Small business owners tend to travel in the same circles, where ideas and best practices are discussed and shared. One business owner will mention a huge success with a certain marketing tool, say, direct mail, while another boasts of their fantastic online campaign. An ad agency will discuss the importance of multi-level messaging, while your banker promotes the advantages of online distribution and sales.
Funny how life comes full circle. Small business owners can feel pressure from professional and personal peers to replicate “successful” business practices of other business owners, including marketing (usually advertising, not really marketing.) Just as when you were a child, simply because others are doing something does not mean you need to as well. Every business has specific traits, needs and budgetary limits, which requires a specialized and personalized marketing plan, based on YOUR business needs.
Often, the decision to replicate others comes from lack of time to do the proper research to make informed decisions, a lack of knowledge about the topic, or both. As I’ve stated before, small business owners need to excel at what THEY know best, and delegate everything else to others. If marketing is not your area of expertise, reach out to a marketing professional to help you determine which marketing tools are best for your business… but not if you’re doing so just because everyone else is.
My wife would get coupons from her favorite mall-based department store with a list of exclusions and restrictions so long, I questioned what, if anything, the coupon could be used on. Right now, I can pay $5.49 for ONE 12-pack of soda, or $9.99 for three – Really!
There is a nationally based stand-alone department store chain who has sales so often, people now know to NEVER buy anything at regular price. A local furniture retailer is so kind, they will give you one, sometimes even two, dollars for each dollar you spend at their store.
It is nearly expected that businesses offer sales, discounts, special offers, promos, loyalty programs and more to their customers. When you decide which, if any, offers you would like your business to provide customers, be careful of the message your offer(s) will project.
Does it provide real value – Not to you, but to the customer? Does it incentivize the customer to act with urgency? Is the offer confusing? Does the offer devalue the product or service? Does the offer blur the true value of the product or service?
Special offers are as much of a brand identifier and builder as other forms of marketing. When developing special offers, determine what that offer needs to accomplish for your business (short sales burst, reduce overstock, etc.) Ensure it has value to customers and does not conflict with your business model or brand messaging. Step back, digest the offer, then ask yourself – Would YOU find this offer appealing? If the answer is ‘No,’ then you need to create a better offer.
When the wealthy man Chance works for dies, all servants are sent packing, and Chance is left to survive on the streets on his own. At one point, Chance is struck by the limo of a wealthy business man, at which point Chance’s simple life changes.
When asked his name, Chance replies, “Chance, the Gardener,” which others perceive as “Chauncey Gardner.” Every time Chance is asked a question, he answers with simple gardening tips or lines from a TV show, which are interpreted by others as highly insightful thoughts of a wise, cultured man.
Soon, “Chauncey” is on TV talk shows and advising the wealthy and political elite. His thoughts are viewed as intellectual genius, a simplified summation of complex issues of the day. While Chance never attempted to be anything but a gardener, the perception of him was “Chauncey,” insightful genius.
What does ANY of this have to do with marketing and small business? Like it or not, one can spend great effort on branding and marketing their business, but in the end, consumer perception IS who you are – True or not.
Do you know the perception of your business? Ask around, or have your friends, family members and business associates ask for you. Make sure the perception of your business is in line with your reality.
Further, are you helping or hurting your perception? Think of ALL the things which help consumers form their perception – Storefront, website, pricing, phone message, leaving your “Open” sign on overnight, interaction with your employees… All these items play a role.
As much as owners attempt to direct the perception of their business, the possibility exists for it to grow organically, forming and spreading like a rumor in high school. Stay on top of, and in touch with, the perception of your business, or reality may hit you one day like the limo did to Chance.
Read. Learn. Laugh.
Random thoughts, comments & opinions.