Big Businesses Just Don’t Get Customers

Small Business Maintains the Marketing Edge with Customer Engagement

In a recent poll with 58 senior-level retail executives, a mere 10% listed store associates as one of the top factors affecting their brand’s customer engagement.

Instead of the people in their stores, 63% of retail executives chose “Brand image/marketing” as a primary driver of customer engagement. Many of those executives also cited “Product choice/assortment.” Here’s the full graph of all the things big brands think are more important than their retail employees:

Big Businesses Just Don't Get Customers

I’m surprised at how out-of-touch these executives seem. No one engages with marketing communications or product choices, although those are important elements of the overall customer experience. Engagement is two-way communication that is most easily achieved with another living being.

Small business retailers are close enough to their customers to realize that in-store employees are critical to engaging customers by providing service, offering recommendations and selling products. You understand your customers, and that’s one key competitive advantage for small businesses.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Precise language is one of my joys. It’s exhilarating to find exactly the right word that communicates in the best way possible.

Which is why it pains me to admit that accuracy isn’t all that important if it’s boring. For marketing communications, you must be interesting first and precise second. To catch a customer’s attention, it’s best to spark their curiosity with memorable content.

Words become boring through overuse. When a word is ubiquitous in the culture, customers start to overlook it, like static in the background. Sometimes, these words are useful descriptors of what your company does, but it doesn’t matter if customers have grown accustomed to ignoring them.

Instead, choose words that are easily understood but unique in the context of your business. Compare these two marketing campaign approaches from Mosquito Joe and JH Mosquito Control Services. Mosquito Joe takes a friendly approach that is much more interesting and memorable than JH’s technical description of its service special.

Mosquito Joe – Outside is fun again.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

JH Mosquito Control Services – Mosquito Control Special!

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Some Terms that Might be Accurate, but are Terribly Boring:

  • Solutions
  • Collaborative
  • Communication
  • Service
  • Special
  • Alignment
  • Outside the box
  • Cutting edge
  • Turnkey
  • Innovative
  • Expert

Perfection is Illusive, but Keep Working on It!

True marketing magic happens when you find precisely the right words that also perfectly describe what you do and why customers should buy from you. I advocate striving for that goal!

In the meantime, though, you have to keep marketing and selling. “Don’t let perfection become the enemy of good,” is a powerful business adage. As you move forward, infuse more interesting and unique language into your marketing. You’ll attract customers’ attention, and they will allow you more time to explain accurately what you do.

Don’t Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

Since I named my small business marketing firm Zoo in a Jungle Marketing, it’s pretty clear that I approve of marketing metaphors. Taken from Peter DeVries’ quote “Life is a zoo in a jungle,” my company name promotes stepping outside the constraining zoo of your immediate business environment into the jungles of possibility.

But some brands take marketing metaphors too far. For instance, Roehr Insurance:

Don't Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

When I first saw this banner, I thought, “Okay, a lion shield for a logo. I get it– lions symbolize strength, wealth and honor. Those are all desirable attributes in an insurance agency.” The lion shield serves as a clear, quickly-understood metaphor for the service you hopefully would receive from this firm.

Then I saw the tagline,”Put the Roehr back in your insurance,” and the pun-inducing groans started. Heavy-handed and silly are NOT desirable attributes for an insurance agency. (Not to mention confusing– what would it mean to have insurance that roars?)

While I certainly encourage the use of well-placed marketing metaphors, watch out for instances that give the impression of amateur efforts instead of well-crafted expertise.

Avoid the ‘Alphabet Soup’ Product Naming Approach

Naming products and services is an incredibly important element to your branding strategy and marketing plan. Ideal product names are clearly descriptive, motivating to customers and memorable.

Or, you could take LG’s example and go with the alphabet soup approach:

Avoid the Alphabet Soup Product Naming Approach

The LG G Pad F 8.0 (don’t forget it’s trademarked!) is a real product. Try to imagine a customer talking about their new LG G Pad F 8.0 to a friend. Do you think they could even remember the full model name? Perhaps this clunky name is partially to blame for LG having to offer this tablet for $0.99– not exactly a high-margin sale.

LG’s product name is a prime example of naming a product from a production team’s perspective instead a customer’s. To the LG engineers, I’m sure this is a perfectly logical model name. But it doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of a simple, clear product name like iPad.

When naming your next product or service, try to be more like Apple and less like LG.

What NOT TO DO on LinkedIn

What Not to Do on LinkedInWe have all seen cringe-inducing social media marketing posts that make us say, “WHY would they share THAT?” I think these mistakes are particularly embarrassing on LinkedIn, because it is a professional network. Businesses, brands and individuals should showcase themselves at their professional best. Here are a few things to avoid:

  • DON’T use an overly personal photo. Your profile picture needs to be friendly and professional.
  • DON’T share updates that are trivial or don’t promote your brand. Save the captioned cat pictures for your personal friends on Facebook, not your customers.
  • DON’T get political. Left or Right? Either way, you’re sure to offend half of your customers.
  • DON’T ask for recommendations from people you don’t know.
  • DON’T post content with typos or misspellings. Proofread and post well-designed content.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for LinkedIn marketing: if you wouldn’t say it in-person to a customer, don’t post it.

Share this list with your employees and colleagues to make sure everyone in your organization avoids embarrassing your brand– and themselves!

Small Businesses, Do Your Employees Believe in Your Marketing?

Small Businesses - Do Your Employees Believe in Your Marketing?Employees play an important role in small business marketing– even when they aren’t in the marketing department. Customers’ impressions and beliefs about your business are largely built around interactions they have with your employees.

So, it’s important that employees believe in your marketing and support your brand. All too often, I have seen employees undercut a brand. Fortunately, it’s not very difficult or time consuming to help employees “be the brand.”

How to Gain Employee Support for Your Small Business Marketing

  • Involve employees in marketing meetings. Employees will believe in your brand if they’ve helped create it. In early stage marketing development, involve employees in some of the brainstorming meetings. They will feel ownership of the end result and take pride in that.
  • Ask for marketing ideas from your employees. Because employees are on the front lines with customers, they often have great ideas for improving marketing efforts. They’re just waiting for someone to ask! Consider a physical or online Suggestion Box or quarterly brainstorming sessions. Again, employees will feel ownership of marketing efforts they have helped to create.
  • Introduce marketing campaigns to employees before launching them to customers. Employees are understandably frustrated when customers mention a marketing campaign they’ve never heard of. Give employees advance notice of campaigns and opportunity to understand and ask questions.

Employees are busy, with plenty to do. But investing a small amount of time in building your brand with employees will go a long way towards making your marketing more effective and customers more satisfied.

Before Choosing a Business Name, Run it by a Teenage Boy First

Or you might miss unfortunate innuendo. Fallas looks like a perfectly fine name… until you say it out loud.

Before Choosing a Business Name, Run it by a Teenage Boy First

This probably wouldn’t be my first choice when shopping for school uniforms.

The “Teenage Boy” test might seem unconventional, but it could just save your marketing and branding from public ridicule.

‘Tactical’ is Not a Dirty Word

In the world of marketing, strategy development gets all the glory. The role of implementing marketing strategies is often considered a menial task (or at least dreadfully boring). Doing tactical work just isn’t as glamorous as developing the knock-your-socks-off strategy behind the work.

Tactical is Not a Dirty Word

But here’s an important reality. Marketing implementation is critical, and it’s something that needs to happen every day. Marketing strategy without implementation will never make sales, influence customers or grow your business. (Similarly, unplanned tactical marketing not based on a sound marketing strategy won’t work, either!)

I believe marketing professionals need to develop more respect for tactical marketing and realize how much creativity, critical thinking and ingenuity this role requires. Personally, there’s nothing I enjoy more than developing a marketing strategy for a client, then implementing that strategy and creating actual results for clients. This full-service marketing approach is truly needed in the marketplace.

How to Take a Professional Headshot Photo

Most small businesses feature pictures of their team on their websites, social media platforms or even in their physical location. When customers see pictures of the business owner or your team, they will associate the quality of the picture with the quality of your business. Everything is marketing!

With the popularity of selfies and casual smartphone photography, it can be difficult to get professional headshot photos of your team. Here are some simple tips for taking great headshots:

  • Don’t take a selfie. Even if you can’t hire a professional photographer, ask someone else to take the photo for you.
  • Plan the background. The background of a headshot photograph shouldn’t be distracting. Avoid backgrounds that contain other people or traffic. Easy background choices include brick walls, an interior wall painted a simple color, trees, or other non-distracting natural elements.
  • Think about lighting. For most headshots, it’s fine to use a smartphone or consumer-grade camera, as long as you have good lighting. Ambient daylight will make for the best results, so have fun taking your photo shoot outside.
  • Take the photo straight on. Unless you have an artistic vision that uses unique angles, take the simple approach of having your photograph taken at eye-level, while looking at the camera.
  • Stay focused. Make sure the camera is focused on you and that the picture is clear and sharp.
  • Look the part. Plan your wardrobe, do your hair and smile!
  • It’s great to be quirky, but have a purpose for the composition. Think of settings that are relevant to your brand personality. If you don’t have a lot of time, classic portrait approaches are always great for professional headshot photography.
  • Ideally, the photos of your entire team will complement each other. Using similar angles and backgrounds will reinforce customers’ impressions that you all collaborate.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at some examples.

Examples of Good Headshot Photos

Good Headshot Photo Example
Incidentally, this is my professional headshot, taken by the amazingly talented Laura Poland of Reflected Spectrum Photography

Good Headshot Example

Good headshot example

Good headshot example

Examples of Bad Headshot Photos

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

By following these tips and putting in a little extra effort, your small business will have team headshots that represent your brand.

Is Your Small Business Tagline Great… or Lackluster?

When a business doesn’t understand its customers or know what’s important to them, it’s tempting to “throw things at the wall to see what sticks.” The result is usually confusing and bland (what a combination!). Check out this supposed tagline on a newsletter I received from an HVAC company:

That's Not a Tagline

More Choices. No Worries. Less Hassle. Time & Money Saved!

That’s not a tagline. That’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. I guarantee this tagline is not an effective marketing tool for Logan Services.

Now it’s your turn. Compare your tagline with my Small Business Tagline Effectiveness Checklist to see how many elements you can check off.

Small Business Tagline Effectiveness Checklist

An effective tagline should be:

  • Memorable
  • Descriptive of what you do
  • Pithy
  • Differentiating
  • Interesting to your customers

If you scored less than three, your tagline definitely needs help. But if you scored a five, congratulations! Your tagline is a great tool in your marketing toolbox.