Why do so many marketers fail at doing their own thing?

Just last month, I heard of a good marketer who couldn't make it as a marketing consultant — an "own business". What does that say about their skills? And about marketing in general?

Is this a classic case of not being able to practice what you preach? Does it maybe expose how useless marketing is as a business function — when it can't even help an expert build their own business? Or could it point to an age-old suspicion that marketing does not impact sales, and sales is what ultimately drives business.

Many marketers try and fail at business. Does this stain the field's reputation?

Marketing isn't business

A full-funnel, strategic, 4P marketer undoubtedly understands many parts of how a business works. They appreciate that there's a process involved in attracting, informing and converting potential customers (the full purchase funnel).

They grasp the need to segment, target and position an offering (strategy). They know that the product and its pricing, placement and promotional activity are crucial (4Ps).

Ultimately, a good marketer knows that the customer is (mostly) king. This type of marketer is 60% there in terms of also being a good business person.

But being a good marketer doesn't cover everything that makes for good business. A good business must be well-administered and financially managed, and it needs an equal mix of successfully promoting its services and delivering on them — the operations.

Indeed, you can't merely build a business on sales. The truth is that many marketers are terrible at running a business, never mind doing the marketing.

Not all marketers are good

We should acknowledge that not all marketers are cut from the same cloth and that many bad or half-baked ones exist. And in their defense, many coined a marketer aren't really — or aren't really "full-funnel, 4P".

A social media influencer is not a full-funnel, 4P marketer.

Someone with a knack for selling doesn't understand the full purchase funnel.

A web developer, designer or copywriter isn't a career marketer.

Someone who likes beautiful things and attention isn't a marketer.

Just as not all people who work on healing others are trained medical doctors, not all marketers are trained on the full spectrum of strategic and tactical tools available to deliver demand.

Many marketers failing at business aren't really even marketers.

Failure is part of marketing

A big part of strategic marketing is assessing new ideas through market research. Various tools exist, including concept testing and test markets. Great marketers know that they need to risk something to gauge market acceptance. Seeing ideas fail at the research stage is par for the course. The same is true for business ideas, and so it shouldn't be a surprise if a marketer tries something and, realising it isn't working, pulls out.

You wouldn't ridicule a marketer for discontinuing a product that isn't working, so why would one do it when a marketer unsuccessfully tries their hand at business?

Even when the marketer decides to work for themselves as a consultant, failure is highly likely. Competition is stiff. It takes a long time to establish credibility, and figuring out the right way to position, price and promote oneself is hard and can take longer than one's personal circumstances allow. 

Marketing is a weak force

Here's the biggest surprise — marketing is a weak business force. It is a bit like gravity; in fact, it is exactly like gravity. In the grand scheme of things, it can dominate, as very large brands have shown, but in the anxiety-filled immediacy of a new business, it certainly won't keep the boat afloat.

The fundamentals of great marketing overlap significantly with those of a great business — but long-term, sustainable business. Not the short-term wheeling and dealing that's needed to get through the first few years of establishing a business. Marketing isn't entrepreneurship. Many marketers lack salesmanship.

Marketers are good at marketing

So marketing isn't business — it's part of running a good business. And it's also not entrepreneurship, although there are many overlaps. Certainly, it isn't hustling, an activity requiring negotiating oneself, often forcefully, into a deal — an essential skill for new business owners.

Marketing is about understanding customer needs and improving the likelihood of profitable future sales. This is what good marketers should be good at. It's a broad area with various branches of specialisation.

A strategic marketer has a holistic understanding of the process of driving long-term sales and brand growth by putting in place a strategy and driving the execution thereof through available skills and expert partners. The overall field, like any substantial subject, is way too diverse and complex for one person to master everything. There is no such thing as a marketer who is good at all of marketing. 

It's common for marketers to try their hand at opening a business and then fail, even spectacularly. This should never be a blotch on their name but rather evidence that there are no guarantees when it comes to business. Even the best marketer will fail at business. Some, more than others.

For more information, visit www.firejuice.co.za. You can also follow Firejuice on LinkedIn.

*Image courtesy of Canva