Can you recognise good advice when it comes to you? Most small business owners don't.
There's an excellent demonstration of this in a recent edition of the New York Times column You're The Boss (written by Gabriel Shaoolian).
Don Chernoff is the owner of SkyRoll.com. He recently submitted his website with the hope of increasing the response rate to a contest he is running. At publication time, he had only one entry after running the contest for months. He definitely needs some help.
The responses that came back from readers all focussed on the website. After all, the website is the vehicle for promoting the contest.
In their replies, readers indicated difficulty recognising the site as one that has something to sell. They had trouble finding the contest (on the last page of the site at the bottom). And they thought there might be a disconnect between the ideal prospect for a Sky Roll bag and the type of person willing to participate in the contest.
Unforunately, Mr. Chernoff thinks the readers missed the point. He wanted better ways to promote the contest rather than comments on how well his website promotes the contest. Ironic, isn't it?
This is where so many business owners go wrong. They invest themselves – their self-image – in what they do, and then are unable to accept any advice about it. That advice always feels like a personal attack because they have mistakenly identified what they have created as representing their personal worth.
A recent conversation with a collision repair shop owner highlighted this for me. Let me call him Mark.
Mark asked me for input on his marketing, and especially his yellow pages ads. He was using a "standard" business card ad in the yellow page books and was (not surprisingly) unhappy with the return on his investment. So we arranged to meet, and I agreed to walk him through his options.
The first thing Mark said to me when we started the meeting was, "Just keep in mind that Direct Mail doesn't work for my business."
Having encountered this attitude before, I decided to let Mark qualify himself as a client. Either he would accept proof of what works and become a client, or he wouldn't.
So I walked Mark through what Suzanne Shafer had done for her auto collision repair shop in Indianapolis. She had a 47% increase in revenues over three years – and the primary tool in achieving this was direct mail, although used in ways that Mark hadn't considered, just as readers gave Mr. Chernoff advice for improving his site in ways that he hadn't considered.