3 reasons why most businesses aren’t doing ANY marketing

Most businesses rely purely on referrals, recommendations and repeat business to stay afloat.  We speak with many businesses each year and lots of them are doing zero marketing.

Whist this does work for some, the reality is, if this is you, you’re relying too much on others and a hell of a lot of luck.

In the USA, research indicates 78% of the businesses that fail do so because of a lack of an integrated marketing plan.

So why don’t many small and medium businesses do any marketing?

There are lots of reasons but here are what I think are the main three:


1. Unrealistic expectations of immediate ROI.

Most business owners and marketing managers today will be bombarded with adverts from marketing agencies who shout about their highlight reels and huge ROI’s they achieve for clients with various marketing tactics.  These (mostly American) marketing agencies leave out the part where it took them years of dedicated application, learning and trial and error to achieve these results.

Their Ads are full of hyperbole “a super-exaggerated way of describing something for the sake of emphasis that often borders on the fantastical or ridiculous”

This, I feel, leaves business owners with unrealistic expectations of immediate ROI, the reality is marketing takes time and requires continually optimising and reimagining.  Even when you have a great campaign that smashes the ROI or your Google rankings shoot through the roof, these results may not last forever, social media marketing requires fresh content and Google is continually changing it’s algorithms, so you have to stay in the game, keep learning and never rest on your laurels.

So when a business puts £1000 into a marketing campaign, and doesn’t achieve immediate ROI, they often simply give up.  They don’t want to run the risk of putting another £1000 into another marketing campaign and ‘lose’ it.  Instead, you have to be brave and go for it again, learn the lessons from the campaign that didn’t go so well, adjust and improve.

Start with a small test budget, money that you can afford to lose, and once you start seeing ROI, begin to slowly scale your efforts… continually improving as you go.

When you plan doesn’t work, change the plan, not the goal.  Stick to the journey, because once you start achieving results, it’s game changing for your business.

2. Lack of time and money.

Businesses get caught in a cycle of boom and bust.  They conduct some marketing, fill their pipeline and get some clients, they become super busy for a period of time, suddenly they don’t’ have time for marketing anymore and they subsequently stop.  Then eventually, their pipeline starts to dry up, natural client attrition occurs, and they need leads again.

All of a sudden they’re back to marketing but by this point they’ve lost momentum, so they’re starting from scratch again.

In many ways, marketing can be like keeping fit.  You need continuous and consistent effort to remain fit, you don’t get fit, then stop.  No single workout makes you fit, just like no one marketing campaign or channel, makes an effective marketing strategy.  It’s the consistent application of effort, and constant analysis and refinement of your results, that creates momentum and builds your lead pipeline.

To overcome the time and money issue, we recommend having a minimum monthly commitment to your marketing channels and to make it someone within your company’s specific responsibility to make it happen.  When it comes to budget, this is a decision for your business but many businesses assign as much as 10% of revenue to their marketing budget, and I’ve seen others assign a percentage of cash budget to their marketing, so that their budget adjusts with their cash flow and bank balance.

One thing is for sure, if you stop exercising, it hurts so much more when you start again and it takes more time for your results to show.  It’s the same with marketing.  It’s much easier to scale your marketing efforts from a solid baseline, than start them from scratch.


3. Lack of skills

Small businesses generally have less than 50 employees and few of them will be dedicated to marketing.  There are so many different marketing specialisms today that these people can’t be expected to be a master of all marketing types.  At Lilac James, we’re a team of 6 and we only have three specialisms, social media marketing, SEO and Google Ads, we have specific team members who are dedicated to each specialism.  This is how we get really good at what we do, by focusing.  Jamie runs the social media advertising, Jane does the organic social, Stephen is the SEO wizz, Karen runs the SEO and Google Ads, Sam is our Google Ads maestro and Becky is our copy writer.

But in most SME’s, the same person designing your brochure, is writing your website copy, trying to set up your Google Ads, doing your SEO, launching a direct mail campaign, setting up your email marketing, posting your organic social media, running your Facebook Ads, running your events and more… is it any wonder we don’t necessarily see good ROI with our campaigns?  How much skill and experience can a few people build in all these areas?

Outsourcing your most important marketing channels can be a great way of bringing focus to what you’re doing.  This allows your in house marketing professionals to narrow the list of things they need to be good at, they can then simply engage the outsourced agency who can report back on results.  Hiring an agency will almost always be a lot cheaper than hiring new staff and you have the added benefit that, if they don’t achieve good ROI or demonstrate their value, they can be let go very quickly.



Don’t let the internet marketing guru’s give you unrealistic expectations of marketing ROI, it takes time, effort, consistency and patience.

Get started with your marketing today, make a minimum output commitment, this could be as little as posting to social media once a week, creating a small Google Ads campaign and writing two blogs a month.  Then gradually, as your skills, effectiveness and budget improves, grow your output and advertising spend.

Invest in your team, give them the skills they need to succeed and focus their efforts OR hire an outstanding marketing team like Lilac James who can help you reach your business goals.


If you would like to know more about Lilac James marketing services, please email me direct at jamie@lilacjames.com or contact us.

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