Marketing is a very common business concept, but one that I find is interpreted and applied very differently by business people. Marketing is often seen as a luxury, and not a necessity, so it is often first on the chopping block during budget cuts. Hundreds, if not thousands, of marketing books are published each year trying to influence the way business leaders plan and execute their marketing strategies. Over the years, Al Ries, Jack Trout, Robert Cialdini and Seth Godin are a few of the authors and consultants that have risen above the pack to make a major impact on the way we think about marketing. For most entrepreneurs who don’t have a direct background in marketing, sorting through the various theories of marketing can be a difficult thing. Part of the confusion lies in how we think about advertising, public relations, sales, and marketing.
I recently spoke with Bryan Carter, founder of Think Webstore, to get his thoughts on how entrepreneurs should approach their marketing strategies. Carter has a very interesting background in design, technology, psychology, and business. His experiences include being a national consultant and speaker, authoring journal and industry articles, working for a large advertising agency, and developing award winning multimedia learning tools. In 2007, he opened Think Webstore with a clear purpose in mind — to offer a “one-stop shop” for businesses and their marketing needs. The services offered include marketing strategy, website design and hosting, search engine optimization and marketing, e-mail marketing and advertising services for small and mid-sized businesses. Part of what makes Carter’s business model different is that he provides these services from a retail location versus a traditional office environment. Carter’s success is no accident. He knew his target market and designed a whole business around meeting the needs of that underserved market. Carter leveraged his experience and expertise in planning out the entire business concept in great detail and now has executed that plan diligently.
Many service professionals suffer from the “cobbler who has no shoes” problem, but Carter has certainly avoided that and done an excellent job of marketing his own business. Even though the economy tanked soon after it opened, Think Webstore is ahead of its goals, and Carter anticipates executing soon on his plans to expand the concept regionally and nationally. According to Carter, “Marketing is how you put all the pieces together of advertising, PR and sales. It is your overall strategy, which should be consistent and well thought out.” Carter described advertising as the tool that gets people to your door and sales as a delivery mechanism. Marketing, he emphasized, is where you “think through the details of your business including such things as pricing, positioning and delivery ability.” He also noted that while marketing is comprehensive, it does not have to be complicated. Carter also believes that a company’s website, regardless of the type of business, is really the core that should be used as a guide for all other aspects of marketing.
Operating a service business, Carter noted that he emphasizes quality as they key. In order to do that, he has a simple credo for his employees: Be aware; Think things through, and Own it! He pointed out that when you are aware and think things through, owning the issue is usually not a problem. I see many businesses where a lack or “ownership” is a major problem. Lack of ownership leads to no accountability, which usually results in disastrous results both for both customers and the company. Ultimately, Carter’s passion and business is about helping entrepreneurs help themselves. Many business owners come to Think Webstore with ideas and dreams, and Carter and his team help them accomplish them.
I am inspired by the detailed thought and planning that Carter puts into his business. For entrepreneurs and business people, I think we can all do better at being more diligent in thinking through the details of our business. This type of planning is a fluid and ongoing process, and one which is important for the long term success of a venture. For me, it involves a bit of a paradigm shift to try and clearly see a business through the eyes of the clients and prospective clients. Truly great businesses see this view. They design not only their products and services, but the entire experience to maximize it for their clientele. I am sure that we will continue to see the impact of Carter’s attention to this detail in the success of his business and his client’s businesses in the years to come.
Martin Willoughby, a business lawyer in Jackson, is a regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.