Mom, wife, business owner, nerd, marketer. All of these labels fit me, but there is only one that I resent. I am a marketer and a pretty good one, but I try and avoid that label whenever possible.
Why? Because I believe that marketer and coach are the nurse and teacher of the small business world.
They are undervalued and easily dismissed as a non-critical function. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and if you ask people what they think they will quickly disagree.
“Teachers are in charge of our future, they should be paid more.” “Marketing is critical to the success of my business.” “Nurses are the front line to patient care,” etc. But at the end of the day actions speak louder than words. When budgets are cut, who gets cut first? Those who are perceived as non-essential.
When I introduce myself at networking events, if I use the term “marketer” I can feel the mood change. It might be because there are a lot of really crappy marketers in the world. But this is an entire subject itself (see my blog on marketers). The term “marketer,” mainly means that after college they went to work at the latest digital advertising firm selling websites, pay-per-click or some fancy app. In my experience they rarely understand what real marketing means to small business and how fruitless most of these tools are for small business because they don’t have the resources or knowledge to execute them effectively.
The only people who seem to be often unaware by the lack of respect that marketers and coaches get in the small business world is marketers and coaches.
But here’s the rub: Most business owners are under the impression that anyone can do marketing and that coaches are mostly unnecessary. They are seen as vitamins, not food, which means a lot of marketers and coaches fail.
But if we want women to continue to be competitive and to succeed in small business, they we have to expand past titles that are perceived as optional.
It doesn’t surprise me that women are consistently pulled into these fields. We are good communicators and we want to help people. So these fields fall into our natural skill set and women tend to be risk averse.
However, this is the reason I think our male counterparts continue to outpace us when it comes to starting businesses in the fastest-growing sectors.
Men start businesses because they see an opportunity. Even if that opportunity isn’t necessarily aligned with their natural skill set, they take the risk. They are willing to start a business because of an opportunity and have the confidence to believe they will figure it out along the way.
Of course, this is a mass generalization and is meant to start a discussion.
What would the world look like if we stopped telling girls to only start a business because they are “passionate” about something and instead started telling them to start a business to make money?
If we understood that running a business is a completely different skill set than executing that work, maybe we would have more women running a more diverse set of small businesses.
In order to succeed, we have to keep pushing the definition of women business owner. We need more women running businesses in growing industries, not limiting ourselves to fields that are perceived as the people help who actually do the work.
While we have good intentions when we launch a marketing or coaching business, the truth is that if you really want to help your community and your fellow business owners, start a business in a service that people view as critical. Be innovative and run your company well. Of course we will always need marketers and coaches, but really you will be doing yourself a favor to look at other possibilities.