The Root Cause of All Small Business Marketing Problems Is Leadership Mindset

Most small business owners and leaders agree it's easy to lose our minds and shirts making marketing work. Why does marketing fail so often, and what's the root cause? Leadership mindset. Here's why.

In my experience, marketing, sales, customer service, and financial success for all organizations is the function of a leadership mindset. Mindset comes from your character and core values. If you're ever tried to do a great job and follow a leader with less than virtuous core values and commitments they keep, you know how madding it can be.

How do you assess the core values, beliefs, and qualities of character that stem from good virtues versus behavior that drags us down into the trenches of darkness at work? Simple. Leverage professional assessment tools that are scientifically validated and capable of revealing what's in the head, heart, and soul of any leader.

Born To Market, Sell, and Serve

I was born into marketing, sales, and being a servant leader. I learned my earliest lessons in small business ownership and leadership by watching my father manage his small businesses over the years. My father has been to me a legendary small business owner, marketer, and caretaker of humanity. (R.I.P., dad. I'm doing my best down here!)

Most of my professional life has been invested in learning to market, communicate clearly, and help others get what they want. I've been blessed to start, self-fund, and sell two small businesses.

The primary success I've enjoyed has been helping other business owners and leaders get what they want. My goal is to encourage more small business owners and leaders to know that we're all in sales if we care about helping others and making a difference everywhere we go.

#1 Lesson

Here's the #1 lesson I've learned from my life-to-date work building small companies and learning to love the small victories amid all the failure we find making marketing work well for investors, business owners, and leaders.

The root cause of all marketing failure lies in the mindset of leaders and owners. Mindset is the character and core values, or lack thereof, of the ownership and leadership team of the organization. In other words, marketing only works when willing and able people with aligned core values that are most virtuous make it work over long periods of time.

What else holds us back when it comes to making marketing work? Impatience and lame expectations are among the worse offenses we can make in marketing. We are far too impatient with marketing results. We wing it when investing in websites, search engine optimization, stupid Ninja marketing tricks that never work, and salespeople who can't or won't sell who are allowed to remain part of a failing culture and bottom line. Then we complain that nobody can do their job.

Look in the mirror, leaders! How can anyone follow us well and in good conscience unless we know how to master the "Inner Game" of being the best leaders and business owners we can be? The buck stops with us, the owners and leaders.

Here's What To Do Make Your Marketing Work Without Losing Your Mind and Shirt

The solution to fixing all marketing, sales, and customer service issues always lives in the heads, hearts, and souls of the owners and leaders of the organization. You can't solve any problem at the level it was created and this is very true with sales and marketing problems that choke us out of business.

Leaders must approach marketing as a process that extends for disciplined, inclusive, diverse strategic action planning. Most small company owners I meet do NOT have a written business plan. These are the same leaders who complain to me the most about past experiences hiring and managing marketing and salespeople. Customer service fits into the same matrix because if you run crappy, inauthentic sales and marketing campaigns, your crappy Karma will make life miserable for your customer service people.

Solution #1 is committing to writing a strategic plan of action that includes your diverse team of contributors who help you and buy into owning their part of your plan. Imagine the power of everyone aligning based on shared values and commitments we keep. We know how to get our jobs done right the first time because we are Varsity players and you pay us to practice, train, and play harder than the competition.

There is no exception to the root cause of failed leadership that I'm addressing. I know this now because I've managed thousands of marketing and sales campaigns in my life. I've created thousands and tested them. What I learned is the results always filter back and up to the decision-makers controlling the budgets.

Overcome Fear of Failure

If fear and failure are the mindsets, marketing fails and sales suck. Remember, marketing and sales is a game of failure. You have to be willing to invest, fail, learn, and grow.

If clarity and confidence are your mindsets, you'll hire the best and ditch the rest of the people you attracted who make you mad. But you have to change first from the inside out. Then, you will get players on your team who know their job and get it done right the first time. You would see the difference in financial performance just like you see the difference between champions who take the podium and the majority who look up to the winners.

Let me assure you, most of my marketing and sales tactics don't work well. But they work well enough in the tiny margins of conversion success to transform smaller companies into bigger, better performing organizations lead by servant leaders who take care of their strategic planning and people.

In closing, if you want better marketing, sales, customer service, and financial results, look in the mirror. Perform behavioral science-backed assessments for hiring and aligning the best players for your team. Then, empower them to own the new plan of action with you.

Your marketing and sales results will improve when the core values and commitments of your owners and leaders are in line with the heavenly virtues that are good; chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience,
kindness, and humility.

The bottom line is the more virtuous the character and core values of your leadership team, the better the marketing, sales, and financial results for your business.

Virtuous leadership counts for a reason.

Did this article help you? I'm always grateful for constructive comments, questions, and suggestions. If you want to learn more about mastering your "Inner Game" of leadership development, contact me here.

Before You Buy SharpSpring: SharpSpring Marketing Automation Success Video

Thinking about buying SharpSpring marketing automation for your company? Fantastic. Check out my video transcription or watch my training video BEFORE you buy SharpSpring or any other marketing automation solution.

As the founder and managing partner of Clarity Strategic Advisors, one of our primary focuses in consulting, advising and coaching our clients in the selection of marketing automation and related solutions that drive demand and revenue.

 This article is an edited version of the video transcription for those of you who tell me you prefer my written word more than any video.

Watch this video before you buy SharpSpring or any other marketing automation platform.

Transcription begins here ...

I'm also a SharpSpring partner and I am a huge fan of CRM, customer relationship management, integrated with some of the world's best marketing automation disciplines, and I'm going to walk you through right now the key things you want to think about before you invest your hard-earned money and energy and time into a marketing automation platform like SharpSpring.

I use SharpSpring personally. My job as an advisor and as a business consultant is to help my clients pick the right system. Sometimes SharpSpring is a phenomenal fit and I can know in about an hour conversation doing proper discovery with the users of the system. Once you get clear on a system that's right for you and your people, here are the things you want to think about.

First and foremost, never buy marketing automation software including SharpSpring or HubSpot or Infusionsoft or active in a seminar, especially if it's a seminar geared for motivation and they're famous people selling from a stage or the back of the room. I'm not taking away from anything those guys do because I'm on those stages from time to time more I'm in the rooms or behind the scenes engineering the campaigns and the content and all that fun stuff. But the key is ladies and gentleman before you invest in SharpSpring or anything else, you need to let your users drive the selection process and then let them bring to you as the business owner or leader the tools that they need to get the job done. And then you compare those to the features available in a platform like SharpSpring. Just understand.

Secondly, there's no perfect platform. SharpSpring is phenomenal. But again, back to what I originally said, choosing software is like choosing anything else that you invested. You have to think about the suitability and the viability of getting a return on your investment. SharpSpring is wonderful for many customers. I liked SharpSpring because they sell to agencies and consultants like me who then bring the product into the right accounts and when that happens, the software tends to work better. Not that people can't do this on their own, but I've been doing these kinds of automations since 2007 when I first bought Infusionsoftsoft, the original Infusionsoftsoft, ladies, and gentlemen go way, way back. Okay. This was in their early days. Automation was new. I was coming away from ACT, doing mail merge with Microsoft word, believe it or not, and it was really when the internet was kicking off and even then there was no perfect platform. That's what drove me to find Infusionsoftsoft and then I found SharpSpring actually they found me and we became partners like I am with many technology companies and they're phenomenal for the right accounts, the right teams, it's an all in one system that can plug into many other platforms like Salesforce.


So if you're running Salesforce, Salesforce is not truly marketing automation. Salesforce is customer relationship management, and they are the best in the business, the market leader. Marc Benioff, the CEO, brought this kind of software to the world so well one of the main leaders, but your success really depends on the owners telling you what they need and how they want to set it up. Because when you consider the total cost of ownership, which in the case of SharpSpring or HubSpot or Infusionsoft can vary widely depending on the size of your list, the number of your users, the amount of emails that you send. Those are the things that tend to affect pricing the most when you're choosing any of these systems, but you have to consider total cost of ownership because if you're going to invest $10 $20 $30,000 over the course of six months, 12 months, you must do a good job melding every aspect of your strategy and business and team into a platform like this, it will be your dashboard and it will be a good investment over time that will far, far outweigh any money you spent.

Even today, if you're watching this video right now, a certain percentage you will follow up, go to my website, complete a SharpSpring web form. You'll see my happy little automation sequence. You'll schedule a time on my calendar and 99.9% of the time you guys, you do not miss those appointments because you know I know what I'm doing. Just through my experience. You know, if you don't know, I owned a digital agency that was all built on this stuff and I sold it and now I just do consulting and online courses and writing and teaching and coaching, things I love to do. Um, because I need this, the authors I work with need this platform. Not, not SharpSpring per se, but a marketing automation platform. This is the underpinning of your business, ladies, and gentlemen, if you take your business seriously and you do because you're watching this video now, the total cost of ownership is nothing compared to the ROI.

SharpSpring Marketing Automation Works When It’s Worked by the Right People

When you get the right people using SharpSpring the right way… so you have to have, number five is a big one. If you don't have someone on your side to take the lead, the administrator of SharpSpring, much like you do for Salesforce, somebody on your team who's going to have all the passwords, all the logins, know the system and continue to learn the system and stay on top of it as SharpSpring and all these systems of all ladies and gentlemen. And that's what you get when you're buying software as a service. You're getting a piece of software that's in the cloud online constantly being upgraded so that the updates are being pushed out in what's called new releases and your administrator. Chances are it's not you if you're the business owner, I'm your administrator and your power users. Generally, it's a CFO, it's the head of marketing, it's the head of sales and the CEO or the owner, uh, or the VP division head.

They want the dashboard and they're going to know and oversee how all of this works. Make sure it fits the strategy and plan and goals of the business, but that administrator is not to be taken lightly. It's a very difficult position to fill. I can contract that for a short period of time for you guys, but basically now I'll help you find and hire that person, write the job description, the accountabilities, and all that fun stuff because you need them either as a freelancer or full time on your staff onsite or remotely. Number six, you have to plan to make SharpSpring successful. You're going to plan with a guy like me. If we ended up meeting and working together through a process I've been through hundreds of times that gets results. It's a step by step process. We will deviate a few steps in from the, from the process when, when it makes sense.

How Long Does the Setup Process Take?

Uh, some processes are much shorter and quicker than others where there's a bunch of legacy lists and content and data to move, but you have to plan the move to a platform like SharpSpring. You have to plan to keep working on the platform every week. You guys. Absolutely. And again, if you don't have the right people to invest in a platform like SharpSpring sure you can hire an agency there. Many of my peers out there, young men and women who are, who are building newer agencies, I've moved on from that world. I coached many of them and help them because it's a tough business. But, but if they're building a business around SharpSpring and their intentions are good and they understand the fundamentals of building companies, I will get behind them and help them plan to plan. And you have to map the key fundamentals of your business into the system.

And that starts with your brand and your identity and the messaging and the power compelling offers. Like download this free guide or sign up for this free course preview or you're invited to join us for our webinar or I'll see you at our trade show, right?

All of this is about creating an ecosystem where you have a functional inbound system that is also outbound, right? Because you have salespeople plugged into these systems, SharpSpring can stand on its own and do everything if you don't have Salesforce or CRM. SharpSpring is customer relationship management, email marketing, all your dashboards for marketing. All your landing pages can live here. Uh, interfaces with blogs. Social media accounts is a wonderful solution that's extremely affordable for millions of companies and most people have never heard of SharpSpring. So the fact that you're watching this video, congratulations. Never stop planning to plan and making it a team sport.

Okay? Now SharpSpring allows you to create a dashboard. All my CEOs want the dashboard. Now, hopefully, they're going to remember to log in and use the system and if you're a business owner, I'm just going to say this flat out or a division leader, if you're not willing to use the system and lead by example, forget it, stick with MailChimp or a spreadsheets or whatever else you're doing. This kind of success is driven by a culture of accountability, as I call it, with my clients. You guys have to measure everything. This will give you a dashboard, but you have to do all the inputs. You can do lead scoring, which basically increases the value of your leads as they go from market qualified to sales qualified. If that's how you measure, you can set up your pipeline, your opportunities. When you buy SharpSpring through me, I am going to set this up and I'm going to introduce you to people in my community who will add value when you need them as freelancers to keep your costs down.

What Is the Total Cost of Ownership?

Because when you're measuring the total cost of ownership, one of your bigger costs will be labor. My labor costs when from a hundred or excuse me, $25 an hour when I was earning $50 and I know we're learning this stuff in 2007 and eight and became a partner with Infusionsoft, but my labor costs over the years went up to a hundred there are very few people who can speak sales, marketing, analytics, technology, copywriting, and make these systems work in a robust way. And that's why you need to have the right people. Because truly these systems are for companies. You could use them if you're a small business owner. But honestly, I'm going to say this, don't get upset SharpSpring people. But you could use Pipedrive, you could use Nimble, you could use Active Campaign.

(DISCLOSURE ADDED: In most cases, I am a partner with the company. If you click my link and sign up for a demo, I earn a referral commission as the partner. These costs never increase your cost to purchase the software as is the case with most partner and affiliate programs.)

Heck, you could use Google contacts or your phone, which is free, right? I mean, a lot of people are running their businesses on their phones, but if they lose this in a toilet or a pool or something, uh, their list is gone because this system where houses your most asset, which is a list of prospective customers, active customers, past customers, stakeholders, investors, it all lives in SharpSpring.

And they live on the list and basically going to take in 90 to 180 days to implement a system like this. When I work with you, I charge a flat fee for the setup. I charge ongoing coaching and I have various content solutions through my writing team because we still do a lot of content creation, um, because it takes, it takes it easily 90 days to get this thing up and running. And it's true for HubSpot or any of them. But what you'll find is when you're comparing, make a good decision, don't rush into buying this stuff. Talk to people who you're paying a fee for advice. Um, and, and, and if that's an agency, great, but remember agencies are selling services like I do and we sell services that support your success in investing in a system like SharpSpring so that it stabilizes your company, gets everybody laser-focused and excited, right?

Culture of Trust and Accountability Is Required

You have to create a culture where you just don't show up with the software and announce it because that'll flip everybody out. But you'd get everybody to buy in and you help everybody understand why SharpSpring or something else like it is good for them because when you use these systems and you see the benefits and appointments show up on your calendar and people can click and book themselves in and your business is growing and you see that in your dashboard or you see that in stage two or three of your sales pipeline, you've got a bottleneck in the proposals and Oh by the way, it takes a day to get the proposals out. You guys, this stuff allows us to see and do see things and do things that using spreadsheets won't. Marketing automation is here to stay. I've been doing this since 2007 and this is a brand new business.

If you're considering SharpSpring, reach out to me, find me, Clifford schedule a time. I'll give you half-hour, 45 minutes of my time. I'm going to ask you some very direct questions because I'm going to help you understand if it's a good fit for you. And I'm going to tell you if I don't think it is as a professional, as a courtesy. And then if you feel I'm a fit for your team, again, I charge flat fees and I will help you meet people that will make SharpSpring fly. SharpSpring's direct support is phenomenal. SharpSpring's leadership team is phenomenal. Rick Carlson, you're doing a great job. All you guys work so hard in Gainesville, Florida, everywhere. Supporting SharpSpring, you're loyal to your customers, you're loyal to your partners and your agencies. And believe me, that doesn't happen often in the technology space. So just no behind SharpSpring are amazing human beings supported by a publicly-traded stock, um, where you have investors. Okay? And, and that's a real company. It's here to stay. So thanks for watching.

I'm Cliff Jones. Clarity Strategic Advisors.

Want to learn more about training and coaching your sales and marketing teams to get better results? Schedule a time to talk with me today by clicking here now.

What Are You Talking About When It Comes to Making Your Marketing Work?

In case you're short on time, watch this video.

This article is about the conversations we have as CEO's, business owners and leaders with the people we employ in sales, marketing, technology, talent acquisition, and strategic alignment for better business performance.

Did you know that the words you use affect how you think and behave? That's the bold and brave science of Linguistic Relativity. If you don't know the work of Nora Lidisky*, you need to check out her TED Talk. First, read the rest of this article because then you will have proper context for what you're talking about most in your business.

Having a conversation is a two-way street. When you endure the stress of making your marketing and sales work, the stress compels you to have crucial conversations without letting emotion take over and ruin you.

When it comes to making your marketing work with less cost and stress, what conversations are you having? I ask because I find most CEO's and business owners are not having essential, crucial conversations with their marketing and salespeople.

The High Cost of Winging It

In the worst cases, small business owners completely wing it when it comes to investing in sales, marketing, people, or technology to grow their business, which is typically the best investment they will ever make. Then they wonder why their investment returns are low and their frustration levels are high.

"We spent another $100,000 and a year trying to launch my product. This is the third agency I hired. They all said they could get this done. I ended up losing three years and $300,000 for nothing." - Anonymous New York Times bestselling author.

I hear hundreds of stories like this because people find me and need help fixing their pain which is not being able to attract, engage, convert, and retain enough customers. That's because they don't have a sound strategy, plan of action, or the people they need to get the job done right the first time.

What happens when you wing it in business, sales, marketing, or hiring people? Utter chaos. Nobody enjoys coming to work without feeling aligned with the leader, owner, manager, and team. That's why it's essential to talk about what's working, what's not working, what's missing in marketing or sales or customer service, and figure out what's next to fix it and get better results. This is crucial conversation stuff for marketing, sales, and tech.

This Is Why Marketing Pros Change Jobs So Often

Turnover is a massive cost and hit to your bottom line. There's no reason not to get to the root cause of this and fix it as best you can.

The reason marketing pros change jobs so often is the same reason Marcus Buckingham with Gallup discovered over a decade ago - marketing people don't leave jobs, they leave their marketing supervisors. Check out this article about what great managers do in this HBR article. The bottom line is people leave supervisors, not jobs or companies.

When we talk about marketing, it's usually not fun. That's because marketing is a game of frustration and failure. Think about the thin margins for conversion rates on your marketing investments. For example, what was the ROI on that big trade show you and your team hits every year?

Sometimes you don't know the questions to ask because you're too busy working in your business. I can be guilty of this too. But since I sell a powerful strategic action planning process that aligns and fires up marketing and sales teams, I must walk the walk. That means I follow my process, hire the best people my money can buy, delegate what is not my role or responsibility, empower everyone in my strategy, purpose, vision, mission, goals, and plan of action, and we get better results together. Yes, I have an active, written strategic plan. Most days it works.

We Fear Hiring the Best and Firing the Rest

We've all hired toxic people and let them work for us too long. That's because it's hard to fire people. Yet one of the biggest costs we incur as business owners is failing to hire with process and discipline. If you fail to hire the best people you afford, and you delegate well to empower them, then get out of their way, you've got a shot at scale and sanity presuming you lead and manage well. If not, oh well. Maybe you'll learn when you fail enough. When it comes to making the tough call to let someone go, you have to have a process to fire anyone who's not willing or able to perform their role on their team. This is what a "culture of accountability" is all about.

A high-performance sales and marketing culture MUST be created, committed to and lead by someone who IS that person. If it's not the owner of the business, he or she needs to hire someone to lead the team. A true leader will practice tough love and empower your marketing and salespeople. You have to be what you say you plan to do with your action plan. This is the Clarity strategic planning process teaches you to "hire to the company values you are willing to write, learn, practice and keep as commitments."

If you own the business and you manage marketing, sales, delivery, and fulfillment, how effective do you believe you are? When was the last time you conducted a 360 degree feedback survey or took a hard look in your mirror? It's not easy to own or lead any business. It's even tougher to manage marketing and sales. It's impossible to do it all for long. All we need to do is look at how few of us succeed over the long-haul. The people who succeed have a strategic plan of action that gets implemented with success. This is what happens when everyone aligns and does their part of the plan. Everyone performs like a championship team.

How to Make Your Marketing Work Without Losing Your Mind or Shirt

The way to make your marketing work better, and to fire up your sales process is to empower your PEOPLE to be part of the creative, strategic and tactical PROCESS to define and achieve the GOALS. Clarity is a bullet-proof action planning solution that works when you work it. That's why I focus on teaching, training, and coaching the Clarity workshops online and in the real world.

Make the time to work "on" your business. Why would you ever stop working "on" your business? Because you get stuck working "in" your business just like Michael Gerber taught us in his bestselling book, EMyth. Clarity helps you work "on" your business with your team. Diversity and inclusion make the Clarity process even more powerful. The extreme alternative is you think and plan alone in a box. Clarity is about thinking OUT of the box. And getting results.

Check out my video that walks you through a FREE Clarity Training preview. Take a look at the simple, step-by-step process I use myself and have taught and coached for over a decade to hundreds of other business owners. Clarity is a strategic action planning process you can use to write your own strategic plan. I teach it in customized onsite workshops, virtually, and soon the online classes and community for coaching.

P.S. *A big shout out and thank you to Paul Gowin, one of the best human performance coaches I've ever met.

Why I Chose to Focus On Training and Coaching Marketing Managers and Marketing Directors

Working in a marketing job, or managing your own marketing for your small business is one of the toughest jobs in the world. The truth is, marketing is a game of failure because most marketing campaigns successes are measured in small percentages. But that's okay as long as you have outstanding marketing management disciplines.

I get to create new online and real-world training and coaching programs now that I've sold my digital marketing agency. Having worked in sales and marketing my entire professional life, I've got some war wounds.

The reason I focus on working with marketing managers, directors and small business owners who need to get out of their own way and build a small, in-house marketing team, is because I know how difficult the work can be and I created a system to ease the pain.

How To Get "Clarity" and Confidence in Marketing and Sales

The system I created is called Clarity. It's a strategic action planning process I've used with my own businesses and thousands of others since I started using it in 2007. My online courses will soon be featured on a brand new online learning platform.

The current version of Clarity emerged from earlier action planning models I used to set up marketing automation software for my customers between 2008 and now. I was one of the earliest marketing automation guys on the planet because I have always loved buying and using any software tool or system that can help me be more efficient with my marketing and managing a business.

Here are a few suggestions if you're wondering how to get better sales and marketing results with less stress, time and money:

  1. Business, sales, and marketing are team sports. If you need customers, you need to contact many prospects. So all of this marketing stuff is about helping you make contact with people who might do business with you.
  2. Most small business owners and big-time CEO's can't or won't manage their own marketing. Small business owners often blow it after they get the basics. It's not easy to learn to trust and delegate. Every big company CEO already knows better, and they can well afford to hire others to do what they do best.
  3. If you don't have a written, strategic plan of action, let me help you write one. Include your key, valued people in marketing, sales, and finance in the process. When you have a sound plan, you will have "clarity" and you will know exactly how to market and sell with the utmost efficiency.
  4. Hire the best advisors, employees, and contractors your money can buy. Ditch the rest. You can't afford to hire and pay people who can't or won't get the job done right the first time. If you don't the roles, the jobs, how can you hire and manage effectively?
  5. Wake every day with a strategy and team you believe in. Work from a serious, shared plan of action. Measure everything in sales and marketing. Manage it all like your business is your best investment because it is.

Gratitude Counts

I'm grateful for my experience as a career sales and marketing guy. One of the biggest transitions I made over the years was learning to invest wisely in marketing to build my own small businesses. When you work for a company and you invest their money, not yours, the emotions are much different compared to when you invest in your own business.

Either way, one of the biggest and most-costly mistakes for business owners, leaders, and even some of the world's most famous business people, have to rely on the right marketing professionals to get the job done.

Now you have a simple list of things to consider if you want to get better business, sales and marketing results.

Clarity gives you confidence. That's why I called my company Clarity Strategic Advisors, LLC.

Let us give you clarity and confidence so you can sleep well at night.

Got a question or comment that's constructive? Please add it to the comments section.