Scared of doing marketing? I realised last week that this might be an issue for many people. The idea of promoting their business, or themselves, scares them into a freeze. The result is that they end up not doing marketing, or only do it half-heartedly.

Thinking back over the years, I have encountered many hints at this fear. A business owner of a mid-sized manufacturing company said to me right at the start of my consulting career: “help me do better marketing as long as I don’t have to become famous”. He was afraid that I would suggest we splash his face all over the internet.

Recently, I’ve consulted with various individual consultants and small businesses giving them marketing advice that they wholeheartedly bought into, and when I follow up a month later nothing has happened. Why? My conclusion: fear. Last Friday I helped a business owner promote his new business on Facebook – here is his email to me afterwards:

Hi Bernard,
Just wanted to say thanks for your time and assistance in getting my fear of social media advertising out of the way. I really appreciate it!

Clearly doing marketing is scary, and thinking about it now, I can understand that. Let’s face it, as a small business your name as the owner is inextricably linked to the business itself. Whether you promote yourself as an opinion leader, or your business as a market leader, it doesn’t matter, it all comes back to you. What are you trying to do? Are you trying to become famous? Not to mention the fear of wasting money, of expenses spinning out of control. And then there is that niggling doubt as a small business owner “is my product really good?” What if I promote something that ends up being a failure. Or the other side of the coin: what if the marketing opens the floodgates of demand and I can’t keep up, ending up leaving a trail of disappointed customers or compromising on quality?

So, the doubts many business owners have around marketing isn’t simply because they wonder if it can work. Actually, come to think of it, the more prominent issue is maybe, fear. Small businesses don’t do marketing because it puts the fear of death in the owner. “I am too scared of doing marketing” is often the real issue.

But what is the solution? Clearly if you start dealing with raw emotions like fear one steps outside the space of cold, fact-based consulting and into more of a therapy role. The marketing consultant becomes a marketing therapist. Someone who can understand the owner’s fear and help him overcome it. The more I am doing this, the more I realise the importance of applying those very soft skills that many hard-core entrepreneurs use to hold against marketers. Being tuned into the “feelings” of business. Showing empathy. Understanding the emotions of the client and working with them at their pace.

The easy thing about taking a sales heavy approach to growing a business is that sales is often emotionless. You can either just employ a sales person, or in the case of you doing it yourself, reduce the interaction to a discussion around price and functionality. The problem with marketing is that it is fundamentally an approach that brings feelings into the business. Understanding the feelings of the customer is one part, but what I realise more and more is that the other feelings to be reckoned with is that of the business owner, primarily their fear.

Be honest, are you afraid to do marketing?