I had an interesting insight just yesterday about marketing and promotion. We’ve been experimenting heavily with social media marketing for six years. We sell both products and services, and our online lead generation and related sales have been very good. Until yesterday, I thought we were making sufficient progress.

Setting Higher Marketing Goals

I was speaking with a few of the top people at Digital Marketer, the experts among experts in social media. One of the fellas asked me if we were achieving our goals in product sales, and I said yes. In fact, I (was) pleased with our sales. Then he asked me what my goals were. When I told him my goals he choked back a laugh and said, “That’s not a goal! I’ve seen your products. You could be selling way more than that! Why did you set such a low goal?”

Ouch! Goals that are too low are a self-fulfilling prophecy. Goals are a behavior-driver and behavior-modifier. When you set a sales goal, the next step is to analyze your sales promotions and marketing and make sure you are doing the right things at the right times to achieve that goal. When you set a profitability goal, you analyze margins and turns and make sure that your current performance can get you to your goal. My uninspiring sales goal meant that I wasn’t being nearly aggressive enough in my marketing efforts.

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My average number of promotions per day on Twitter was three, and my average number of promotions per day on Facebook was 0.5. We post content more often than that, so those numbers apply to actual promotions (for a product, an event, or a service). My advisor told me I should be promoting on Twitter at least 50 times per day, and on Facebook at least four. Not only was my performance too low to achieve sales goals that aren’t laughable, it was too low by a long shot!

I know my experience is not unusual. I regularly encounter businesses that are under-marketing relative to their need to generate cash. But I was surprised it could happen to me, and I analyzed my thinking to understand why. I realized I had set goals that were too low, because A) I didn’t know better, B) I lacked confidence, and C) I am reluctant to annoy people.

So, what do I do with all that?

Not knowing better is easy to fix. We all need mentors and advisors—people who know more than we do. I thought I had the right advisor, but it turns out I had grown past him. This happens in business; we grow out of systems, processes…and experts. Once I realized that had happened, I sought new teachers, and here I am expanding my knowledge again. That feels really good by the way. It’s never fun to be in a knowledge rut.

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The lack of confidence is partially solved by obtaining new guidance. But lack of confidence—as it relates to selling more, in particular—goes deeper than that. There is a very human tendency to avoid disappointment, which can show up as setting a lowball goal. How human is it? Well, I advise businesses every day to set aggressive goals, but I fell into that trap myself! Can I give myself a “free pass” for not knowing better? Not really (though it’s tempting). If I had set a more aggressive goal in the first place, it would have pushed me to find a way to achieve it, and I may have stumbled on this advice even sooner. So I have only myself to blame. I have now pasted a big post-it on the shelf next to my desk that says: “SET OBNOXIOUSLY BIG GOALS.” Apparently, I need the reminder too.

Which brings us to C), I am reluctant to annoy people. Those of us who are not dyed-in-the-wool salespeople tend to suffer from this ailment. We are polite to the point of worrying that our sales pitch is an intrusion on someone else’s otherwise lovely day. Yet business demands that we sell. I have always had to struggle with this issue, so I am sensitive to it when I train others to sell. Each time I run up against it, I give myself a pep talk:

Your business provides something important to the people who buy from you. You do things every day to add new services, new products, and new benefits to the customer relationship. So anyone who decides to buy from you is receiving something of genuine value, something that will help them and contribute to their quality of life. Your products and services are not for everyone, and they don’t need to be. The people who don’t need what you sell will opt out, and that’s a good thing, because you shouldn’t spend your time trying to convince uninterested people that they need you. When some people opt out, it helps maintain your focus on those who want in. The people who do want what you have to sell don’t mind if you pitch to them, send them interesting information, or ask them to place an order. Even if they are not ready to buy right now, they will eventually buy something as long as you keep doing your best.

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I genuinely believe this to be true. When a business is focused on the right customers and does its best to provide for those customers, when a business keeps its marketing relevant and interesting, then customers don’t mind being marketed to. Some will opt out, leaving you with the ones that matter. Make a copy of that pep talk and stick it on your desk where you can see it. Read it regularly. Then set a bigger goal and figure out how you can market more to achieve that goal. And now, I have to get back to planning the next six Twitter promotions.