No One Cares about Free Estimates

Have you ever paid for an estimate? Neither have I. And yet the marketing universe is full of badges, buttons and starbursts proclaiming their benefits:

No one cares about free estimates.

Promoting free estimates is like boasting about offering a toll-free number. It’s simply a cost of doing business, and customers won’t be persuaded to buy from you because of either.

Instead of wasting valuable customer attention with offers of free estimates, give them a unique, persuasive reason to contact you. It’s true that the marketing power of “free” is very strong, so consider free consultations or free upgrades as compelling alternatives. By thinking creatively, this one simple change will result in more customers reaching out, interested in your small business.

Eight Terrible Small Business Names

Small businesses have the great advantage of being unique and full of personality. Your small business’ name should highlight what makes your brand special. But some business owners go too far, try too hard or don’t think about alternate interpretations customers might have. From made-up words to edible children, here are eight examples of terrible small business names:

Swampwater Grill – If I found a grill in a swamp, I would not be inspired to cook on it. Restaurant names should at least attempt to sound appetizing.

Tender Tots Daycare – If restaurant names should sound appetizing, childcare center names should not.

ABC Systems, Inc. – Do they manufacture alphabets? This business name is so obscure, perhaps it’s a CIA cover organization.

Bleux Water Spa – “Bleux” is not a real word in any language (that I could find, anyway). I suspect the URL for Bleu Water Spa must have already been taken.

Scarlett O’Hair – Salons have a long and storied history of employing puns, and I do love a good pun. But something about this name is simply off-putting.

Mario’s Lord of the Wings – OK, I admit it. The pun for this wings’ restaurant is so terrible that I really, really like it. But can you imagine seriously recommending this place by name? Out loud?

Dress Barn – Not technically a small business, but this chain should have remembered the phrase, “big as a barn.” Alternately, the name implies that its customers might be cattle.

AAAA International Driving School – The days of racing to the top of the phone book’s alphabetical listings are over. It’s time to develop a more compelling name. Also, because this company operates in southwest Ohio, the designation of “International” is mysterious.

For entrepreneurs thinking about starting a new small business or rebranding an existing one, these eight examples give insight into what to avoid. Choose your business name carefully, because it’s the first impression customers have of your brand.

 

Just How Excited Should Your Marketing Copy Be?

At lunch yesterday, one of my favorite diners, The Echo, proclaimed some pretty extreme excitement over its new brunch cocktails. As you can see, there are exclamation points galore (Except for the Irish Coffee. Apparently, it doesn’t deserve any enthusiasm).

Seven exclamation points!

As a rule of thumb, seven exclamation points in about 50 words of marketing copy are too many. Your marketing copy should be interesting enough to customers that you don’t need to create artificial excitement with exclamation points. Understated use of punctuation will appear more confident, classy and trustworthy. Often, hype only serves to make your brand sound desperate.

Imagine this placard with no exclamation points. It would be a well-designed, appealing piece. The exclamation points don’t ruin it, but the effect would certainly be more powerful without them.

When Competitors Copy You

If your small business is at the leading edge of your industry, chances are competitors regularly copy everything you do. From innovative products to customer service standards to something as simple as the headline of an advertisement. Here’s one blatant example I found while flipping through Cincinnati Magazine of a competitor copying my client, Paramount Lawn + Landscape.

When a Competitor Copies You

How do you feel when you find instances like this? Maybe you feel frustrated, indignant or cheated. That makes sense. But what you should really be feeling is excited and validated.

If a competitor copied you, that means you’re doing something right. Something that works. You understand the market in a way the “other guy” doesn’t. That other guy can’t think of anything better, so he will always be one step behind you.

But you can’t rest on your laurels.

When competitors copy you, it becomes harder for customers to tell you apart. Perhaps customers can’t tell who will “Light Up Your Night!” best. It’s time to implement an even better marketing strategy and leave your competition, once again, in your dust. Until they copy you again, that is…

 

Marketing Strategy Trumps Marketing Execution

I once helped a small business that sent out poorly-designed post cards. Although the company lacked design sensibilities, its efforts were still incredibly successful because the marketing strategy was carefully crafted and spot-on. The lesson here is that marketing strategy is more important than marketing execution.

If a small business has a fixed marketing budget, I recommend prioritizing an incredible marketing strategy over an amazing marketing design. You have to understand the reasons you are communicating before it matters how that communication looks.

Here are some elements that are crucial for a successful small business marketing strategy,

Top Elements of a Successful Small Business Marketing Strategy

  • Identify your audience – Who are the customers or prospects you should reach out to? Who is going to buy from you?
  • Identify purchase behavior – Think about how customers will buy your product. Are they searching for it, or is it an impulse buy? Do certain events trigger purchases? Is it a gift?
  • Talk the customer’s language – What does your audience care about enough that will influence them to buy from you?
  • Media matters – Where will your customers see your messages and be receptive to listening?
  • Narrow your focus – You can’t be all things to all people. Narrow your focus to be memorable and meaningful to customers.
  • Measure and adapt – Measure your marketing success and make changes based on performance.

Once you implement a great marketing strategy, you should see your success grow. Then, you’ll have the resources to improve design and execution, which will help your success grow even more. Marketing execution is important, but it’s wasted without a great strategy behind it.

Why I Love Small Business Marketing

Why I Love Small Business MarketingSmall businesses are my favorite marketing clients. I love them!

With big businesses (and sometimes with medium-sized ones), there are so many considerations outside the actual process of making a product, marketing it and selling it to customers who want it. Petty politics and communication breakdowns prevent departments from working together. Budgeting can get fuzzy, with resources being spent inefficiently. And one person or group can only make so much of an impact in an organization of hundreds or thousands.

In contrast, successful small businesses emphasize results over personalities. Customers take center stage, and every marketing dollar can be spent for maximum impact. Small businesses are nimble and can put smart new marketing strategies into place right away. Working with these clients is incredibly rewarding, because we can see the results of our work together almost immediately.

Small businesses, focus on these strengths. These are the reasons I love small business marketing, and the keys for small business success.

Small Business Marketing Can Be Confusing

Check out this graphic of the Marketing Technology Universe from chiefmartec.com:

Small Business Marketing Can Be Confusing

With all these categories and marketing companies vying for attention, I can see why marketing is confusing for many small businesses. But it doesn’t have to be.

Forget about the marketing universe and focus on what matters to your customers. When you learn what your customers value and where they like to spend their time, you will have the answer to which marketing messages to craft and what media to use. Then, it’s pretty straightforward to choose a marketing partner.

Email Marketing is So Cheap

But it’s Not So Easy.

For $50/month, you can send marketing emails to 5,000 customers. If you send one message each month, it costs a mere cent per contact. Compare that to direct mail, which might be up to $1 per customer, if the volume is only 5,000 mailers.

Email marketing is so cheap that several of my clients have stopped direct mail marketing altogether. It requires careful planning to be able to do this, but the cost savings are enormous if you can.

Tips for Successful Email Marketing

  1. Lots of businesses engage in email marketing– which is why sending meaningful messages to relevant customers is critical to email marketing success.
  2. Know if your customers prefer video, picture, written or interactive content. Test different content formats to learn what works.
  3. It requires discipline to grow a great contact list. Everyone in your business should understand the value of getting a customer’s permission to add them to your contact list. Your information-gathering processes and tools must make it easy to gather email addresses.
  4. Your website should have easy-to-use forms for people to sign up for your newsletter or updates.
  5. Analyze your send reports and tweak your marketing messages based on customer response. No marketing campaign is perfect from the start. Watch the results and make improvements.

These are just a few tips to get you started with email marketing. Have questions? Reach out to me at amanda@zooinajungle.com

Marketing is Not Immune from the Law of Unintended Consequences

Coca-Cola has a bright new marketing campaign in Europe, demanding that people choose happiness over other mood states. As described in Adweek:

“The 70-second anthem by Ogilvy & Mather Amsterdam (it’s the office’s first work for the brand) introduces a new theme, “Choose Happiness,” and continues Coke’s tradition of casting itself as synonymous with joy. But it takes a more aggressive tone than usual. Not only can you be happy, you should be happy, right now, and all you have to do is reach out and grab it.”

It all sounds very aspirational and inspiring (if a little overwrought), until you take a moment to consider one particular advertisement, captioned “I choose happiness over years.”

Marketing it Not Immune from the Law of Unintended Consequences

One way of interpreting this ad is that the daredevil surfer has chosen to take risks in life– even if it means he might live a shorter life.

But another viewpoint might lead the customer to think drinking Coke is going to shorten your life span. But, hey, drinking Coke makes you happy, so you should do it anyway.

Whoops! Coca Cola’s new marketing campaign just stepped into the realm of unintended consequences. When planning your next marketing campaign, have some fresh eyes take a look, to make sure you are communicating clearly and effectively.

Is LinkedIn Right for Marketing my Small Business?

Is LinkedIn Marketing Right for my Small Business?A few weeks ago, we answered the question Is Facebook Right for Marketing my Small Business? Today we shift focus to a different social media marketing platform, LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a professional networking platform with social elements, like status updates, groups and those connection update emails I’m sure you have received in your inbox. These are free tools that can be used in small business marketing. In addition, LinkedIn also offers premium accounts and advertising options.

Before deciding to use the free tools or premium offerings, you should determine if LinkedIn marketing makes sense for your business.

When LinkedIn Marketing is Right for Your Business

  • Your small business is B2B. In this case, you should have a LinkedIn marketing strategy. Marketing efforts should focus on where your customers are, and I can almost guarantee your B2B customers are on LinkedIn.
  • You have a business brand. If your customers are businesspeople, LinkedIn is a great way to find them. Examples of ‘business brands’ include of professional development training or ergonomic office products.
  • You frequently need to hire new employees. If you need to market your business to prospective employees, LinkedIn has amazing tools to do so.
  • You are seeking investors for your business. It’s very likely potential investors are using LinkedIn, and you will want to build up your employees’ and brand’s credibility through LinkedIn.

When LinkedIn Marketing is Wrong for Your Business

If your business meets one of more of the following criteria, you can probably allocate your marketing resources elsewhere:

  • Your customers are consumers. 
  • Your customers aren’t businesspeople. 
  • Your business is local. Contrast this with Facebook, where local businesses thrive. LinkedIn typically isn’t used for staying up-to-date with what’s happening at local businesses.

Even if you don’t use LinkedIn in your marketing plan, it’s a great resource for finding and researching employees and partners. Also, you may find benefit by connecting with groups of other businesses in similar industries. Have questions about LinkedIn marketing? Send me an email: amanda@zooinajungle.com