Guest Post by Shakirah Dawud

Adam Toporek created this infographic on the state of small business in the US (click the image to see it larger and on IntenseFence’s site, please).

The numbers reflected

the impact of the economy on SMBs and the impact of SMBS on the economy. The figure that stuck out to me and a few other commenters on the post was the little factoid on the bottom left:

Small Business Don’t Think Marketing Will Help

In a recent survey of small-medium sized businesses (less than 1,000 employees) over half had annual marketing budgets of less than $1,000.

That number – and attitude – are daunting for someone who wants to see these businesses succeed.

In my comments I said as much, but I got a sneaking feeling from my own experience that both the number and attitude stem from our DIY spirit.

Don’t get me wrong. I love, embrace, and embody that spirit. That spirit is what gets businesses off the ground – especially strapped-for-cash businesses. So stay with me for a moment.

If you’re strapped for cash and your business is floundering, what do you do? 

Do you read that cache of business books and ebooks you’ve accumulated?

Do you craft mindblowing ideas for a guerilla marketing campaign (like these)?

Do you troll blogs, talk to colleagues, and call your mom for inspiration, critique and advice?

Do you go out and paper bulletin boards and offices with your company colors?

Do you review your SEO strategy?

Do you photoshop a new logo?

All these activities are ways to kickstart development and promotion of marketing ideas, ones I could have rattled off as “free ways to promote your business” in another blog post (and probably will one day). But don’t be deceived. Those things are no more free than if you had hired a marketing firm to do them for you.

And I might point out that it could actually be more expensive if I weren’t afraid of blatant horn-tooting on someone else’s blog.

There’s a reason we use the term “investment” when referring to time spent building our business. Sometimes that time investment necessarily overwhelms time spent anywhere else in our lives. That’s okay.

What’s not okay is to do it ourselves in order to avoid spending money.

Calculate the time you’ve spent doing it yourself for your business and multiply it by your hourly rate. Any low whistles? Now compare it to what it would cost to get a professional to do it.

It’s one thing if you don’t have the cash. It’s another if being a “prudent spender” means ignoring the fact that time really, literally, is money.

Take another look at your marketing budget. Is there a disparity between it and the level of your actual marketing activities? Is that for the first reason I mentioned in the previous paragraph or the second?

How do you balance your DIY?

Image credit: IntenseFence.

Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.