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16 Ways YOU are killing your business

Julie Ewald branding, inbound marketing, marketing strategy Leave a Comment

I meet a lot of other marketers. At trade shows. Events. Conferences. Get-togethers. You name it. And one thing I’ve noticed a lot of them have in common is that they are killing their businesses. Whether you run your own marketing agency or you work with a team, this is an all too common problem. And you – like a lot of marketers I meet – probably don’t even realize you’re doing it. Below you’ll find some of the common mistakes I see in other marketers, and hopefully it’ll help you realize your own before it’s too late!

1. You’re a jack of all trades…but master of none

illustration of a man with multiple arms holding different items and sitting on his desk thinking

Are you a social media marketer? A brand marketer? An inbound marketer? While it’s ok – and likely necessary – to be good at different types of marketing, you’ll want to hone your skills in one area of marketing. Ideally, you’ll narrow down your marketing to what type of business you’re catering to, whether it be B2B, B2C, SaaS, or something else. Better yet, pick a niche within that type of business to further narrow down your clientele and find more targeted clients who are going to appreciate your specific skills. 

2. You do it all

illustration of a man looking so stressed while working on his laptop surrounded by tons of papers

Whether you own your own marketing agency or work with a team, the temptation is always there to “just quick do it.” Editing your newest photos, tweaking your site’s CSS, processing your payroll–you have always something to do. I’ve seen marketers  checking in on a client’s work that they’ve already delegated out. If you can relate to that, you’re likely wasting valuable time, not to mention draining your energy! 

This is where a good team comes in. Whether your team is made up of in-office workers or remote freelancers (like Impressa!), build a team you trust. Delegate out the tasks that are necessary, but maybe not necessary for you to do, and allow yourself to focus on the things you love and/or the things that make your marketing business profitable.

3. You don’t have an assistant

illustration of a man sleeping on his desk surrounded with a lot of documents

I have three assistants—one is a Las Vegas local and two virtual assistants. They tackle professional and personal tasks, which allows me to have more time for money-making activities, higher level decision making, and even a little goofing off. Asking them to handle time-consuming stuff including correspondence, research, scheduling, data entry, and setting appointments really frees me up to focus on my business. If you don’t have an assistant, start looking for a VA on Upwork right now.

4. You don’t charge enough

illustration of a man handing over a document to a lady giving him a coin

Rates below market (or below your skill and experience) are killing your marketing agency—the slightest bit of overhead will eat those flimsy margins in a minute! Those low rates may even make you less appealing to some clients, as they assume your work will be as cheap as your rates. And clients who aren’t willing to pay an appropriate rate often don’t see the value in what you do. Do you really want to be underpaid and underappreciated? I don’t think so. Know the market. Know the worth that you (and your team!) bring to the table. Do research today and adjust your rates accordingly.

5. You don’t network

illustration of a man wrapped around with a rope

Even if you have a robust business from referrals and advertising sources, you need to get out there and network. It can be a small get together you find on Meetup.com. What matters is you should take time to talk to other marketers and business people in your area. 

Connect on social media. Exchange business cards at conferences. You can even go the extra mile and arrange your own evening of networking. They’re all excellent opportunities to make friends and allies. And work should eventually follow. Marketing your marketing agency is a crucial part of staying in business.

6. You turn down work

illustration of a man waving his hands no to another man trying to hand him some papers

Some work needs to be turned down. Things outside the scope of what you do, with impossible expectations, or with no profit should be passed on. But turning down doable things in your wheelhouse that will make you money shouldn’t be an option–even if it’s a new client or a business of smaller stature than other clients. 

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, take it. You aren’t a freelancer—you own a business—so shuffle work around, bring on a freelancer, or ask someone to work overtime to get things done.

7. You aren’t getting an education

illustration of a man with a school bag scratching his head while looking at another man dumping his book in a trash bin

We all know marketing tactics change and it pays to keep up, but if you’re not putting in the time to evolve, learn, and grow as your business does the same, you’ll be considered a dinosaur before you know it. I know we’re all busy – there are a million things on our to-do lists and we never have enough hours in the day. But, even if you are nutty busy, take time to attend classes, go to conferences, read books, and seize on other educational opportunities related to your industry.

Lifelong learning will keep you competitive, fresh, and relevant. And it doesn’t have to take a ton of time. Even if you just start by reading an industry-related marketing book or listening to an audio book on your commute, I guarantee you’ll be hungry for more and you’ll find the time it takes to advance.

8. You aren’t looking for more

illustration of a man with both hands on the side of his head trying not to look at a man approaching him

Unless you are going out of business, always be seeking new clients. Again, you are an entrepreneur, not a freelancer, so bring someone else aboard if your workload is at capacity and you land a new account. Even if you are completely complacent with what’s up now, what happens if your biggest client drops off? Without smaller accounts to fill in the vacuum (or another big account to help you weather the storm), you’ll end up in the black hole.

9. You’re all about the profits

illustration of a man looking hungrily at a sandwich of money he's holding

Yep, profit is a big part of keeping a business running, but if that’s your only rationale and motivation for being in business—yikes! Enjoying what you do and being passionate about it will help you attract and keep more quality team members and clients.

Also, if you care more, it will guide you to make decisions that are really best for the business overall, not just the books. If the human element and a spark is missing, you may find your marketing agency wasting away, regardless of how fiscally responsible you are. If you’re just in it for the money, it may be time to find a new profession.

10. You’re too much about the people

illustration of a man crying in the rain while watching another man walking away bringing all his things in a box

It’s good to care about your team, but you need to know when enough is enough. I know, I know. I just said having heart in your business is necessary – and it is! But you don’t want to have so much heart that it causes you to keep team members on board who aren’t a good fit. 

I don’t care how good of a job they used to do or how long you’ve worked with them, if they haven’t been doing good work anymore (or are doing something detrimental to your business), let them go. It’ll be hard, but it’ll be harder not to in the long run.

11. You aren’t “social”

illustration of a man feeding some birds and looking back at a group of people looking at him

You need to have social media accounts for your business and, I’d argue, for yourself as a marketer. People expect businesses to at least be on Facebook and Twitter, and if you aren’t, potential clients will question your legitimacy. Working these channels may not make sense for your marketing, but just being on these platforms with minimal posts and interaction is a must.

12. You’re a cruddy client

illustration of a sweating man sticking out his tongue at a paper labelled invoice bills

You probably rely on other businesses to help you serve existing clients, find new business, or keep things running smoothly. If you don’t pay your bills as agreed, ask for things last minute, nickel and dime, have poor communication, or ask for preferential treatment, you are running on borrowed time. Be the kind of client you want to have. If you continue with cringe-worthy behavior, those you rely on will start serving up lower quality work or will fire you as a client, leaving you scrambling to pick up the pieces.

Oh, and they won’t refer other work to you! I always have folks asking me about specialty SEO firms, and I have one SEO firm constantly asking for referrals, but I’m not sending anyone there! They have two outstanding invoices, constant asks for top tier writers at lower rates, and emails that regularly go unanswered for up to a month.

13. You don’t get professional help

illustration of a man with slumped shoulders while a man in a business suit carrying a suitcase has a hand on his shoulder

You should sometimes consult a CPA and an attorney. I’m all about the DIY, especially if you’re heading up your own marketing agency, but these folks can save you a lot of money, hassle, and heartache—even though you may have to pay a bit upfront. This will make so much more sense the first time you are sued or audited. Which, granted, we hope never happens. But this is real life, folks. Be prepared.

14. You’re constantly selling

an illustration of a man wearing a price tag and holding a sign marked with a dollar showing it to the people around him

I know, I said you can’t slack off when it comes to finding new business. And you do want to always be on the lookout for new clients, but not everyone is a new client. Save the sales pitch for when someone asks for it, otherwise it’s a big turn off. Instead, be friendly, genuine, and helpful, and when someone asks for what you do, they will be much more receptive.

15. You act big

illustration of a man wearing a cape trying to fly like a super hero

Your team of three may get it all done, but a 30-strong team is more impressive to some. That makes acting big tempting, but that’s a lot of work and a ton of embarrassment when you are called out. Be proud of your accomplishments and broadcast them, but don’t act like something you’re not. Own who you are and where you are going.

16. You do whatever it is you were dreading seeing on this list

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This list isn’t exhaustive, so you may have been reading this with baited breath, waiting to see your faux pas as one of my points. And maybe you didn’t. That doesn’t mean you aren’t killing your business—it just means that I got tired of typing. Be on the lookout for ways you might be killing you marketing business. And in the meantime, if you need a little extra help, check out our Marketing a Marketing Agency checklist.

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