Three Challenges Every Small Business Faces

Why do five out of six new businesses fail within the first few years. After working with business owners on three separate continents I have found some similarities. Nearly every business owner I work with shares three common challenges that limits their growth;

  • Ineffective marketing
  • No sales process
  • Inadequately trained employees 

Small improvements in each of these areas will create exponential growth. You might be thinking….no way, too simple. You would be wrong.


    Let’s start with marketing. How many of you receive Valpac adds in the mail? How many of you can’t wait to rip the envelop open and begin calling every advertiser? Right……zero of you. I have never seen a Valpac add that truly distinguishes a business from its competitors. Pretty pictures, free estimates, jargon, platitudes, and all the other drearily common tools.

    I use a three-question test to assess a business’s marketing messages. My examples are actual marketing messages from real businesses. 

    The first is what I call The Well I Hope So Test. “We fix it right, the first time!”  If I were looking for a plumber and I saw that message I would say, “well I hope so!” 

    I call the second the Who Else Can Say That Test. “We provide a professional paint job that is guaranteed for 10 years.” Any other painter can and does say that. Read, watch, or listen to any advertisement. I seriously doubt that you will find a single ad that another competitor can’t replicate.

    Finally, there is the Scratch Out Write In Test. Take a piece of ad copy, scratch out the business name, and put another business’s name in its place. I can promise you that nine times out of ten it will work just as poorly for the second business. There is no originality in most small business marketing.

    The first step in fixing this challenge is to speak to those who need your product or service. I mean clearly, loudly, and frequently speak to their heart’s desire. How about a simple example?

    OK. Here’s one

    Say, you’re a day care provider and the parents are either single parents or dual working couples. Throughout the day they either miss their child or are concerned about how they are doing.

    What if one day care provider added a video camera system throughout their Center. Every parent could open their app and quickly find their child! Do you think their business would grow? Do you think they could charge a little more than “normal” day care providers?

    What would their mailer say? “Hey moms and dads. Do you wonder how your child is doing in Day Care? At Kids PhD University you can open our app and see them all day, every day. Come take a look and see why our parents never worry about their kids.”