies, and geographic locations are just a handful of factors that can influence what marketing strategies “work” — and those are different for every business.
· Consumer behavior is unpredictable. First, let me clarify that market research is valuable (and I would argue, necessary). The more you know about your demographics, the better you’ll be able to communicate with them. That being said, nothing is set in stone, and consumer behaviors will often defy your expectations — even a simple change of fonts or colors can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
· Technology and trends change constantly. If there was a single marketing strategy that could guarantee success in 2005, there’s no way it would still be relevant today. In the digital age, consumer trends and available technologies change so fast it’s almost impossible to keep up — and that means the roster of effective marketing strategies is always evolving as well.
· Experiments are what drive results. Ask any successful marketer how they achieved results, and they’ll tell you: experimentation. All successful marketers are unsure of themselves at first, but they experiment, run tests, and make adjustments until they see the results they want.
· If there really was a magic formula, more people would be using it. It’s a simple statement, but an important one. If there really was a strategy that worked for everyone, the secret wouldn’t be kept for long, and every business in the world would soon be using it.
Key Takeaways for New Entrepreneurs
If you’re new to the world of entrepreneurship, your biggest takeaway should be obvious: don’t fall for the myth that there’s a specific marketing strategy (or set of strategies) that works 100 percent correctly in 100 percent of situations. Every business, brand, and entrepreneur has different needs, and even if they didn’t, consumer behaviors, trends, and technologies are too difficult to concretely predict. The only way to be successful in marketing is to learn from others, take your best shot, then experiment and tinker with your approach until you come up with something that works for you. Don’t let any false promises of “guaranteed” or “magic” formulas get in the way of that process.