Let me give you an example:

Imagine that you’ve always wanted to own a restaurant and even though you really don’t have the experience, the knowledge, or the capacity to make it work, you still desperately want to do it. You are, however, a brilliant chef. You cook amazing food and you can do it consistently day in, day out.

You spend your time and money as best you can – but you can only afford to rent space on a back street in your local town – yet this is your dream.

So, you rent the space, set up the restaurant, and open the doors anyway.

For the first week, the people who come are your friends and people you know – and maybe a few other people who happen to walk past and like the look of it.

For the 2nd week, you get fewer people as your friends have already been.

By the 3rd week it’s getting tough, but you might get your first repeat customer.

For most people, setting up a business is like setting up a restaurant on a back street in their local town. Despite all your hope, enthusiasm, and unlimited willingness to work,no-one even realises you’re there.

Many businesses start with selling to people they know: friends, colleagues, contacts, or people they’ve dealt with in the past – certainly many business-to-business companies do. As an agency, it took me over 12 months to pick up the first client who wasn’t someone I already knew.

There’s no doubt that the first few years are tough, but if you are persistent and consistent in your marketing it doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it does get better. And inevitably, if you get more people to buy from you, who then tell their friends, you get even more people to buy from you.

But, it’s not quite a snowball effect unless you are extremely lucky. Very few companies really build up enough momentum to be truly self-sustaining.

It’s more like turning an immense flywheel.

Imagine you are given the task of getting an enormous, spoked flywheel to start spinning and rotate. You begin, but it’s really hard. To get the wheel spinning even slightly takes all your energy, yet slowly but surely you get it round one rotation. The next rotation takes enormous effort as well, and the third and fourth. But gradually, as you build up speed and momentum, the wheel spins faster and it needs less effort from you.

In the end you can just keep giving it a quick push and it will keep spinning. That is the essence of marketing.

Effective marketing is how you start selling to people who have, until then, never heard of you. It’s how you tell people that you exist and then get them to buy once, twice, and so on.

Marketing is the way you go out, grab new people, and get them back to your real or metaphorical shop.

It’s how you open the door for them.

Let them see that you have what they want or need.

Then give them reasons to buy from you.

Ideally, marketing moves you from selling to people you know to people who have never heard of you.

As a quick excercise, imagine you are setting up a restaurant in your local town, write down a list of at least 20 things you would need to do to make your restaurant a success. I know you are probably not running a restaurant, but have a go anyway.

Try to write down at least 20 things.