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The #1 Reason Small Businesses Fail…(and how to avoid that yourself...)
There is always more than one factor involved with every outcome or result you could possibly think of.
However…there’s always ONE factor that plays the most predominant role.

As for the #1 Reason Why Small Businesses fail, here it is - A Weak Offer.

Now some of you marketing-savvy business owners might disagree. (Someone always does.) 

You might say it is, “Not getting in front of your ideal customer”

Good point. That is also critical…way up there on the scale of “Important”. 

You might say it is “Not using enough marketing methods”...or it is “Not getting in front of enough ideal customers”

Effectively, that’s the same thing…and yes, that’s also a good point. The more marketing methods you use, the better your results should be (as long as you use methods that reach your ideal client). 

Here’s why neither of those two reasons ARE the #1 reason… 

If you have a GREAT OFFER, yet you fail to reach your ideal customer…it still might get you a Positive Return On Investment - as long as it reaches people who legitimately be a customer…even if not ideal. 

Why? Because if you have a GREAT OFFER, even moderately interested customers might decide to take it. 

If you have a GREAT OFFER, yet you aren’t using enough relevant marketing methods… it still might get you a Positive Return On Investment - as long as the few people you are reaching are ideal customers. 

Why? Because if you have a GREAT OFFER, you don’t necessarily need to get in front of a “lot” of people…you just need to get in front of “the right” people. 

IF YOU HAVE A WEAK OFFER…and (1) you reach your ideal customer…and (2) you use enough marketing methods to get in front of “a lot” of ideal customers…in most cases you still won’t “break even” on your ad spend (marketing investment). 

Why? Because you have a WEAK OFFER. 

A WEAK OFFER, put in front of a lot of ideal customers, is still a “weak” offer. 

It simply won’t elicit much response…even from ideal customers. 

(Most businesses really don’t “get” this. They waste a lot of money putting weak offers in front of lots of un-ideal customers…and then blame the results on a bad economy, poor economic region, etc. While some of that might be true, it’s never the #1 reason.) 

I’ve learned about the reality of weak offers from personal experience. I’ve also learned about it from other people’s experiences. (The people I study are very rich, successful marketers…not people pretending to be marketers.) 

I can target ideal specific audiences really well using Facebook’s Ad platform. 

But sometimes I’ve put what I thought were “great” offers in front of the right audience and still struggled to generate much response. 

Yes, I can re-market to that same audience every day for a month if I want to…but if the offer isn’t GREAT, I’m still not going to get much of a response. I’ve proved that to myself! 

It doesn’t matter if “you” think your offers are good. If the audience doesn’t respond, it’s normally a problem with the offer. (Assuming you are reaching the correct audience, of course.) 

Yes…IT IS DIFFICULT to create a truly great offer – especially one that still allows you to make money on the first sale. 

Businesses that are most successful at GREAT offers almost always present a second or third offer after they make the first sale. (But that’s a “Value Ladder” conversation for another time.) 

So…I submit to you that YOUR OFFER is the most important part of your marketing. 

But fix this ONE thing…and your Return On Marketing Investment goes up immediately.

Once you find an offer that works great, now you can quickly get some huge wins by adding in other (relevant) marketing media that you know will reach your ideal customers. 

This little tip, when acted upon, will put more money in your bank account. (If it doesn’t, your offer is still weak! Or there simply isn’t much demand for your product or service.) 

To bigger wins…more often,
WARNING: After reading this article, 95% of you won’t do anything to improve your offer/s. That's just the way the numbers usually work out.

Understand this little fact of life…and understand there is ALWAYS opportunity for growth for the 5% who ACT on things they learn. 

If you choose to do nothing with what you now know about the importance of a great offer…don’t complain about your year-end results this Christmas ;)

PS – If you want to see how “Unique Selling Propositions” help you create “great offers”, go here for details. 

PPS – If you want a Free 90 Minute Marketing Consultation, go here for details.

USP Building Exercise (Unique Selling Proposition)
A few years back I purchased a course from Perry Marshall & Associates called “USP Breakthrough”. 

It was $497 USD…which I thought was a lot of money. But I bought it because I knew I could get my money back IF I used it like they told me to. And they were right. 

If you use what the course teaches to create a much better “positioning” message about who your company is, why people should choose you and what you’ll do to remove risk from them…if you use what it teaches to create better, clearer offers…specific to your ideal audience…you could get a 100-1000X return on investment in less than a year. And for some of you, in less than a month. 

Below are 6 steps and a partial but fairly extensive list of questions and considerations extracted from the “USP Breakthrough” course. 

I’m not giving you the whole course because that would be illegal. But I am giving you a sneak-peak and a strong recommendation to go buy the course for yourself. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on Perry Marshall’s “stuff” and I don’t regret one penny of it. 

In short…you should use the following 6 Steps every time you are trying to position your company, products or services as the only obvious choice. 

Here’s a HUGE tip – Don’t try to create one high-level USP that applies to your whole company. Create a USP for every product or service you have. 

(To purchase the “full” course, theory and application, I recommend you do, go to https://www.perrymarshall.com/products/ and look for “USP Breakthrough”. )


Specific Demographic:
Do you serve a specific demographic?
Do you serve businesses that serve a specific demographic?
Could you increase your overall response by tailoring your product or service to a particular demographic?
Could you offer specific demographically targeted products or services in addition to your main offerings?
A specific age range?
Men only, or women only?
A specific geographic location?
People in a specific type of geographic region (tropical, mountains, urban, etc.)?
A specific income range?
People with a specific educational level?
People who work in a specific type of job, a specific type of industry, or for a specific company?
People with a specific marital or family status?
People with particular religious or political convictions?

Specific Problem:
Is there something unique and specific about the problem you solve?
Is the problem you solve acute, or chronic?
Is the problem you solve rare, or widespread?
Does your solution solve one pinpointed problem, or a whole host of issues?
Has it been unusually hard for your customer (or your competitors) to solve this problem?

Specific Niche:
Can you focus on and serve people in a specific business vertical or “niche”?
Do you center on a particular hobby?
Do you center on a particular type of taste?
Do you center on a particular genre?
Do you center on a particular area of interest or study?
Do you serve a particular size of group or organization or business?

Game Of Opposites: Is your product or service noteworthy because its usefulness is not limited to a specific demographic, a narrow problem, or a specific niche?


Do you primarily offer a product?
Physical items

Do you primarily offer a service?

Can you offer:
Your product as an upsell/downsell from an existing service?
Your service as an upsell/downsell from an existing product?
Can you emphasize a service you provide where others only have a product?
Can you emphasize a product you provide where others only have a service?

Are you the “thing” for sale?

If your primary offering is a product or service (as opposed to your own skills), what elements about yourself are unique that you can talk about or emphasize with respect to the product or service you provide?
Your knowledge/skills
Your experience/story
Your unique personality
Your particular demographic


Can you promise something special about what your customer will get from working with you?
The outcome
The finished product
The final result

Does your product or service have features included that competitor products don’t have?
Does your product cover content that competitors’ products don’t?
Is there something noteworthy about the ingredients or components that make up your product?

Track Record:
Do you have a track record that sets you apart from others?
The length of time you’ve been in business
The total number of customers you’ve served over time
The total number of units you’ve sold over time
The total number of procedures you’ve done over time
The types of awards you’ve received
The number of consecutive successes you’ve had
The length of time your product/service/system has gone without failure or breakdown

Does your place of business have an attractive, interesting, or unusual environment?
Do you have especially friendly or interesting employees or reps?
Is there a unique way that you present (or deliver) your product or service?
Is there about your packaging that’s unique?
Unusually attractive or fancy?
Easy to use or open or reseal?
Disposable? Biodegradable? Reusable?

What’s unique or noteworthy about your method?
Is it faster (when speed is important)?
Is it slower (when quality or age is important)?
Is it simpler?
Does it handle complexity better?
Does it result in fewer mistakes or problems?
Is it interesting to watch or read about?
Is it patented?
Does it have its own special brand name or acrostic?

Do you provide a higher level of quality that you can back up with data or proof?
Do you offer a lower grade or less elaborate product or service than your competitors, making it less expensive or more accessible?

Is your product or service more customized than what your competitors provide?
Is your product or service off-the-shelf and therefore less expensive or more convenient?

DIY vs. DFY:
Is your service completely “done for you”?
Is your service or product completely “do it yourself”?
Can you offer a unique combination of the above?

User Experience:
Does your buyer have an experience using your product or service that your competitor doesn’t offer?
Less rushed?
More friendly?
More private / less obtrusive?
More fun or humorous?
More serious / devoid of silliness?
More luxurious?
More simple/Spartan?

Do you offer a combination of product or service features your customer can’t find elsewhere?
Does your bundle include things that would be more expensive if bought separately?
Do you uniquely offer a la carte?

Is your price uniquely high, demonstrating exclusiveness or quality?
Is your price unusually low?
Do you give customers a unique or convenient way to pay?
Do you offer an attractive payment plan or payment options? 

With any or all of the above questions, ask:
Do I already have a unique angle here that I’ve just never advertised before?
Can I take this concept and create a new angle in my business that I can then advertise? 


Is there some unnecessary/unwanted element or ingredient your competitor’s product contains that yours does not? 

Is there some unwanted, bulky or cumbersome feature in your competitor’s product or service that yours doesn't have? 

Are there negative outcomes or side effects that your product or service successfully avoids or prevents? 

What unpleasant things can you reassure your customer that he or she will never have to deal with or worry about as a result of buying your product or service? 

Does your competitor’s product or service come with prerequisites for use or effectiveness that yours does not? 

Are there steps that your competitor’s service or product requires buyers to take, but yours does not? 

Is there some resource that your competitor’s product or service wastes that yours does not?

What promise or claim can you make about your product or service that is an opposite of what’s on the map? 

What can you say is not true about your product or service, in a way that your prospect will understand it to be a benefit? 

Your Buyer:
You don’t serve a particular kind of buyer or demographic.
You don’t solve certain types of problems.

Or, you serve everybody:
You don’t limit yourself to a particular buyer or demographic.
You don’t limit yourself to a particular type of problem.

What you’re selling:
Others require a service purchase; you sell only a product.
Others require a product purchase; you only sell a service.
Others push & promote themselves; you leave the personal stuff out of it.

Your angle:
You promise a different outcome.
You have no negative or undesirable track record.
There’s nothing inconvenient, wasteful or unnecessary in your presentation or packaging.
You leave out unnecessary or unhelpful features.
You don’t use any unpleasant methods, or methods that require or result in X.
You won’t allow anything below a certain quality level.
Competitors only do customized; yours is off-the-shelf. (Or vice versa.)
Others charge to do it for you; you offer a do-it-yourself version. (Or vice versa.)
Your customer will never have X bad experience while shopping with you or using your product.
You offer a la carte while your competitor only offers bundles. (Or vice versa.)
There’s nothing complicated, burdensome, or unethical about your payment plans. 


Is there a negative thing that you allow the buyer to solve, avoid or delay for an extended period of time?
“This filter won’t need replacing for 2 full years.”
“You’ll be symptom-free for 12 full hours.” 

Can you promise a permanent solution, or permanent relief?
Is there a negative thing that you can get rid of immediately, or quickly?
Is there a positive benefit that you can deliver immediately, or quickly?
Is there a necessary process to getting rid of a negative issue that takes time (hours, days, weeks, months), but which you make easier or faster?
“Corns gone in 5 days.” 

Is there a necessary process to getting a positive benefit, result or outcome (hours, days, weeks, months), but which you make faster or easier?
“By day 7 you'll have a full working knowledge.” 

For any of the above, what is a way that you can promise a better time frame than your competitor?

Can you promise a full refund?
Can you promise a portion of a refund?
Can you promise a discount on the next purchase? 

Can you promise a multiple of a refund?
Double your money back
Triple your money back
Your money back + $XXX 

Can you promise to replace it for free?
Can you promise to replace it with your competitor’s product or service, for free?
Can you promise to redo all or part of it for free?
Can you promise to hire your competitor to redo the service, for free? 
Can you promise a combination of these?
Refund + replacement
Refund + redo
Redo + replacement 

Can you make your “or else” conditional – dependent on action or completion of some set of required steps by your customer? 

Can you reduce risk to yourself by adding a time limit to your promise?
E.g., “up to 1 full year” 

Can you add more time to your promise?
“10 years or 100,000 miles” 

Can you make a lifetime promise?
Do your competitors offer any kind of similar promise?
What elements of your competitor’s promise can you do better than?

If you go through this exercise, you will most definitely end up with better marketing messages!
To bigger wins…more often,
If I Lost ALL Of My Marketing Resources In A Fire Today…
...and I had scheduled a “marketing consultation” with YOU tomorrow – here’s what I’d tell you:
7 Core Marketing Principles That You MUST Do To Grow a Successful Business: 
(1) Create a better offer…and remove as much risk as possible from your potential customer.

(2) Use “urgency” and “scarcity” in your offers where possible. (Don’t overdo it, but do it).

(3) Get your offer in front of your most “ideal” customer. Choose your media and your market wisely.  

(4) Collect contact information from your potential customer as early in the sales process as possible (so you can re-market to them).  

(5) Create 2nd and 3rd options for your customer to buy after they bought from you once. (Think value-ladder, up-sells, repeat business, residual income).

(6) Create a testimonial or review harvesting process…to get your customers to place their testimonials or reviews on various social platforms (Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc).  

(7) Find the 80/20 opportunities for growth in the “traffic”, “conversions” and “economics” of your business. These opportunities usually mean large growth with relatively little effort involved. 

To bigger wins…more often,
Was This Year Any Better Than Last Year?
(A "December" article.)
If you talk to 10 people, 7 or 8 of them will end up talking pessimistically about something within 15 minutes. Weather, government, taxes, etc…whine, whine, whine. 

I’m a “recovering pessimist” (which requires a daily/hourly decision to focus on good things)…but I still catch myself complaining about negative external things sometimes. 

However, in spite of our general pessimism, we entrepreneurs always expect next year to be better!

And it’s probably a genetic prerequisite to being an entrepreneur…because if you didn’t think that way you’d just give up and go get a job where you’d get paid pretty much the same every two weeks. You know, security right? 

Except entrepreneurs are more scared of KNOWING what they’re going to make EVERY payday. 

We (entrepreneurs) would rather believe in the possibility that we can beat the previous year…the previous month! That we can change the outcome…almost at will, but knowing that’s not really the case. 

We’re liberated by knowing there’s theoretically no ceiling to what we can make…and we choose to ignore that there’s also no basement…no minimum security blanket that will just show up in our bank account. 

So…we’re just a few days away from Christmas as I write this. 

How IS Christmas going to be for you this year? Better than last? A little more money in the bank? A few more bills completely caught up on? The Visa paid off for a change? 

I know for the most of you that’s NOT likely the case. 

So let me ask you this: What did you do different in your business this year to make sure it was going to be better than last? 

I’m going to be more specific…What did you do different with your marketing, than you did last year? 

If you did nothing different with your marketing this year, then your income is definitely going to be subject to the economic environment and everything else you want to blame your misfortune on. 

However…it’s on you, baby, it’s all on you! 

I say that freely because the same applies to me. No entrepreneur is exempt. 

So now that we’re here…the end of December…and things likely weren’t as good as you hoped they would be…WHAT are you going to do different in the coming year? 

If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting…


in-san-ity: “Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.” 

We’ve all done it. 

So, let me encourage you to do something different for a change. 

Next Christmas WILL BE DIFFERENT...IF you start doing something different NOW. 

As you laze around during the "12 Days of Christmas", repeatedly stuffing yourself, not quite sure when one meal stops and the next meal begins...spend some quality time thinking about this: 

- WHO were my most profitable, most enjoyable customers this past year?
- HOW (marketing/advertising method) did they come to be my customer?
- WHERE can I find more of them?
- HOW can I give them the best possible result so they'll happily pay me more money...AND tell all their friends about me as well?

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy (more profitable) New Year,
How Much Risk Do YOU Remove From Your Customer?
A weak offer is arguably the biggest reason small businesses fail. (And big businesses too.) 

Helping businesses create irresistible, risk-removing offers is one of my passions. This is one of the most effective antidotes to a small marketing budget. 

You might have defined your “ideal” potential customer very well. 

You might be using multiple media platforms to spread your message. 

Your website and landing pages might look beautiful. 

But, if you don’t remove enough risk from doing business with you, all that work you put into your marketing is wasted. 

If you don’t give them a very compelling reason to pick up the phone and call, you’re just one of a dozen options…perhaps one of hundreds of options. 

I’ll bet that if you look at your advertisements, or signage, and then look at your competitors’…you’re not going to see much difference. 

Oh, you’ll see differences in text and logos. Sure. But what stands out about your ads that make people want to pick up the phone and call YOU? 

How much risk do you remove from your customer?

You’ve got “Satisfaction Guaranteed” in your ads, you say? 

Big deal. That term is largely overused and most people won’t take you serious. (Now, if you clearly EXPLAIN how you guarantee it, and it’s actually impressive, that’s a completely different story.) 

You might be feeling frustrated right now as you’re reading this because you know how difficult it is to stand out these days. 

I’ve felt that myself. In fact, I still feel that every time I write an article or an ad. 

It’s not easy coming up with uniqueness in a world full of competition. 

Well…in one sense it’s not easy. 

In another sense, it very much is. You just have to have the guts to do it. 

Here’s the problem: In every transaction, there is risk to the buyer…

The buyer is taking out their wallet to purchase some product or service from you. And they are hoping that they won’t have buyer’s remorse afterwards. 

Here’s the answer to the problem: Remove as much risk as you can from your potential customer, and put it on yourself.

That’s why Walmart has a very impressive return policy. Amazon is the same. 

Now, you do NOT want to play Walmart and Amazon’s game of being the lowest-priced option. I believe in being the most expensive option…if at all possible. The only way to get there is to completely (or as much as is humanly possible) remove risk from your potential customer. 

This takes guts, and that’s exactly why most businesses fail miserably at this. They aren’t willing to put themselves at risk. 

The idea seems to be “Let’s just get the sale and if things go bad, we’ll just walk. You can’t keep everyone happy, right?” 

And that last part IS true. You can’t keep everyone happy. But it’s not too hard to keep more people happy than average businesses do. 

So, what guarantee or promise or removal-of-risk can you offer your potential customers? 

Can you offer a time-guarantee? A performance-guarantee? A taste-guarantee? A smell-guarantee? A result-guarantee? 

Sometimes a result-based guarantee is very difficult to make. If you’re in a medical profession it’s actually illegal in many cases. 

In the metal-fabrication industry, or roofing, or any business that offers a tangible product or service, it is relatively easy to put a time or performance guarantee on most of the deliverables. 

If you’re willing to take some (or all) of the risk in a transaction, the potential customer feels less-at-risk…which means they will feel more comfortable about buying from YOU…even if you are more expensive than your competitors.

You’ll lose a few of the cheap or broke customers, but they aren’t your ideal customer anyway. 

The people you gain will likely view time as more valuable than money, and will be more than willing to pay extra if your product or service performs like you say it will. These customers don’t want to waste time on unexpected, unscheduled service calls. 

Again, it’s not easy to remove all the risk from your potential customer because YOU now have all the risk. 

But check out your competitors. What risk are they removing? 

If none of your competitors are openly removing risk from their customers (and I don’t mean buried deep in the fine print), then there’s an opportunity in your industry for you step forward and be the obvious choice!

And here’s a tip: If you don’t feel a little sick to your stomach when you call to order the new signage and brochures, the ones that have a brazen risk-reversal offer on them in large letters…you haven’t removed enough risk from your customer! 

If your competitors don’t think you’re crazy, you haven’t removed enough risk from your customer! 

But it’s not really risky because you’ve done the math, right? 

You know that you’re only going to have to back up that guarantee about 10% of the time, and based on your increase in price you’ve more than covered that cost on the other 9 sales. 

Plus, you’re now getting more customers! 

Doesn't that make sense? As much as you may not want to agree, are you hearing little bells of “new understanding and agreement” going off in your head? 

I hope so. 

To bigger wins…more often,
PS – To summarize this whole article…if you want to remove your competition, simply remove more risk from your customer than your competition is willing to!
The Local Marketing Letter.
Observations, Insights and the Occasional Rant.
Jonathan Swan Marketing Footer Logo
Ph: 902-223-5557
E: jonathan@jonathanswanmarketing.com
Mailing Address: 63 Ardwell Avenue
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3R 1L7
The Local Marketing Letter.
Observations, Insights and the Occasional Rant.