The Power of Planning and Marketing: 7 Reasons Tentmaking Businesses Fail [Book Excerpt]

Poor Planning Paralyzes

It was a couple years back when an individual who was interested in starting a business in our city approached me. As we sat down he pulled out a few pieces of paper, which contained his business idea. He had translated the business idea into a couple of other languages for others to read it. After glancing over the proposal, I had a couple of questions come into my mind. Who is your target market? How will you make money on this idea? 

I was surprised at his answer! He said that he had done some market research and interviewed some of the people who might be interested in his product. They told him that there was no real market for his product. They said it was not needed or really wanted at this time. 

He then said something I will never forget:

“But I decided to move forward anyway with the idea.” 

All he had done for planning was to ask a few people. The people had told him that there was not a need for his product. However, he was still moving forward with the idea. Where was the business plan? This idea was doomed for failure.

Any time that you are going to launch a new initiative, planning is vital to its success. Think about the planning that goes into any presidential campaign! Consider the hours of planning for a wedding ceremony. How about the planning you did for your last family vacation? We all realize the importance of planning.

It is not my goal to teach you how to write a business plan, but from personal experience, make sure that you:

1. Show the opportunity or gap in the market that you plan to fill.

2. Demonstrate that you have done due diligence in the market research with true numbers.

3. Clearly illustrate through your financial documents that your business stands a good chance for success.

Planning is key to the success of any business. If you haven’t already, take some time to develop your business plan.

Rethinking your Marketing

If you spend any amount of time with me, you will quickly see my love for marketing. Over the past 10 years, I have become a student of marketing! Yes, I do find it interesting, however, there is a larger reason.

I believe that marketing is the biggest key to a successful business. It is the piece that most people fail to address. I have seen many great ideas and products, but without marketing and sales, the idea quickly dies. 

Lack of understanding in the area of marketing

Around 9 years ago, I had the opportunity to learn a very valuable marketing lesson. I had some friends who were starting a brand new business in the hospitality industry. They had an amazing product and their service was top quality. The only thing that stood between them and success was getting the word out. A business colleague and I offered to help them with a few marketing tools like a website and SEO (search engine optimization). They politely refused our help saying that they were confident if they just had a good product and service, the business would take off. A year later, they had lost a significant amount of money and their business folded. 

As I look back at this sad example of a tentmaking business that failed, I have become more and more convinced of one thing:

Marketing is one of the missing keys in most tentmaking ventures

I don’t think people intentionally ignore marketing; yet they lack a good understanding of the importance and necessity of it. As a result, they concentrate on providing a top-quality service or product, and neglect the need for marketing that would ensure the sales of their product or service. 

As I have coached a number of new tentmaking startups, I realize that most people just don’t have any idea about marketing. They have never taken the time to:

1. Think through who their ideal client is

2. Define the purpose of their marketing efforts

3. Develop a core marketing message

4. Determine what marketing vehicle (website, magazine, direct email etc.) is the best way to reach their intended audience

5. Design a clear “call to action” in their marketing materials

6. Create a marketing plan

Since I believe that marketing is perhaps the single most important key to any successful business, I encourage any new startup company to really concentrate on this area. 

Spend the necessary time and energy to understand the basic concepts of marketing and then apply these concepts in developing a marketing plan.

For those of you who are looking to learn about marketing, there are a number of excellent books that I would suggest to any new entrepreneur.

If you were looking for a great starter book, I would recommend “Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch.  If you follow the action points in his book, you will have a great start on a marketing plan. 

Perhaps the best overall book on marketing that I have read is “Guerilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levinson. This book contains an enormous amount of information that is applicable to large and small businesses alike.

If marketing is one of the keys to a long-term tentmaking business, then it is worth your while to commit to doing marketing well. Whether you do it yourself or hire a marketing person, you will find that marketing will pay off in the long run.

For more practical advice on business planning and marketing see Kindle eBook.

Excerpt from 7 Reasons Tentmaking Businesses Fail and How to Overcome Them – Lessons Learned in Business as Mission by Toby Miles. Kindle eBook, 2013 (excerpts from Chapters 5 and 6). Posted with kind permission.

From the book description:

book cover - 7 reasonsWhy do so many tentmaking businesses fail?

Have you ever wondered if tentmaking is a realistic model for missions today?

The head of a funding organization said to me, “I’ve been working along side tentmakers for 20 years and I have never seen a business that is profitable, sustainable, and effective in ministry! So why should we invest our time and energy into a model that doesn’t work?”

Since that time I have been asking myself?

“Is the model wrong?”
Is tentmaking a waste of time?
When we speak of Business as Missions, are we just talking about a pie-in-the-sky theory?
Did the Apostle Paul fail in his profession?

Absolutely not!

Tentmaking businesses have failed because of 7 foundational reasons.

These key reasons need to be identified and addressed to re-energize the tentmaking model.

And that’s why I wrote this book!

You won’t get a ton of business theory or strategy. This will only make you feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to move forward. Instead, I’ll share some real life stories from lessons that I have learned from my tentmaking experiences.

I will address the 7 key reasons that tentmaking businesses fail and offer simple points of action to help.

Reason 1 – Faulty Foundations
Reason 2 – I have to work?
Reason 3 – Financially Feeble
Reason 4 – Anyone got experience?
Reason 5 – Poor Planning Paralyzes
Reason 6 – The Mystery of Marketing
Reason 7 – Did you see that coming?

Would you like to know more?

Buy eBook on Amazon

About Toby Miles: Over the past 13 years my wife and I have been living in the Arab world as tentmakers. I have been involved in starting a number of tentmaking companies. Some of them have failed, some of them are limping along and some of them are thriving! With each new business venture, I have learned valuable lessons that I have included in my book. Sometimes it has not been until years later that I have been able to look back and recognize the reason for the failure. In 2010, we launched the Tentmaking Ideas website to offer business ideas, coaching tips, and resources for tentmakers. Our goal was to “reclaim tentmaking” for Christ. In 2013, we redesigned the site and launched it as Our goal is to empower the next generation of Kingdom Entrepreneurs. Feel free to check out our website for some valuable resources on Business as Mission.