Marketing is like Fertilizer

Plant in hand

WIIFM is a popular marketing acronym.

It stands for What’s In It For Me?

But the “me” it’s referring to is your ideal clients, not YOU as the business owner.

Yet it seems many business owners are applying this acronym literally.

Peruse the plethora of online marketing promising to teach us how to get more clients and make more money.

While the intention may be good—trying to help people build a successful business—I believe the focus is in the wrong place.

Yes, your business needs clients and it should make money and be profitable.

But the truth is, attracting clients and making money are the RESULTS of a successful business.

Let me explain. Attracting clients and making money means your business focuses on WIIFT, or What’s in it for THEM… with THEM being the people your business serves.

Look at any successful business. It’s successful because it was started with an idea for a product or a service that would make the world better, enhance people’s lives, or solve a problem people are eager to solve.

It’s interesting to note that great and timely ideas, and inherently valuable products or services, often succeed in spite of themselves. Consider the iPad. It was mocked for it’s unfortunate name. Yet it’s a huge success. People didn’t care what it was called. They wanted what it could do for them. At it’s core, Apple (pardon the pun) is a company built on creating innovative and superbly designed products that enhance people’s lives. In fact, Apple is so good at this it often brings us products we didn’t even know we wanted, that we eventually feel we can’t live without.

It’s all about building something—a business, product, or service—based on an idea that fulfills a need (if you can anticipate a need even better), not building a business just to give the owner a job or provide an income.

Successful business owners get this.

Sir Richard Branson, one of the most successful businessmen of our time and head of a conglomerate that operates something like 400 companies, said “I very, very rarely go into a business because I think I’m going to make money out of it. What I see is a situation where I think I can really make a difference in other people’s lives.”

Branson has plenty of clients and money. In March 2012, Forbes pegged his net worth at $4.2 billion.

A recent article about Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter and Square—two very successful businesses—shared his approach to business success: Start with a big idea.

Dorsey said that at the start he never thought of Twitter as a company. He focused on pursuing the creation of an idea. When launching Square (the technology that enables small business owners to swipe credit cards on their smartphones and eliminates the need for a merchant account and equipment), Dorsey was focused on disrupting the multi-trillion dollar payments system and finding a way to make money more functional. His goal? To help retailers run their businesses more efficiently. Definitely a THEM focus.

Are you getting this?

Idea first. Marketing second.

You may be thinking, But these are big companies based on new technology. I’m just a coach or consultant. No matter. A business is a business. The basic principles still apply. And I believe the lack of focus on THEM and too much focus on ME is the reason so many service professionals are struggling. They’ve bought into the advice to follow their passion and the clients and money will follow. This advice simply is not true. If you don’t have a marketable idea, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are, your business won’t succeed.

Marketing, clients, and money.

Marketing cannot attract clients or make you money if your business isn’t built on a solid foundation. It can’t make a poorly designed business successful—at least for any length of time.

Marketing is like the fertilizer (I can hear the snide comments on this analogy as I write it!), water, and sunshine that will help an idea, and a business, grow.

But just like fertilizing bare dirt won’t grow a plant (you first need a seed), marketing a business that isn’t grounded in a solid idea won’t grow a successful business.

If you want to be successful in business, and you want more clients and more money, start with a great idea FIRST. Start with a service that makes a difference in people’s lives. Start with something people want and are willing to pay for.

Start by finding a way to serve THEM.

Don’t start with yourself. Don’t start by focusing on How can I make money? Instead, once you have the big idea, then ask How can I make money with this idea? (That’s called packaging and it’s essential in business).

If you’re already in business and you don’t have the clients or money you want, instead of fruitlessly trying marketing strategy after marketing strategy, consider stepping back and taking a good hard look at your business. Make sure there’s a solid reason for it’s existence… a reason other than just making YOU money. It may be that your business needs a makeover, before you apply any more marketing.

About Debbie

After spending 32 years in marketing, Debbie now spends her time blogging, teaching online courses, doing volunteer pet therapy, and encouraging others to follow a more inspired path through life.

6 comments on “Marketing is like Fertilizer

  1. Great post Debbie! A good reminder for me that I may want to create or talk about a concept, service, etc. but if my target market isn’t really interested in this or better yet, perceive a need for it, it flops! That’s why I love informal conversations with ideal clients – I hear their needs not guess them.

  2. Pingback: Fastlane Wisdom ME vs THEM

  3. Great article, Debbie! Now I just have to figure out how to make
    Follow Up Marketing something that businesses want. I know they
    need it, but getting them to do it is another problem. Any suggestions?

  4. Pam, as I tell all of my clients you’re never selling what you do, you’re selling what it does for your clients (the outcome… how it makes their life or business better). They may never want follow up marketing but I’m betting they want what follow-up marketing can do for their business. THAT is what packaging and marketing your business is all about and it’s at the core of what I help all of my clients figure out.

  5. I totally agree with the Fastlane Wisdom article… the true sweet spot is where you can create a business that serves the market AND fulfills your desires. THAT is also the core of Business Styling. 🙂

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