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Marketing is a Dirty Word!

From the Desk of Nick Suino —  Originally published in the Chelsea Sun Times

I never thought I’d get into marketing. 

Growing up, “marketing” and “sales” were dirty words. My academic parents had distain for anything with even a tinge of salesmanship, and it rubbed off on me. If I have to sell it, it must not be any good. Right?  

That attitude was why my first few businesses struggled. I was too busy being good at the “thing” and hadn’t figured out how to reach potential new customers!

That got old fast. No matter how much passion you have for your specialty, without cash flow – the lifeblood of any business – you’re not going to be doing it for long. It’s exhausting trying to find side jobs to fuel your main hustle, especially when your main hustle was a side job to get out of your desperate corporate existence!

Cash flow keeps business going. It pays you and pays your employees. It creates opportunities – to sell new products or services, to learn about your field, to expand your operation and to have a positive effect on your community. You get cash flow by having new customers come to you, eager to buy what you sell. The way to get those customers is to engage in … marketing and sales.

Sort of.

I’ll tell you a little secret. Marketing is still a dirty word. We’re bombarded with more information than at any other time in history. Forbes estimates that Americans are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day! Is it any wonder we learn to tune them out? 

So even though you have to get the word out about what you do – or risk seeing your business dry up and blow away – you have to do it in a way that doesn’t trigger the two worst responses a consumer can have – distrust or a complete lack of interest. 

In 2006, after 13 years of being involved in struggling businesses, I moved from Traverse City to Ann Arbor. I was determined to make my new business – a martial arts school – a success. I soon discovered I knew next to nothing about marketing and sales. 

But I knew I needed to know more! I went to networking groups, read everything I could get my hands on, and started writing web content and Google ads. In a few months, I started getting results. I’m happy to say that martial arts school is still thriving 15 years later. 

Along the way, I started helping other people with their marketing. They had a little success (some had a lot), and by 2009, I had started an agency with my business partner, Don Prior. We’ve had failures and successes, but we’ve built a solid team, learned a ton, and everything we do has been tested on the mean streets of real-world experience.   

What doesn’t work very well anymore (if it ever did) is a high pressure, salesy approach. If you want distrust or antipathy, that’s how to get it. Even if you do land a sale with high pressure, the relationship is built on a shaky foundation and your customers won’t feel any joy when working with you. 

Instead, make it your mission to help the world learn about what you do. Let your personality shine through. Be abundant, authentic, and helpful. When you feel you’re sharing a bit too much, you’re probably getting close!

Rather than selling, always be helping, teaching, or supporting. The world needs more of those things anyway, and you’ll build an audience of people who need what you offer. When they feel they know and trust you, they will be more likely to do business with you. And if you treat them well before, during and after the sale, they’ll “feel the joy” and say good things about you. 

In the coming weeks, I’ll share solid, real-world principles, tactics and guidelines. For those who want to market their own businesses, this information will form a solid handbook, a manual to help you execute at a higher level. For those who are shopping around for an agency or contractor, you’ll have better questions and be able to more intelligently discuss strategy. 

For those with in-house marketing experts or teams, the information I share can be a handy review and may actually provide you with some useful surprises. For those who run agencies, feel free to steal all these “secrets.” As you already realize, to know is one thing and to act is another. Hopefully it helps everybody who reads it!

About Nick Suino

Nick Suino is co-founder of Michigan SEO Group, a digital marketing agency in Ann Arbor. He’s author or co-author of many books, including SEO and Beyond – How to Rocket Your Website to Page One of Google! You can reach him at nick@michiganseogroup.com