If your business is not converting lookers into buyers, perhaps you are sending out mixed messages and confused signals with your branding and marketing. Perhaps your brand has become muddied and disorganised over time as you became busy and focused on doing the work of your business.
If people can’t figure out who you are or what you do, then they won’t buy from you. Simple as that!
A tight economy is not the time to be sending out fuzzy messages. You will struggle for every sale and every customer. Then when the economy picks up you will be left behind wondering what happened.
Now is the best time to take a good look at all of your small business marketing material to check that it clearly reflects who you are and the clients you want to attract.
You want to wash off the mud, polish your message and add a bit of clarity. It’s time to check out your marketing and do a marketing refresh.
How do you do a marketing refresh?
First, gather all of the print marketing and collateral you have used in the past 6 months. That means getting a copy of your business cards, with compliments slips, stationary, envelopes, brochures, flyers, invoices and signs in your office.
Next, take photos of the front of your office/ building, as well as photos of what a customer sees when they look through your door and what they see when they go to pay at your cash register (if you are a store). Take photos of your pull-up banners, uniforms, outdoor signs and trade display materials.
Next, get copies of any answering machine messages and messages on hold. Record a few phone calls to hear how people answer the phone for your business and any background noise you may not be aware of.
Finally, take screen shots of every part of your web presence. Snap your website, your Twitter page, your blog, your Facebook page, your Pinterest page and any other places you are on the web.
By now you will have a massive pile of photos and paper. Now you get to let your inner pre-schooler loose with glue, scissors and cardboard.
Stick all of the bits of paper and photos onto cardboard. You are not trying to win the Archibald prize here; you just want to get all of these bits up in one place so you can clearly see everything at a glance.
I recommend one set of cardboard for your on-line presence, one set for your physical presence (office and displays) and one set of cardboard for your print presence.
Once you have finished with the scissors and glue, stick the pieces of cardboard up next to each other on the wall and take a good long look.
Play back the recordings one after each other and listen to what you can hear.
What are you looking for?
1. Consistency of branding
Are you consistent in your on-line, off-line, physical brand? Can you clearly identify that each piece of your marketing relates back to the same company? Do you use consistent colours and font? Many small businesses look like a patchwork quilt. Go for consistency to take your brand to the next level.
2. Clarity of branding
How clear is your brand? Can people see who you are at a glance? Does your logo stand out or is it the same as a million others? Can people identify who you are just from the images, words and language that you use?
3. Message reinforcement
This is where you dig a bit deeper. If you look at all of the bits and pieces, do they reinforce the key messages about who you are and why people should buy from you?
4. Are you unique?
Does all of your material show why you are unique in 140 characters or less (yes, Twitter is a great way to force you to rethink your elevator pitch). If you took away the company name, is your tag line different or unique enough to make people realise what your company does and to whom you serve, or is your tagline beige like “Your success is our success” or “We try harder”.
5. Is your language yours?
Are you using words that reflect who you are, or have you liberated words or attempted a marketing style that is not yours? If you are pushing 60, unless you have a beard and work full time in an artisanal cafe, you can’t pretend to be hip. It just comes off as fake.
6. Do you encourage action?
Does each marketing piece have a call to action louder than an AC/DC concert? Do you encourage action?
7. Do you make the most of every bit of real estate?
Do your business cards sell more than just your name and phone number? Do they have an offer on the back to drive traffic to your website? Do your brochures not only sell your business but also sell you as an employer (if turnover is an issue for you)? Does your online presence have up-sells for each sale just like a regular cash register?
8. Are you keeping pace with your competitors?
Your branding may have looked modern 5 years ago. But if you haven’t looked at your branding since, chances are that you will look dated compared to your competition.
9. Look with different eyes
Imagine you are a new customer looking at your business for the first time – what do you see? Now imagine you are a potential investor, and then a potential joint venture partner. What do each of these people see when they look at your business?
10. How does it make you feel?
When you look at these images and listen to the recordings, how do they make you feel? How do you imagine a customer may describe the feeling your business generates in them when they see these images or listen to your recordings?
The Branding Refresh Process
Why do you start your marketing refresh this way?
There is something very therapeutic about hunting and gathering your communication pieces together.
When they are in one humungous display on your wall, it is hard to skate over the mud or explain away the confusion. Your marketing problems stare you in the face and spur you to action.
So if business is a little bit quiet, go forth with your glue, cardboard and scissors and unmuddy your business waters.