It may seem counterintuitive for a marketing consultant to ever suggest that you shouldn’t market your business. However, if your company is not in the right position to begin marketing, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Starting a marketing program too soon may be a waste of your precious time and hard-earned money. How do you know when you’re ready to take the plunge? Here are three signs you might not be ready to market your business.

Your core values aren’t aligned with your business.

Every leader and company have a set of core values that drives the business just like the ancient sailing ships all had a lodestar. Without alignment, you often get subcultures and chaos.

Here’s an example of a client that was not yet ready for marketing. Not until after we assisted with alignment issue first.

  • Leadership: In our Core Values & Messaging session, the leadership revealed a 100% commitment to clients. They believed taking good care of the clients was the key to their business.
  • Employees: In complete contrast to the core values of the leadership, a few of the employees did not treat the clients well. We personally observed dismissive and condescending communications with a client.

While our initial engagement was to market the business, we recommended switching gears immediately. Marketing a business that is not living up to its ideals or core values is doomed to fail. In this case, our greatest concern was bringing in new clients who would ultimately be disappointed in the customer service.

We credit the leadership of this business for recognizing the problem and immediately taking steps to remedy the problem before beginning marketing efforts.

You’re only focused on the tactics.

It’s very common for potential clients to reach out to us for help with a tactic. “I need to be on social media” or “I need pay-for-click advertising.” Sometimes they are right about the tactics, but sometimes those activities would be a waste of time and money. First, ask yourself Why? Then ask, “What results are you wanting?”  

  • Why do you need to be on social media? If the answer is that your competitors are on social and you feel left behind, it might be a waste of your time.
  • Why do you need search advertising? What, exactly, are you offering? What is the desired result of starting a PPC campaign?

Take a step back and think about your overall business objectives and how marketing can help get you there. Objective-driven marketing has the best chance for success. Before approaching an agency or starting a marketing project on your own, clearly define the purpose. Do you want to generate leads for your new product? Has your business experienced employee turnover and you need to attract new recruits?

It sounds obvious, but we’ve all been guilty of diving into a project without looking at the big picture. Nothing is worse than realizing you’ve wasted time, blown through your budget, and have nothing to show for it. Having a clear objective will help you focus on the tactics that deliver.

Make sure your objective and the metrics you use to judge success are clear to everyone on your team. For instance, if lead generation is your objective, decide to measure your success by the number of email addresses you gather on your website or the number of people who call your business after clicking on an ad.

You don’t have the capacity or a prepared team.

Over the years, we have found that many small businesses are straddling the fence on whether to hire a marketing consultant or handle it in house. It is a real concern.

While you likely have the knowledge and skills to develop a marketing program, you have to ask yourself if it is a good use of your time. It may well be. If not, diligently research marketing agencies to find one who clicks with you.

If you don’t have a team — internal or external — that shares your vision, your marketing efforts are likely to have a lot of starts and stops. That lack of continuity can be frustrating for you and confusing to your customers.

Whether or not you choose to spend the time and money it takes to successfully market your business is ultimately up to you. If you decide to move forward with a marketing program, make sure that your business practices are aligned with your core values, you have clear goals, and that you have the team to see it through.

Principal & Co-founder at ThinkWell Consulting | lauren@thinkwellconsulting.com

Lauren Yates is a principal and co-founder of ThinkWell Consulting, LLC. Here, she writes about consulting, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing.