Eric Gilboord has worked with hundreds of small and medium-sized business owners for nearly a quarter century. He is a management consultant, speaker, and has written hundreds of articles, seen in national newspapers and magazines.
He worked in ad agencies for nearly two decades, until he began a marketing consulting firm Soho Marketing in 1994. About four years ago, he moved to WarrenBDC, exclusively working with BABOs – Boomer Aged Business Owners – preparing their businesses for sale.
Gilboord’s newly-released Just Tell Me More is a book especially for entrepreneurs with little or no marketing experience. It is filled with stories, tips, advice, checklists and ideas, in plain language. Its stated aim is for the business person to become comfortable with traditional and new media marketing, sales, customer service, management, idea generation, business growth, and more.
What’s the first thing you’d say to someone about to embark on their marketing strategy?
Eric Gilboord: The key thing is that marketing is not complicated. It’s all about saying the right thing to the right person at the right time.
Marketing is one of the components of running a business. Sales, operations, finance, capital, human resources, they all go with marketing. When I was doing consulting, you could put a marketing program together, but unless the sales force was up on what was happening, and behind what you were doing, you were basically wasting your time.
Let’s say you get a marketing program, and your sales people were behind it. If operations wasn’t up to speed and couldn’t keep up with the amount of business you attracted, that would be a problem. If you did all that, and finance couldn’t keep up with costs of making more widget, then that is a problem.
What are common misconceptions about marketing?
Eric Gilboord: A lot of people go into marketing with preconceived notions. People will sometimes say to me, “I heard direct marketing doesn’t work,” which is a ridiculous statement. People wouldn’t spend billion dollars on something that doesn’t work.
But, it’s ‘elevator research,’ which means somebody heard from somebody.
I’ve been in public settings where there’s been a round table about marketing, and people will make those types of statements. The fact is, they have no idea what they are talking about.
But the misinformation in marketing is as dangerous as not knowing anything about it. Everybody believes themselves to be a marketing expert, by the way. Everybody who read an ad or participated in a meeting 20 years ago – they are a marketing expert. You end up with a lot of people who have no idea what they are talking about, and offering their opinions on it.
What I would say to somebody is, “forget what you think you know about marketing, and find out something.” There’s just so many different areas.
How has the online world changed marketing, and vice versa?
Eric Gilboord: Everybody thinks the ‘brick and mortar’ business is dying and they think everyone is buying everything online. That’s simply not true for many reasons. As a simple example, the souvenir business. No one goes online to buy a souvenir from Niagara Falls. You go to Niagara Falls, and then as part of the experience, buy a souvenir. We buy it from bricks and mortar.
In terms of believing the world is online, absolutely. But it’s a balance of being online and bricks and mortar. Otherwise, Target wouldn’t have their sales up five per cent.
It’s a fast-changing world. In marketing things seem to go more pendulum. They swing one way and then the other. When digital social media came out, everyone swung away from the traditional toward social media, then the pendulum swung back toward the middle.
I saw this a number of years ago, when Google ran magazine ads. It was kind of proof that the world was more digital. If Google was using it, there had to be something to it. Everybody thinks that if you have a website and social media, that’s all you need. You may do very well. I know businesses that do very well with just online advertising. But the truth is, they might be able to do even better if they experimented with traditional marketing.
Could you help differentiate between what is a good manager versus what is a great manager?
Eric Gilboord: A good manager gets the job done. A great manager does more than that.
A great manager, I think, helps to improve or increase the value of the individuals under them.
A good manager can be functional: You’ll make x amount of widgets in the next three weeks. But a great manager is more of a leader, and somebody that will encourage, provide support, mentor to the person making the widget, so that that person can train the person under them.
Or they can figure out a way of doing it better. It’s bringing out more from the people that are under them, and helping improve and grow as people and as a business. Let’s suppose ‘x amount of widgets’ is more about the staff themselves. A great manager, I believe, cares as much about the people as productivity.
What topics do you speak on?
Eric Gilboord: Increasing the value of a business before you sell or transition out of a company. I talk a lot to trusted investors, family, friends, associates, and owners of established businesses. These are people who have business 20 or 30 years old, and it’s time to start thinking about the transition. The conversation tends to be on the side of the owners, and those influencing the owner, and time to talk about transition, and how to make that exercise easier.
It’s a very difficult situation. So-and-so has been doing this for years, they built the business from the ground up and now they are at the age where they have to think about transitioning out.
That’s a difficult choice, when you’ve lived your adult life a certain way, and typically on something you’ve built yourself. Just to drop and leave — that is a very difficult emotional decision. A lot of the content in my presentation has to do with the emotional side, as well as the business side.
An entrepreneur you admire, and why?
Elon Musk. Fearless, out of the box thinking, not afraid to make mistakes, creates leaders.