I have “a range” of things I’m comfortable making (and many things I am not), covering breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. The other week, I decided to make a nice Sunday breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast for me and my wife. My bacon is legendary (it’s all in temp and technique) and I am a scrambled egg champion (ask me to fry a couple eggs over-easy, however, and I’m lost.)
As I proudly served my wife her plate of my “epic” bacon and champion scrambled eggs (both self-awarded titles), she made the following comment…
“I’m so excited. I love your toast! You make THE BEST toast ever!”
Now, I have no idea if I make “the best toast ever,” but my wife does, and let’s be honest, that’s all that really matters in my world, right? But, why does she think this?? My guess is that I actually put some work into my toast.
You see, the people who invented toasters have designed ALL toasters to never toast anything to the actual setting you set them at, nor will they ever toast things evenly, no matter how many slots or settings they have. Knowing this, when I make toast, I use the “flip & rotate” method. This involves popping the toast out manually several times during the toasting process, flipping front to back, even rotating which slot a slice is placed. The outcome is beautiful toast every time.
Toast is simple and basic, not all the exciting or new, yet, when done right, can become a headliner. Marketing holds these same qualities. As I’ve said many times before, marketing need not be complicated nor expensive. What it needs is a commitment to be done well and done right, like my epic toast.
During the most recent election season, I had three different candidates knock on my door, ready to speak with me about their position on a variety of topics. I spent no more than 5 minutes with each of them, yet that interaction proved far more effective than any TV ad, robo call or mailer. Doesn’t get much more basic than going door-to-door to deliver a message. (I should have offered each of them some of my epic toast, see if they agree with wife.)
Whether a small business owner, part of a non-profit leadership group, or one person just getting started, don’t get frustrated if your marketing isn’t elaborate or expensive, or feel like you need that for it to be successful. It could be a basic referral program to facilitate word-of-mouth, or a simple direct mail postcard to select zip codes, even an email to your list of contacts, current customers or past donors. Whichever option works best for your situation, just be sure to “do it right,” that is, take the time and effort it requires to be successful.
liked THIS place. We formed this opinion after dining at multiple options in our area. Now we’re looking for a new place and have asked others for their input.
Some rattled off names, like we just moved here and needed a summary of the local Mexican restaurants, while others told us about all the places NOT to go. For those who provided a suggestion, all stated it was the “best” Mexican restaurant around and it had the best (name entrée here) they’d ever had.
My wife and I had eaten at some of the suggested places, and I assure you, they did NOT have the best (name entrée here) I’d ever had, not even close. How is that? How can a place have both the best and worst of something? Why is a place a favorite to one and on the “Do Not Go” list for others?
It’s their glasses, or in other words, the lens through which they see the world. One set of lenses sees the best burritos in town, the other, not so much. Every four years, roughly 50% of our population thinks one political candidate should be President, the other 50%, not so much.
We all have a lens through which we view the world. It has been formed over years and influenced by any number of factors. Your product, your service, your marketing message… All are viewed through the lens of customers. Understanding and knowing how you want your product/service viewed is critical, just realize not everyone else will see it that way… and that’s OK.
There are many reasons why Toys R Us failed. Some were of their own doing, others due to forces well beyond their control. I always viewed Toys R Us as a “Life Moment” type of business. When our son was between the ages of 4 and 10, we hit Toys R Us - HARD!! We’re talking multiple visits per month, if not for us then we were buying gifts for birthday parties or Secret Santa. We spent A LOT of money at Toys R Us during those years.
Toys R Us was a great fit for us, at that moment in our life. Once that moment passed, we simply were not going to shop there, regardless of how amazing the offers or incentives were to shop there. Toys R Us no longer matched a moment in our life. When our son has children, or when we become grandparents, the life moment would return, but there are many dry years in between.
There are other examples of “Life Moment” businesses, many dealing with hobbies or leisure activities. I used to spend money at a local photography store, others might have been into biking or kayaking, and you have your health club and gym memberships. While there are “lifers” in all these industries, many customers in each will come and go as their needs and interests change.
Think about your business – To what level is it a “life moment” business? Once a customer always a customer, or are there other factors affecting your customer count? Ensuring your marketing helps provide a proper balance of existing and new customers is smart. When planning your marketing, be sure to maximize your current customer base while you have them, but never ignore the necessity to continually grow your base.
beast. There is a valuable marketing lesson to be learned from the mighty piñata, or more specifically, the exhausted children seeking the candy inside.
View the piñata as the general marketing public, and the candy inside is your share of customers for whatever widget or service you offer. The broomstick represents a marketing message trying to reach those customers. Wham! Broomstick hits the piñata, or, message sent to potential customer. How long do you keep swinging? In the case of children and piñatas, they don’t stop until the candy falls. As it relates to marketing, I would argue the same “Piñata Principle” should apply.
While everyone would like a single marketing message to make “candy fall,” we all know that’s not the case. Research indicates multiple messages are needed – Repetition is a proven marketing approach. Those who take one swing at the piñata hoping for immediate results will be disappointed, unless they possess immense physical strength (brand awareness) or an oversized broomstick (large budget.)
In the world of small business, results are far more plausible through a committed, repetitive, well developed marketing plan which allows for multiple swings at the piñata. If you know the candy is there, make sure you have the stamina to take enough swings to reach your goal.
At their peak in 2004, there were over 9,000 Blockbuster stores worldwide. There are now less than 10 in the US, and less than 20 worldwide.
It’s funny now, looking back on those Blockbuster days. The entire video rental process was rather involved... and costly. Deciding on Thursday if you wanted to rent a movie for the weekend so you could “get a good one;” hoping a new release would be available, then sadly strolling through the genre sections trying to agree on the “Plan B;” paying $4-5 per movie for something you may or may not enjoy; and the inevitable late-night rush to return the movie before midnight to avoid the late fee. Interesting fact - In 2000, Blockbuster made $800 million just from late fees!
Now, we can pay as little as $10 a month for a streaming service which offers so many movies you couldn’t even watch them all in a month, plus no trips to a store, no rewinding, and no late fees. What a difference a decade makes.
This progression has not been limited to our movie rental habits. Think of the massive changes in the world of marketing and advertising. Companies used to fight over page position in phone directories. Fortune 500 companies would spend huge amounts of money advertising on TV and radio. Now, you can buy an ad which runs before someone watches a video online, put an ad out on a world wide social network of billions of people, or send a personalized message right to someone’s Inbox.
As you review your marketing and advertising strategy, be sure to identify any VHS technologies you may still be using. Are they really helping? Are they cost effective? Is there a better way to communicate your message to the audience you want? Don’t be caught using VHS while your competition has moved on to streaming services. If nothing else, you’ll save on the late fees.
Since we chose a restaurant with multiple locations within 15 minutes of our house, we began discussing which location to visit. I suggested the one closet to our home, to which my son mentioned the awful service we continually get there. He suggested another location not much further away, to which I reminded him how that location seems to always mess up our order. We finally agreed on a location further away, but where we seem to get good service and our orders are correctly filled, less one or two minor issues.
Same food, same brand, far different experience based on location. Why? The people. My bank has three locations the same distance from my home, yet I always go to the same one. Why? The people. You had a choice of five different firms to help redesign your office, but you chose one over all others. Why? My guess, their people. It’s ALWAYS about the people.
Now, if we’re talking “Big Box Chain,” the issue is muted. They will still get your dollar/their money, just from one location over another. But suppose you’re a local pizza joint, and people are avoiding your business due to employees, and instead, are spending their money at another local pizza joint nearby. Not so good for you, great for the other pizza place.
Whether you serve pizza, sell shoes, design websites, clean carpets, or offer tax preparation services, the single most important marketing factor is your people. A great owner with a great business needs to hire great employees to ensure great service and a great experience. I understand many other factors help determine the success of a business – location, pricing, competition, etc. – but the core value of your business is always your people.
You don’t need a degree in consumer behavior to know when you’ve received excellent or terrible service. The right people make all the difference, regardless of the industry or the situation, and will always be the best marketing asset for your business.
There’s a national chain near me which starts with K and ends with C, several grocery stores which serve chicken from their hot deli, and a few “sit down” eateries where I could go with a carry-out option. It was getting later in the evening, so I chose the quickest and nearest option, my local grocery store. Upon arrival, I was met with a near-empty display case of chicken, then given a 30-minute wait for a fresh batch. I passed.
On my crabby, angry, and hungry ride home, the truth hit me – There are not many options in my area for quality fried chicken. A national chain and grocery stores, but after that, I’m dealing with higher costs, or longer wait times, not to mention the hassle of trying to get it home hot & crispy. If I only had the time and money, and made delicious fried chicken….
Where is the “marketing” in all of this? All business owners should always be on the lookout for ways they can differentiate their business from the next. Those unique traits are a great way to market yourself. While I do not have a client who sells chicken, if I did, I would be sure to point out the lack of quality options in my geographic area, and the opportunity to market their chicken to that crowd. If someone started promoting fried chicken in my area through commercials, or a postcard with a coupon, I’d be there.
When you’re out shopping, dining, taking your child somewhere, your dog to the park, and so on, be on the lookout for opportunities to create a unique message for your business. It could revolve around pricing, parking, customer service, selection, quality, or the availability of quality fried chicken. Knowing where you excel and how you’re different not only assists with your marketing, it helps you stayed focus on the core competencies which make your business successful.
What was designed to be a positive interaction for you and that business has deteriorated into a complete mess of poor communication, planning and implementation. It has become frustrating for both you and the employee – Certainly not the intended outcome.
A great deal of time, effort and dollars are spent marketing to the general public and past customers, however, one group is often overlooked and forgotten… Your employees! Ensuring everyone within the company has knowledge of your marketing efforts, from the person answering the phone(s) to the cashiers ringing up a sale, is a key element for success.
All employees should be given a summary of the key facts (dates, offer, coupons, etc.) for each promotion, sale or special offer you advertise. I have also found it beneficial to provide some “big picture” perspective as well, for example, “We’re trying to collect as many emails because it will be cheaper and easier to reach customers moving forward.”
Having everyone one aware provides for a better customer experience, makes all employees feel like they’re part of the team, and makes it easier to get “buy in” and support from every level within your company. Treating employees like customers will help keep your team focused and on point.
The other day, I stuck my hand in the mailbox and out comes a card… Bright red with big, bold, white text that says, “FREE CAKE.” I was all in. I didn’t care if it meant I had to eat Kale – raw – I’m going to get my free cake.
It was a mailer for a restaurant trying to get me to sign up for their “Birthday Club,” and trust me, I will be. I enjoy this particular restaurant AND I get a free piece of cake... Um, awesome!
I mention this piece for two reasons. First, contrary to certain opinions, direct mail is NOT dead. Advancements in digital printing and creative postage options can make it a great solution for the right business/situation. Second, this piece illustrates the importance of, “It’s not always what you say, but how you say it.”
Had I received a piece which said, “Join Our Birthday Club Today! Sign-up Online and get a FREE piece of cake,’ I would not have reacted to the piece the same way. While the purpose of the piece is to get my email, and have me spend more money at their restaurant, the focus and/or message of the piece was the FREE cake – And it worked!!
Great marketing is a mix or art and science. Metrics can drive part of the process, but without great ideas and creative thinking, the message can miss the mark. As you begin to plan your next marketing project, don’t be afraid to “hide” the obvious within something fun and creative. A message can be delivered in many ways – Find a method which delivers results, regardless of whether it seems obvious or not.
What I was asking was if they were ready to absorb an increase in business if all these great marketing ideas work. Will they be able to handle the increased work load and customer base? Is your website setup to properly and efficiently funnel customers? Take orders? Take payment? Do you have the time for 3-4 new client appointments each week AND keep doing the work you need for current customers?
Small business owners often focus so much on the growth they overlook the logistics needed to handle that growth. A responsible marketing partner will help small business owners identify what I like to call “marketing whiplash,” the potential of increased marketing and/or advertising causing an overwhelming amount of new business, orders or customers.
A solid marketing plan can provide incremental targets and goals, which can help regulate the growth seen from it. Ensure your rush for success and growth is not actually setting yourself up to fail, or your potential new customers. Figure out where your “trouble spots” might be, then ask yourself, “Am I ready?” If the answer for some is, “No,” determine what steps need to be taken to get you ready.
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Random thoughts, comments & opinions.