Is it really that extreme? Yes it is. As a small business owner, every aspect of your business must be seen in the best light. If one thing is off, you could lose customers forever one-by-one. Just like a bad review can ruin your business, a negative brand image or worse, an unprofessional brand image can be a negative mark on your reputation that is difficult to remove. That is why your brand, public image and marketing strategy must accurately reflect the type of business you aim to be running.
Recently I began working with a small retail business on behalf of a client. It just so happens the small business had just been purchased by a new owner and the new owner was trying to do everything with no money. The business, which is a small, suburban, retail store relies heavily on consumer engagement so a major aspect of the business SHOULD be marketing. The previous store owner had pretty much given up on the location, so customers stopped coming in long ago. So it would seem the new owner would have be focused on putting his best foot forward as soon as he assumed ownership of the location. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
After speaking with the store owner a few times, I explained to him that he could be doing a lot more to promote the business other than opening the door every day with the hope that customers would fall in with their credit cards in hand. The business needs a rebrand initiative to separate it from any negative views of the previous owner, a new modern website, and most importantly a professional and engaging marketing communications strategy to promote in-store events.
I recently received what was supposed to be a newsletter/event calendar from the store via email. When I opened the email, to my horror it was it was not a newsletter, it was something far worse. You see the store owner has been so busy managing operations trying to rearrange the store and review inventory, he has has totally dropped the ball on his marketing and communications. The email I received was sent from a GMail address in a regular text email format without store branding and it had four separate word documents attachment labelled for each event with no branding. Receiving an email attachment is the kiss of death for email marketing and worse, getting four word document attachments with just a single 100 word item in each of them is just insane.
I called the store owner to offer advice and support. Unfortunately, the store owner only offered excuses for the lack of marketing effort. He thanked me for calling with advice but said he was too busy trying to clean up the store and has no time to deal with what I view as the most important aspect of running a retail store – its branding and marketing. I offered to help the store owner for a nominal fee to develop an e-newsletter template he could use going forward. Even with my offer to basically do the work for close to nothing the excuse was he “doesn’t have time to deal with it.” What was more troubling is the store owner said the people who received the email know his situation and are okay with it. So the people who know the store owner knows he sucks right now – that’s not good. What about other people who end up with the email?
Investing in positioning your company with a strong and professional brand is the cornerstone of your long-term success. Remember your customers are also other company’s customers and many of those companies are major consumer brands that spend millions of dollars annually enticing them with engaging branding and strong messages to get their money. If you are holding off on branding and marketing ask yourself these questions: If your branding and marketing is not important when you first launch your business when will it be? If your brand image at start-up is known as unprofessional and cheesy, how much will you be willing to invest in the future to overcome those negative views? If you are too busy running your business to focus on branding and marketing TODAY when do you expect to have the time – when the business is failing? By then it will be too late.
You don’t have to take time out of your busy schedule to focus on your branding and marketing strategy. Let a professional help you. Today there are many affordable public relations, marketing and branding pros, like myself, that work within budgets small businesses can manage. Don’t make excuses as to why your marketing sucks. Acknowledge what you need early on and partner with a marketing professional to take care of it for you. Do this now and your future self will thank you.