Since the day the first group of enterprising cavemen got together and created the first business (let’s assume for the sake of this article that it was a fire pit sweeping service, shall we?), there has been a need to get the word out to potential consumers, in order to increase sales and sustain the business.

I’ve often thought about these hypothetical primitive business owners, and how they might have tried to market themselves. Without the benefit of the internet, email, television, radio, postal service, or even newspapers, what methods would they have found successful to build their customer base?

Would they have stood on the nearest hillside overlooking the village and beat their chests, shouting their offers to the villagers below? Would they have wrapped the company mastodon with a banner fashioned from tree bark, and paraded it through the community? After all, selling to hundreds of potential customers all at once has always been a lot more efficient and cost-effective than going door-to-door.

Regardless of the era of history we examine, it would seem that wherever there is a person marketing a business, there is a megaphone of some sort in his hand. But even early marketers soon discovered that mass marketing could cause their business to grow explosively, but it could just as quickly cause it to fail.

Why? The answer is a simple one, but it may surprise you nonetheless.

Mass Marketing: The Impartial Megaphone

Most business owners think of marketing as an inherently positive activity. The logic goes that if you market your business, hire marketing experts, and engage in marketing and advertising activities, then you will get more work, people will happily pay you for your products and services, and your business will grow.

Maybe. But this is not an entirely complete way to think of marketing or advertising.

Marketing is an impartial, transparent amplifier of the best and the worst of any business. Market a business that has spent countless hours getting their standards of customer care as high as possible, and the results can be amazing. Take the same marketing budget and apply it to a business with deep internal management issues, and those issues become even louder, larger, and more apparent to the public.

Because of this transparency, it doesn’t really matter what you say in your marketing message, or even how you say it. Marketing isn’t a way of cosmetically hiding failing business models, or white washing lazy, unethical business practices using fancy language and tactics of misdirection.

When it comes right down to it, you can spend thousands of dollars saying you are a clean, professional, timely, and reasonably-priced service, but if your customers experience something different, then you’ve just wasted a lot of money and loudly announced to your potential customers that you would rather lie to them than serve them well.

Whatever the state of your business when you advertise it, THAT is what gets amplified.

What are you amplifying with your marketing? Is it good for business or bad?

You’ve heard the phrase, “Whatever you feed grows.” Marketing is an investment in your business. It’s like feeding and watering a garden. If you have weeds in your garden when you feed and water it, well guess what? Those weeds are going to grow, too, and may even rob the essential nutrients from the plants you really want to grow.

The broad tools of mass marketing are like garden sprinklers: you can’t feed and water just the best parts of your business. The whole garden gets watered, which means that marketing causes the good and the bad to grow.

You cannot hope customers will ignore the sloppy-looking techs at their door, and tell them to only focus on the good deal they are getting. You can’t market the beautiful masonry work you do, and expect customers to overlook the huge mess you leave behind. And you certainly can’t keep selling the fact that you are prompt and courteous if you fail to call ahead or show up for the job on time.

Just like feeding and watering a garden, marketing a business works indiscriminately. So make sure you are pulling your weeds out by the roots before you feed and water your business with marketing.