MarTech is a buzzword you need to know if you’re a business owner.

What exactly is MarTech?

My cell phone rings. It’s someone referred to me because they were putting together a business plan and needed to plug in a cost number in their budget. “How much is that digital marketing gonna cost me?” said the bootstrapping entrepreneur. I regularly talk to small business owners, usually in the pre-launch or very early stages of business planning and development. But this call was kind of out of left field, someone who didn’t know me. I’ve never thought of marketing as a “number” to plug into a budget. MarTech or digital marketing, or just marketing is a mantra for business. It’s a vehicle to create business success. How far and how fast you want to go is up to you.

I am a volunteer for a non-profit organization which helps small businesses go through the stages needed to develop a business plan and if necessary, take their plan to the bank for funding. While I love the concept of mentoring and giving to others so they can realize the dream of business ownership, I see mentors struggling to keep up with giving advice on how to best use technology to advance small business goals. Unfortunately, they haven’t kept up either. That makes the job of a professional marketer doubly hard.

I give talks – free or very low cost – on how to use digital marketing to grow a business, how to build a prospect database, how to use digital marketing to build brand awareness, how to use digital marketing to create relationships and how to use digital marketing to nurture leads and to remind customers why they want to stay your customer. For the sake of this writing, small business is defined as a business with an annual revenue of fewer than one million dollars.

I see very distinct disconnects between small business owners and current marketing methodologies. Small business owners are, for the most part, not keeping up. The winners are going to be the early adapters to technology changes. Those who continue to learn and read and stay informed.

I feel somewhat hopeless when I encounter a business owner who can barely keep up with uploading a document or image or attaching a document or image to an email. Simple, basic functions that should by now be second nature. I spend too much time graciously overaccommodating them. These business owners are legacy businesses. They’ve been in business for 30 years, but haven’t kept up with their industry, changes in technology, or changes in customer buying habits. They’re panicking. “My phone isn’t ringing anymore,” they say. I say it’s a generational problem. Phones, as we knew them, are just about obsolete. And that’s only the beginning of the problem.

I had a client that hired me to present LinkedIn training to their 20 employees. I had one employee refuse to speak to me. She said, “If I want to talk to a prospect, I’ll pick up the phone.” She had been with the company for over 20 years and at one time, was an award winning top performer. Now, in her 60’s, she was drawing a line for ME. I discussed this with the client and the response was, “I can’t push her to do something she doesn’t want to do.” Why not? If a small business wants to survive, there needs to be training and then there need to be ultimatums. Change or leave. Tough love. This business owner expressed contemplating whether or not they would be able to renew their office lease. I doubt the employee shared in the stress and devastation the business owner was going through as they held the line with me. The company terminated their service commitment with me because they could no longer afford to pay me. This is a story that is retold over and over. Why is this happening?

Many business owners are not Harvard grads. They may not even be college grads. They had a great idea and valiantly worked 100 hour weeks to bring it to market and make their product or service a success. Or there is the flipside, those who see the wild successes of entrepreneurs online and they run to cash in their 401k’s and roll the dice.

The business ideas I hear about are awesome to downright ridiculous. Someone is telling them their idea can work without any checks and balances. In an effort to respect the hopes and dreams of the free market entrepreneur, I won’t highlight some of the ridiculousness I’ve seen. But as a marketer, and a business owner myself, I have to have a formula to vet those who are not prepared, those who have not done their homework, and those who are simply not ready to go to or to stay in the marketplace.

What do you need to do to keep your small business viable or bring your product or service to market? Do you need to know about artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, or natural language processing technology which allows us to talk to our computers? No. You need to learn and know about how these technologies will affect your business, but even more, you need to assess where you are now, and where you need to be.

The business world is in a state of flux. We’re all in different places in the process. My advice is to stay vigilant. Be open to learning new things. Create opportunities for learning for yourself and your staff. Take a look at where you are and where you need to be and make a plan. We’re at the beginning of something really wonderful. You’ll be able to work smarter, not harder. There’s never been a better time in history to be in business.

Next Steps: MarTech Houston

MarTech Houston

Join us for the next wave of marketing technology at MarTech Houston on Thursday 5/25/17 at the Houston Technology Center which is an incubator for business. We’ll embrace your dream. We’ll teach you how to use technology to create business opportunity. We’ll have a video and podcasting content coach in the house. We’ll teach you organic SEO techniques that will drive traffic to your website. We’ll give you tech tools that will make marketing an ROI generator. You’ll get to network with other small business owners who share your hopes and dreams of success. Take the next step and register here: http://bit.ly/MartechHouston