I'm not going to give you a top 10 list. I'm just going to cut to the chase. Every 4 years I hear the same thing, the same phrase, and in my opinion, the same excuse. Well, it's happening again. "I'm going to hold/cutback on any sales and marketing spending until we see how the election turns out." Let me ask you, how well has that strategy worked in the past? The economic winds don't change on a dime and for most small businesses we can control our future if we choose to do so. BUT, it is a state of mind. We primarily work with small businesses in the manufacturing, technology and technical space. As small businesses, we can control our destiny, but first let me remind you of a few interesting stats from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM.org).
- The vast majority of manufacturing firms in the United States are quite small. In most recent data, there are 256,363 firms in the manufacturing sector, with all but 3,626 firms considered to be small (fewer than 500 employees). In fact, 75% of these firms have fewer than 20 employees.
- Almost two-thirds of manufacturers are organized as pass-through entities (sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLC's and S corps). According to the most recent data, 65.6% of manufacturers are set up as either S corporations or partnerships. The remainder are C corporations. Note that this does not include sole proprietorships. If they were included, the percentage of pass-through entities rises to 83.4 percent.
Yep, there are a lot of you out there. Well, guess what? Virtually 100% of the clients we deal with are pass-through entities and small businesses themselves. A sad but true state of affairs is that during this particular political process known as the presidential election, this "spending freeze" excuse becomes rampant. Why not get ahead of the other small businesses out there? Here's how we view the world. Maybe you think we're wearing rose-colored glasses, but we believe that we're in control of our destiny. In fact, we try to take advantage of companies that hold/cutback on any sales and marketing spending until they see how the election turns out.
Many years ago, we moved to Dayton, Ohio from New York to start my career as an electrical engineer/marketing professional. I was hired by a entrepreneur. In fact, this entrepreneur was a manufacturer that introduced a product to the U.S. market and grew the business to the point that they became the #2 supplier of their product in the U.S. At that point in time, it was over a 16 year period. Pretty impressive to say the least. This particular entrepreneur shared his thoughts on sales and marketing with me and they've always resonated. To paraphrase, "There are 2 times in your business when you don't stop spending marketing dollars: First, when you're busy and, second, when you're slow." Sounds contradictory doesn't it? Simply put, the point is to never let your sales funnel empty. I've never met an entrepreneur who is too busy to take on the right type of business. I've certainly never met an entrepreneur turn down business when they're slow. The problem with taking business when you're slow is that you often get stuck with a low margin, low contribution client who clogs up your production when a good customer does show up.
In short, why would you stop business development efforts - EVER? Why turn off your store lights and allow the marketplace to think you're closed for business? The difference between success or failure is keeping your pipeline full. Not everyone is as fortunate as my former employer. His mindset was always tied to acquiring his next customer and taking more share. When asked, "How's business?," his answer was predictably "It could always be better." I don't think the outcome of a political election ever impacted how he pursued business. Why should it for you? We're small business owners, and only a fortunate few of us has a significant part of the available market for our products and services. In a tepid or potentially bad economy, the pie may be smaller, but only a fortunate few own a significant percentage of that pie. Even if you're a regional manufacturer, your business is likely tied to a specific client base, and the loss of any one client could be traumatic. Not spending on business development could be disastrous. Let's quickly explore the effects waiting for the outcome of the election may have on your business. Scenarios include:
- It has absolutely no effect. You continue to go along as you always have. Taking orders from the same clients, with no sales pipeline to lean on. You are still at risk of the big client leaving. It happens all the time. This is still not a great place to be.
- The election will effect your business negatively. Maybe new regulations will be put in place that hurt the segment you serve. Well, you've lost 8 months of prospecting and sales development waiting to see what happens. This is a really bad place to be. It will take time for those regulations to take effect, but you're now only just getting started. Everyone else in your shoes is getting started as well. Why not be ahead of them?
- The results of the election have a positive effect on your business. Your clients start giving you more orders. Keep in mind, these are clients you already have. You are still at risk of losing a good client to a competitor. Or, you may need that additional client that allows you to add that extra shift or building space. You still need new opportunities.
I am begging anyone reading this to not make excuses for not finding the next great client. Definitely DO NOT fall into the I'm going to hold/cutback on any sales and marketing spending until we see how the election turns out.
In "honor" of the political season, listen to the words of George Washington:
"..It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.."
- George Washington, letter to his niece Harriet Washington, October 30, 1791
What's your mindset this election cycle? Please share your thoughts.