By Mark Aselstine

Everyone I know that owns a small business is tired of the same thing I am.  Being sold things that simply don’t work for us, by people that haven’t given a single thought to what’s on the other side of the email or phone. Here are a few things that I’ve been sold lately which haven’t made much sense.

1. Fulfillment Services

This is by far the most common.  I have come to be convinced that there is a cottage industry involved in selling fulfillment services to subscription businesses. Especially if you’re selling your products and boxes on sites like Cratejoy, you’re going to get virtually bombarded with offers.

Why is this frustrating for me? I own an online wine club and wine sales are among the most heavily restricted in America. All of these fulfillment places aren’t willing to give me a small section of their warehouse that’s properly permitted. Oh and it’s wine, so I need a consistent temperature, as well as, humidity.  As you might expect, no fulfillment company that’s reached out to me at random, has taken even a minute to think about what my specific needs might be.

If you are a business which could, in theory turn to outsourced fulfillment, there’s a number of great guides out there including this one by Weengs.

2. Content Writing

Ok, I get it.  Content marketing is AWESOME.  It works. It’s the only real and true long term SEO strategy that we can all rely on.  That being said, I’m in a pretty specific niche. I get pitched content writing all the time.  Like every day, or maybe even every few hours. It seems a lot of freelance writers like wine a lot.

You know what they also seem to like even more than wine?  Free wine. Unfortunately, I think that’s part of what they’re looking for.  But, how can you write about the West Coast wine regions that I cover, if you happen to live somewhere in the Midwest, or the East Coast?

As you might expect given the potential dollars at play, there’s a ton of great ways to learn about content marketing and content creation.  You can start for free, which makes sense for every small business I’ve ever come across.

3. Bookkeeping

This may be my least favorite.  Normally, the pitch starts something like this, we’ll do better than your current bookkeeper! Just send us a copy of your most recent bank statement and your most recent credit card statement to see how.

To start, I handle this internally.  For quite some time our accountant doubled as our bookkeeper, until we realized that the additional bookkeeping fee was running close to $400 a month on average, or close to $5,000 per year.

Why was that silly for us?  We receive a daily deposit from each of our credit card processors. There are three of them. One from our own website, one from our Cratejoy store, and a final one from Amazon.  Each of the three send us a nice tidy account statement when the end of the month and the end of the year comes around.  So there’s literally zero work for anyone to do here. It’s all automated.

Our expenses are slightly more complicated, of course, but really we have less than 30 transactions a month and pretty much all of them fall into one of three categories: purchasing goods for sale (i.e. cost of goods sold), packaging supplies, or shipping expenses.

I like saving time, but the entirety of keeping track of these transactions costs me about an hour of time.  I know outsourcing bookkeeping can be cheap, but it’s not cheap enough or efficient enough to be worthwhile in this case.

4. Social Media

Yeah, I know.  We’ve all gotten the same pitches.  Probably from the same companies. Really, the biggest issue for me is that much like my complaints about content marketing services, those pitching me their social media expertise, either don’t come across as experts, or aren’t very familiar with wine.

Here are a couple examples: You’re pitching me a Twitter management service when you yourself have only a hundred followers, or clearly are only gaining followers by following people first, on top of not noticing stuff like my verified profile. It’s going to be a short conversation. On Facebook, you’ll have to tell me how you plan to create and share unique and engaging content centered around wine, if you live in the middle of the Midwest.

5. Credit Cards, Personal Loans, Business Lines of Credit, All Other Financial Services

If you’re some random guy (it’s always a guy) in New York who found my phone number on my website, just stop. If I needed a financial product, I’d speak to my banker.

As you can tell, frustration about always being sold something can creep in for small business owners.  If you’ve made it this far and are still interested in selling me something, you’ll notice that there’s one thing that you can easily do, which will dramatically increase your possibility for success: personalize what you’re selling for me and my business.

Photo credit: Aggravated man with his hand up from pathdoc/Shutterstock