Your On Again, Off Again Marketing Relationship

Remember in high school or college the couple that seemed to have a never-ending, on again, off again dating relationship? One week they’re on, the next week they’re off. The next week they’re on, the following week they’re off.

Well, in speaking with tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners, I’ve found that many have the same on again, off again relationship with their marketing. They do a few things to stir up business, then neglect the marketing and go to the “fulfillment” side of the business. When things start to slow down, they say to themselves, “I’ve got to do some marketing to pick things up” and they invest in marketing. The cycle goes on and on, with good times and bad times, ups and downs, but no real long-term progress occurs.

Does this describe your marketing relationship? If so, stop yourself, snap out of it. Because this on again, off again marketing style is certain to hold back the growth of any business.

If you’re serious about growing your business, and I assume you are, you need to come to grips with three fundamental small business marketing truths:

  1. You are a marketer, not a provider of product x or service y. You are a marketer.
  2. You are a marketer of information about the problems your product or service solves. You’re not a marketer of product x or service y.
  3. Your marketing must be “always on” not on again, off again. “Always-on marketing” is what you need to really grow your business.

Let those three truths sink in. I can promise you that the entrepreneurs and business owners who are most successful have adopted these three marketing truths. Get out of your on-again, off again marketing relationship and apply these marketing truths to your business. When you do, I promise you your business will grow faster.

* * * * *

Clate Mask, CEO of InfusionSoft About the Author: Clate Mask is the President and CEO of Infusionsoft. He loves to turn small businesses into big businesses. In addition to running the day-to-day operations of Infusionsoft, Clate also writes at the Infusion Blog about marketing and entrepreneurship topics.


Clate Mask Clate Mask is Co-Founder and CEO of Infusionsoft, a fast-growth software company that helps small businesses convert more leads, save time and manage more with less with its web-based software. He also is co-author of the New York Times best-seller Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy.

31 Reactions
  1. I have found myself doing this exactly. When I’m busy, I don’t make time to market. But when I’m slow, that’s when I focus on marketing. Good points, I know I need to focus my efforts better.

  2. Very good information, we should discuss and exchange ideas sometime

  3. I wrote on my blog about how create more time for marketing by outsourcing your fulfillment. This will enable you to focus on growing your business and not working in your business.

    Check it out here:

  4. Anita Campbell

    Hi Clate,

    What you write also reminds me of the people who start networking only when they need to look for a job. The time to network is when you DON’T need something from people. Then you will have a large and strong network of people built up that you can call on when it comes time to look for that job.

    Same goes for your business. You will grow more if you reach out and market even when times are good.


  5. This article brings up some good points. And marketing does tend to fall into an in-out pattern probably mainly because, as you said, the fulfillment side and daily task requirements kick in. Staying on point is key. I’d be interested to hear how others are balancing their marketing requirements in with their daily requirements – short of outsourcing it as someone above mentioned?

  6. “Marketing must be an ongoing, permanent, not sporadic, once-in-a-while exercise. EVERY DAY, you must perform at least one act of marketing.”

    And also: “you must realize that you are now a marketing company selling translation services, rather than a translation company that needs to market a service”

    As the saying goes: “Sorry for quoting myself”, but there you are. This is from my book “The Insider Guide to the Strategic Marketing of Translation Services”

    (“Great minds always meet… at the Top” LOL)

  7. I completely agree with your article and LOVE the analogy to the high school relationship. After watching this — and being frustrated by it for the bulk of my career. I finally asked the question WHY do so many companies run that on-again-off-again cycle? And what is it about the companies that have a perpetually “on” relationship with marketing that sets them apart. Here is my answer.

    Companies and entrepreneurs whose companies are a function of a clearly defined strength and unique benefit they bring to their clients — their marketing is always on, because their marketing isn’t some list of tasks and branding expenses — it is a function of who they are and why they exist. Companies with always “on” marketing know exactly who their ideal customers are and what’s important to them. Then – they go about the business of giving their customers a killer experience.

    So, I think if you have an on-again-off-again relationship with marketing, you need to revisit who you are, who your ideal customers are and what makes you unique. This should be relatively effortless and be activities you LOVE to do and not dread the task or the money.

  8. Martin Lindeskog

    Clate Mask,

    What’s your take on network marketing? Isn’t that a form of “always-on marketing”, creating a relation with team members, independent distributors, etc? One thing that is important is to listen to the other part. What “color” is that individual?

    Have you read Stefan Engeseth’s book, One – A consumer revolution for business?

    I look forward to learn the differences between a CRM system and eMarketing software.

  9. Good advice Cate. It is always interesting to me that marketing can be seen as ad hoc activities not as a vital function of everyday business life. As with anything if you have a plan with goals and actions etc in place each year it is a lot easier with less time and money spent throughout the year.

    I think Ivana makes a good point and too often when we need more business we look for new customers instead of focusing on retaining and expanding our business continually with our key customers or potential customers with the same profile.

  10. Sorry Clate, I left the l out of your name in my comment.

  11. Hey, great advice Clate. One interesting strategy that i have found is that businesses try to cut online ad spend budgets during slow seasons/periods. I NEVER understand their reasoning behind this decision.

    Today, the internet makes shopping for a product or service so quick and easy that your potential clients are shopping and making buying decisions months before they actually purchase. If your business is not advertising during the slow periods, when people are shopping, it will not be on their minds come purchase time.

  12. Clate – I just want to thank you again for that outstanding article – it really made me think – and inspired today’s post (which is similar to my comment). But to me, that’s the mark of an excellent article; one that gets your brain moving and ties elements and disperate thoughts together. That’s terrific. Sort of like a brain snack!

  13. Anita Campbell

    Ivana’s post can be found here (it didn’t trackback):

  14. Thanks for the great comments!

    You’re right, Amadou, that’s exactly the marketing mindset that’s needed: we are all marketers providing a product or service. That mindset is tough to truly adopt, but I’ve found it’s the difference between moderate success and phenomenal success

    Ivana, you touched on something that’s key: as marketers, we have to REALLY know how we’re unique, what value we provide, who our best customer is. That’s one of the first things I recommend business owners do: clearly articulate their unique selling proposition so that prospects know WHY they should work with your business.

    And as Anita, Martin, Susan and Ronnie indicated, marketing should remain “on” in good times and bad, through a variety of different methods–networking, customer communications, prospect follow up, etc.

  15. Chris, your question is a great one. HOW do we flip the marketing switch to “always on” in our business? I’ve had this conversation countless times with business owners. And I’ve been fortunate to see thousands of business owners make the transition from “business owner” to “marketer.” Here are my top five suggestions:

    5. Commit yourself to learn marketing. Become a marketing student. Invest in your business by investing in your marketing know-how. Some great resources are Dan Kennedy, John Jantsch and Jay Abraham. Google them and read their books.

    4. Don’t outsource your marketing strategy. It’s your passion. It’s your baby. You can outsource components of marketing execution, but don’t outsource marketing strategy. YOU own that. You need to decide your unique selling proposition, your market position and your market attack strategy.

    3. Generate demand daily. Marketing is demand generation. Do something, anything every single day to make your product or service more in demand.

    2. Establish and execute a marketing plan. Just writing down what you want to accomplish with your marketing and when is more than most small business owners take the time to do. If you want to take it to the next step, decide how much you want to generate in sales for a given period, what your lead-to-sale conversion rate is, how many leads you’ll need to generate, what sources you’ll generate them from and how you’ll finance the lead gen investment. Write down the plan, share it with others and live by the plan.

    1. Spend dedicated time out of the office to work on marketing. This is the best technique to turn business owners into marketers. Get off site. Go to a library, a Starbucks, a park, some place where nobody knows where you are. Turn off your phone. Don’t check email. Don’t access the Internet. Dig into your marketing. I recommend business owners start by dedicating a 2-hour block during the week. When I suggest this, I get a pained look from business owners. I remember that pain when I started doing this–what will happen while I’m gong? What about the fires? What about the customer that HAS to get ahold of me? All of that means you’re not making marketing a priority. Start with two hours a week. Over time, I’m willing to bet you’ll bump it up to 4 hours and then a full day. I spend every Tuesday off-site working to drive our business, working ON the business. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s hard at first, but it’s SO worth it. It changes the way you do business.

  16. What if you could recapture your ex lovers mind, heart and soul?…Wipe the slate clean? Turn back time? Even if you feel right now that your situation is too far gonetoo screwed up or just plain too darn complicated?

    You already know how hard it is to just even wake up and roll out of bed in the morning. You leave your radio off on your way to work because every song is a painful reminder of him. You can’t even bear to eat at the same restaurants you took her to. And if that isn’t bad enough, you have to cope with the loss of friends and family that are on “their side”.

    Did you know that most relationships can be salvaged? You may find it difficult to believe that almost every break up for whatever reasoninfidelity, plain old lost passion, loss of interest, a stolen heart and worse…even the worst situations you can imaginelike men serving prison sentences have salvaged their relationships. Yes, even Ex-cons have got back together with girlfriends and wives after being away for years!

    I have a blog that has more information on some of what I’ve been writing about on relationships. If you feel like checking it out, you can find it here: It’s entitled “The Magic of Making Up – 10 Tips to a Happy Relationship.”

    I hope you read my blog, it can improve on and possibly save your relationship.

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  18. Clate, thank you for responding to Chris by adding your 5 tips. They are really good suggestions that I will be considering in the near future. Number 1 and number 5 are my favorites by far. I agree, you need to step away with a clear head to tackle anything of importance.

  19. Thank you very much for your interesting article.

    Yes, companies need to let people know about the values it is providing to the customers. I have been impressed with your term “problems your product or service solves.” Absolutely, always-on marketing strategy must be needed for a company. At least, the businesses should have a strong and long term marketing plan which would bring out sustainable success for the companies.

  20. Susan Payton, The Marketing Eggspert

    Great article. I’m in marketing, and what I tell people is you have to plant your seeds now (in the recession) so that they’ll grow later. “I don’t have time/money” isn’t a good excuse. You can’t afford not to.

    If you need a Marketing Makeover, please visit and enter to win some great prizes that will help you boost your marketing during difficult times.

  21. I agree, Susan. The last thing a business owner should do in a recession is cut marketing. Heck, that’s what others are doing, so the airwaves are less cluttered and your message can get through more easily. I agree with you–keep planting the seeds.

  22. Deborah Chaddock Brown

    Clate, first, welcome to Small Biz Trends – right out of the gate you’ve started a string of great conversations. I agree with your consistency message and the fact that no matter what our product or service: we must view ourselves as marketers. I recently gave a speech 30 Marketing Tips in 30 Minutes and the first five tips were all about laying the foundation, creating a plan and then putting the plan on a calendar.

    If you calendarize your marketing initiatives you’ll be more inclined to consistently keep your name in front of customers and prospects – when business is good and not so good.

    You mention not farming out the marketing strategy for your business – I agree and would add one more thought: take your best customers on as partners in the creation of your strategy. Ask them what message, vehicle and timing clicked to inspire them to work with you or buy from you. If customers make the buying decision, shouldn’t we ask what message and which vehicle is the most likely to grab their attention?


  23. Great post, although seems that you left the meat of the post latter on in your response to someone. Maybe that was your intention but it seems wiser to include it within your main post, since not everyone will read every response (like I did). I have a feeling that you are posting these blogs to generate attention to the service that your firm provides, from a marketing perspective, all communication with potential clients should provide them not only with the communication of the problem, but also with the solution (which is your firms offering). Vague or hyped communication is being phased out by marketers with the ability to not only present a solution or problem, but who also have the ability to LEAD clients through the complexities they face on a daily basis.
    Pinnacl Communications

  24. Thanks for the thoughts, Jimmy. I didn’t intentionally withhold the “meat” of the article. Heck, I could have gone on for pages and pages, but I didn’t want to write a novel. It was already a pretty long post. You’ll find that I have plenty more thoughts to offer on the matter of marketing automation. It’s something I’m pretty passionate about… which is why we’ve built an entire business around it. 😉

  25. Thanks for the posts people, I always look for good ideas from the guys and gals who are in the trenches. Integrated system to support marketing provides the tools your people need to become champions!

    Keep the thoughts and Ideas coming

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