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Look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? We never really see the same image others do. The reflection is, instead, the reverse of what others see. Curiously, how we emotionally connect to the visual presentation that is reflected (versus how others view us) is often far removed from other perceptions as well. When what we see before us is distorted even more than what would be considered reasonable—typified by deeply negative or critical feelings—we could be subject to a disorder called dysmorphia. Dysmorphia is based off the Greek word for “bad form” and means “malformation; an abnormality in the shape or size of a body part; also called dysmorphism,” as defined by Dictionary.com. Similar to a person who has dysmorphia, a company can have marketing dysmorphism.

Not paying attention to the true reflection of how consumers see their business can lead a company to develop unrealistic expectations for revenue increases or keep them from creating more efficient revenues streams for products or sales projections. Often companies don’t make a move to better results if perspectives on their business model are insufficient, broken or simply wrong. And many times when they finally do, it’s late in the process, and the crippling damage has been done.

Similar to thirst (If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated), if your company is showing signs of stress or lack of production, you likely are already showing signs of marketing dysmorphia.

Some ways you can tell if your business may have an improper view of itself or how well your marketing spends are doing include:

1. Lack of metrics to gauge success of marketing spend. Do you simply spend money on Google AdWords and measure how many clicks you get? Or do you look at visitor conversion rates, create specific URLs for name capture, understand the impression count, have several ads running with variations and so on? What may look like an easy an easy ad spend to generate leads could simply be another leak of funding for your company. You have to tie your ad spend to metrics that make sense for your specific business.

2. Using free sources is good enough. While startups may find they need to use freebies as solutions for their company, if you desire to grow as a company (or if your company is already larger) you need to invest in your company branding the right way. Elevate your position in the consumer’s eyes by using paid and white labeled versions of business solutions. Don’t use Gmail unless it’s branded with your company. It’s important your email is branded with you company domain name and not with Gmail’s name. (It looks unprofessional when a business email doesn’t end with the company name). Don’t use Wix, WordPress or any other free web solution, unless you have control of the domain and branding on that page. Don’t let your company become an advertiser for that “free” source.

3. Similarly, many hosted free website builders are limited in the SEO functionality they give their client because their main job is to drive traffic to themselves, not to you. Be leery of solutions that require the third party name to be in the domain address. It can create a false sense of traffic generation for your company.

4. Mass mailing or print solutions can be fool’s gold with the promise of circulation or distribution. Understand that inclusion isn’t always the best thing for your company. Yes, you may get included in a distribution to 300,000 people. But several questions remain: Are many other hundreds of businesses included in that distribution? What is the conversion rate? What levels of inclusion require upgrade to simply separate from the rest of the crowd? Sometimes, the lesson to learn about mass anything is that it costs less per exposure or piece because you are included in a larger pool of competitors that seek the same low cost.

5. Don’t outspend your business because you’ve experienced some growth. Growth can be a destabilizing thing if not looked at properly. Be careful of not playing with “big boy” spending too soon, or it can hurt your bottom line. The lure of more significant results takes time and repeated effort. Make sure your business cash flow is durable. Remember a good rule of thumb—it’s better to burn longer than brighter.

How you view your company’s position in the market place is important. Equally important is understanding if your view reflects that of the consumer. Don’t outpace, underestimate or misinterpret the data you receive regarding your business. From comments to business cash flow—everything can be an indicator of your company’s true reflection. Create a better business strategy by keeping a pulse on those indicators and avoid marketing dysmorphia in your business growth.

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