Marketing Myth #2: It Is Not Important To Know What You Don't Know

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This is the most pervasive, far-reaching and detrimental myth of them all! It is an equal-opportunity fantasy whose believers are corporate CEOs; entrepreneurs; male and female; young and old; rich and poor; tall and short; moms and pops; etc.

It is also the most difficult one to correct because the “patient” doesn’t know he/she is ill! It serves as the foundation for prejudice, ignorance and failure and influences all of the sufferer’s decisions and behaviors – personally and professionally.

Ironically, this myth often serves as the very basis for becoming an entrepreneur in the first place. Michael Gerber, in his classic book, “The E-Myth”, says that most small businesses are started by technicians (folks who are proficient at some skill) who have an entrepreneurial “seizure”.

Just because they know how to do the work of the business does not mean that they know how to run a business that does that work. For example, just because a hair stylist knows how to cut hair, does not mean he/she can run a hair styling business.

This is a classic case of not knowing what you don’t know. For instance, any business run in the U. S. today has to understand how the following business requirements (just to name a few) impact them and how they must comply on a daily/monthly/yearly basis:

  • Payroll taxes
  • Workmen’s compensation
  • Local and State Income Tax Laws
  • Local and State Sales Tax Laws
  • Business Licensing
  • Profit and Loss Statements
  • Overhead Expenses
  • Financial Reporting Requirements
  • Employee Management
  • Human Resource Regulations
  • OSHA Regulations
  • Social Security, Medicare Benefits
  • Withholding Taxes
  • Actual costs of running a business
  • Quarterly Tax Payments

    The problem arises when technicians assume that all they need to know is the work of the business, not how to run a business. The actual costs of owning and operating your own company are far greater than the expenses associated with your rent, office furniture, utilities, etc.

    Because of this many small business owners never earn a true profit…one that allows their business to grow, and provide them sufficient income to enjoy the lifestyle they envisioned when they began. Essentially, they’ve traded one job for another. Before they collected a paycheck, now they must earn a profit… the two are not the same. They are responsible for paying themselves and well as all of their other business partners – federal, state, city, and local governments; city municipalities; employees; suppliers, etc.

    Herein lays the trap… Most entrepreneurs do not know what they don’t know and go into their business thinking “I’m the best widget maker; therefore my business is bound to be successful!” Statistics say otherwise. (To learn more about Michael Gerber’s E-Myth theories visit his website at:

    “The person who knows HOW will always have a job. The person who knows WHY will always be his boss. ” Alanis Morissette

    Then there are a group of people that I call “know-it-alls” . The business world is full of these people, and unfortunately they are their own worst enemies. Why? There are a myriad of specific reasons but they all begin with their reluctance and/or refusal to seek wise counsel.

    Essentially, they do not believe that it’s smart business to pay experts for their years of study, experience and expertise. For instance, just because they can write their own ad copy (i. e. it doesn’t require a license or certificate) they think they should! These are the very same folks who would diagnose their own diseases and write their own prescriptions if it weren’t against the law!

    What they fail to see is that for every one dollar they spend paying experts, they potentially save five dollars in actual money and even more in wasted time; preventable mistakes; lost earnings and stress. However, marketing is not the only area these misguided “know-it-alls” reside. Although the industry certainly has more than it’s fair share (even though study after study confirms that a company is only as successful as its weakest skill) it is prevalent in every field.

    On the other hand, there are many more folks who are far from insufferable know-it-alls. They actively seek counsel, but sometimes simply don’t know where to begin, who to contact or the right questions to ask! I experienced this firsthand as I began working on my website).


    I had no delusions that I was an expert in Internet marketing right from the start… no problem. Yet, as I learned more about the process, I became more and more panicked. Cyberspace jargon is like a foreign language to me and the more I tried to do myself, the more lost I became. And it wasn’t as though I did want the help! Quite the contrary… but I was so lost that I didn’t even understand what I really needed, let alone who to contact! Gratefully, I used my tried-and-true methodology and “baby-steps” process and found a wonderful coach who made all the difference!

    The philosophical concept is not difficult to grasp… but identifying our own level of incompetence is another story all together. Like most things it begins with an open mind and heart; insatiable curiosity; careful research and a very large mirror! And what makes it even more challenging is the opposite fact… There are many marketing strategies and tactics that even a beginner can use successfully. I’m not suggesting that you hire an expert for everything! However, you must first learn one from the other.

    It’s like trying to save a few bucks by changing your car’s oil yourself… Now this is not an overly complex task, and one even I can manage. But is it a smart thing to do? Think about what’s involved… you drive to the store; wait in line; ask questions; look at the merchandise; select the oil, pan, funnel; wait in line to check-out; pay the cashier $24.97; drive back home; try to jack up the car so you can get underneath it to put the pan in place; undo the screw; get some oil in the pan; get most of the oil on you; get the funnel and fill it with the new oil; figure out what to do with the old oil; close everything down; throw your oil-laden shirt in the trash; and take a shower. The cost? $24.97 in stuff; $1.32 in gas; $25.00 ruined shirt; 3.25 hours of your time; and $1,000,000 in frustration… All this, when you could have had it done for you for $25.00!!

    Lesson learned: Know what’s best left in the hands of professionals. Low cost is not always best cost! Oh, and by the way, never try to hang your own drywall either! Trust me on this one.

    However, there are times when doing it yourself is smart! If you’ve got better than average computer skills or design talents it’s easy to create things like business cards, letterhead and bill stuffers… but please, unless you’re an ad buyer by trade, do not buy, book or design any media (especially TV and radio) by yourself! But more about that later…

    Classic Symptoms of a Myth #2 Believer They…

  • Don’t have a marketing plan because their business, organization, industry, product, service, customers, location, you-name-it is different than anyone else’s and they just don’t need it

  • Never seek out wise counsel on most things, more particularly relating to marketing insights

  • Make facts fit beliefs

  • Base decisions on broad assumptions which may not be true

  • Never start with their customers’ needs because they’ve never taken the time to find out what they are

  • Conduct little, or no, research on customers, competition, and their marketplace

  • Believe that all customers are worth getting, and all are worth keeping

  • Don’t differentiate… they don’t understand why very ordinary is very bad

  • Latch onto a cool product without understanding the marketplace first

  • Buy media from salespeople

  • Think people need to be sold (No one wants to be sold anything… but everyone loves to buy something…)

  • Reinvent the wheel… Don’t know how, or refuse to, borrow success from others

    Mary Eule specializes in helping small and medium-sized businesses get and keep profitable customers. Formerly a Fortune 500 marketing executive; founder of two successful small businesses and award-winning speaker, Ms. Eule is President of Strategic Marketing Advisors, LLC. and co-author of a new book, “Mandatory Marketing: Small Business Edition".

    She has a BA in Journalism/English from the University of Maryland and earned her a master’s degree in marketing from Johns Hopkins University. Log onto her website: for free articles, newsletter and helpful marketing tools, tips and templates… and/or to purchase the book.

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