We’ve had success with small to mid-size businesses as our clients. We appreciate the people running those because they’re still involved with the day-to-day. They’re invested and passionate.

And we’re always on the look out for new sources of information on how to attract more clients and do our jobs better.

Case in point, we have this huge computer in the back room (we think someone left it here many years ago) that we can ask questions of. The chipped enamel badge half hanging off it reads UNIVAC 3000 Pro XL. Normally with XL we keep things mundane with questions like, “Which of the half-dozen ads we’ve prepared will the client go with? And why?” Or “Has the noodle place on the corner passed its health inspection recently?”

We wanted to talk about business basics, and we asked:

“Why are small to mid-size businesses resistant to marketing?”

We got back a multi-part answer which we will multi-part respond to.

UNIVAC 3000 Pro XL: Small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) can exhibit resistance to marketing for several reasons:

Limited Resources – SMBs often have limited financial and human resources compared to larger enterprises. They may perceive marketing as an additional cost that they cannot afford or consider it a low-priority investment. They may prioritize immediate operational needs over marketing activities, leading to resistance.

Infinity Reef: We get that clients are running with tight margins, especially with what’s going on in the world right now. People are polarized. Societal fear is high. You just want to keep the doors open and put food on everyone’s table you’re responsible for.

We’re sorry to say, that’s not enough. The entropy of the business world is constantly clawing you backwards because it’s a competitive environment. If you’re not trying to move forward, you won’t even have the luxury of stagnation. You’ll be off the playing field sooner than later.

So it unfortunately remains about fear. Do you want to face your fears and move forward responsibly with a marketing agency that works with you, or do you want to succumb to your darker thoughts, look failure straight in the eye, and sink below the surface?

XL: Lack of Awareness – Some SMBs may not fully understand the value and benefits of marketing. They may have limited knowledge of marketing strategies, tactics, and their potential impact on business growth. This lack of awareness can contribute to skepticism and resistance.

IR: We take an educational and consultative approach, especially when our client is new to coordinated marketing strategy. It takes time for both sides to learn the other’s business and that’s best done in an atmosphere of respect and cooperation.

XL: Perceived Complexity – Marketing can be seen as complex and overwhelming, particularly for SMBs that do not have dedicated marketing teams or expertise. The variety of marketing channels, tools, and tactics available can make it challenging for SMBs to navigate and implement effective marketing strategies. This perceived complexity can deter SMBs from engaging in marketing efforts.

IR: Sure, there’s a lot to marketing just like any other business. How it’s explained to a client tells you a lot about the agency. If they’re blinding you with bafflegab they’re likely inexperienced or trying to run a game on you.

Marketing follows general principles of human behaviour combined with business and advertising messaging, and it can be explained in a straightforward way that builds a client’s confidence instead of them feeling like they’re being taken advantage of.

XL: Immediate Results Expectation – Small businesses often have a strong focus on short-term results and immediate return on investment (ROI). Marketing, especially in certain channels like content marketing or SEO, often requires a longer-term perspective and sustained efforts before yielding significant results. The expectation of quick results can lead to impatience and resistance to marketing initiatives.

IR: Many businesses have fought tooth and nail for every dollar they’ve made. They know their cashflow inside and out, and they’re reluctant to take a risk on marketing because it’s not a hard good they can put their hands on. “If I pay X, I should get X+1 back right away.”

If a client is selling a widget, they might be able to put a coupon in a Sunday flyer and get a small bump in sales over the short term, but wouldn’t they prefer to sell those widgets at full price and have customers walking in anyways?

As XL says, it takes time to build up a successful marketing flow. We’ll be right there with you with clear plans and advice you can trust.

XL: Fear of Failure – SMB owners and managers may fear the risk of investing in marketing and not achieving desired outcomes. This fear of failure can hinder their willingness to allocate resources or experiment with new marketing approaches. They may prefer to stick with familiar and less risky business practices, even if it limits their marketing potential.

IR: This goes hand-in-hand with immediate results expectations. Just as it takes time to build up successful marketing programs, it also takes time to build trust and respect between an agency and a client. If a client has been abused in the past, they’re going to be even more resistant. We can’t change the past, but we can start in the right place and move forward together with our clients.

XL: Lack of Marketing Skills and Knowledge – SMBs may lack the necessary marketing skills and knowledge to effectively plan and execute marketing strategies. They may find it challenging to keep up with the latest marketing trends and best practices. This lack of expertise can create a barrier to entry and contribute to resistance.

IR: Really, do too many agencies tell clients only what they want to hear and make unsupportable promises? We’re detecting a theme here. We work with our clients, sharing knowledge, goals and risks, because that’s the only way both businesses succeed.

XL: Time Constraints – Running a small business often demands significant time and attention from owners and managers. The daily operational tasks and responsibilities may leave limited time for marketing planning, implementation, and analysis. Time constraints can lead to reluctance or resistance to investing time in marketing activities.

IR: That sounds like the perfect reason to hire us.

XL: Overcoming resistance to marketing among small to mid-size businesses requires education, demonstrating the value of marketing, and providing practical and cost-effective solutions. Offering guidance, simplified marketing strategies, and sharing success stories from similar businesses can help alleviate concerns and encourage SMBs to embrace marketing as a growth driver.

IR: Thanks, XL. That’s a good note to finish on.

Infinity Reef is a small, nimble agency that outperforms for its size and responds well to client engagement and collaboration. Contact us and we’ll be happy to have an unhurried, in-depth conversation with you.