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.

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.

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.

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.

 

What Church Potlucks Taught Me about Marketing

What Church Potlucks Taught Me about MarketingThere’s a curious phenomenon at church potlucks, which anyone who has cooked for one has witnessed. Simply cooking a dish you know to be delicious is not enough to entice people to eat it. As my mom taught me, you have to nicely display and properly portion the food. Slice meat into individual servings, and cut cakes into appropriately-sized pieces.

My younger, incredulous self had two questions for my mom:

  • I did the cooking. Can’t the people eating it show the initiative to portion it for their own consumption?
  • How do people survive in life if they don’t even have the ability to try dishing up a new food?

My disbelief notwithstanding, my mom was right. If I didn’t plan for how people would dish up my food, it would go uneaten. But if I served the same casserole cut into small squares, it would disappear.

The church potluck is a mini marketplace and can teach us several things about small business marketing.

  1. As there are so many options in the buffet line, people just choose the easiest, most familiar ones. Similarly, your business has plenty of competition, and customers will gravitate to the choice that is easiest to understand.
  2. No one likes to be embarrassed or feel like he’s not in control of a situation. Cutting up food carries some social risk– what if you drop it? what if you suddenly see something you don’t like? (like the one time I found limp, cooked pickles in a casserole)  You need to make things as easy for your customer as possible. Make her feel smart and in-control.
  3. Word of mouth is powerful. If one early-adopter raves about your pie (or product), others will just have to try it. Before you know it, your dish will be the talk of the church! Or, your product will be on everyone’s wish list.
  4. On the flip side, the unknown is scary. Very few people are willing to be the first to try something new. You have to make it attractive for them to be first.

All of the above factors come into play even at a church potluck where the food is free, and the risks are low. Since your customers pay for your offerings, their reactions in the actual marketplace will be more pronounced. But take my mom’s advice, and you’ll be successful.

 

Five Terrible Small Business Marketing Taglines

Positive reinforcement can be very powerful, which is why I wrote Ten Great Small Business Marketing Taglines. But we often remember negative examples more clearly.  Here are five examples of bad small business marketing taglines, along with some tips for every small business.

Apollo – Quality Since 1910

What kind of small business do you think Apollo is? Based on the name and tagline alone, we have no idea. For small business marketing to be effective, the business name and tagline need to describe what the business does. (By the way, Apollo is an HVAC and plumbing company).

Tom Gill Chevrolet – A Business of Character

When Richard Nixon told Americans, “I am not a crook,” that didn’t work out for him very well. Americans expected their President to have that basic level of character. Everyone also expects small businesses to have character, and customers become suspicious when a business feels the need to tout its virtue. Make sure your small business marketing tagline goes beyond claiming to be honest and trustworthy.

Isaacs & Isaacs – One Call, That’s All!

Besides being unclear about what business this law firm is in, the tagline is misleading. Does anyone actually believe you can get a satisfactory settlement with only one phone call? Small business marketing taglines shouldn’t over-promise, or customers will be disappointed.

Gold Star Chili – Celebrating 50*Years

Here is a sad fact of life many small businesses don’t want to hear: No customer cares how long you have been in business. And they certainly don’t care about celebrating the fact with you. Don’t waste valuable marketing space telling customers how long you have been around. I’m sure Gold Star Chili has much more compelling reasons for people to eat their chili.

University of Indianapolis – Inspiring Excellence

This tagline is less terrible than boring. It makes my list because the sentiment is mundane. Don’t all universities aspire to inspire excellence? The tagline doesn’t give customers a clue towards what makes University of Indianapolis different from its competitors.

Take these examples and compare them to your own tagline. If you find any parallels, try tweaking your tagline right away. And then do some customer research to craft a great one.

And if you want to see some really bad, punny small business marketing taglines, follow this link for a laugh.

Ten Great Small Business Marketing Taglines

A Million Gallons of FunSmall businesses have many advantages over big businesses– the ability to build real relationships with customers, agility, flexibility, and more.

But brand awareness is one area where the big guys excel. Building Lasting Relationships with Clients and CandidatesThey have millions of dollars in marketing budget to educate customers about what they do and just why customers should care. Because of that, a big brand’s tagline can be esoteric, aspirational and vague. Think Nike’s Just Do It or Coca Cola’s Open Happiness.

Irresistible Ice CreamA small business marketing tagline has to work harder, though. It needs to tell the story of what you do and why customers love you in one small, memorable package. It’s hard work, and that’s why many small businesses don’t have a tagline. But the effort is worth it. Just check out these ten great small business marketing taglines:

Prompt and Proven Sprinkler Service Clearly a Better Carwash

  1. Newport Aquarium – A Million Gallons of Fun
  2. Graeter’s – Irresistible Ice Cream
  3. TriState Water Works – Prompt & Proven Sprinkler Service
  4. Lighthouse Carwash – Clearly a Better Carwash
  5. LMB Associates – Building Lasting Relationships with Clients and Candidates
  6. Dewey’s Pizza – Hey! Ho! Let’s Dough!
  7. Thrive Chiropractic – Adjust. Advance. Thrive.
  8. VooDoo Doughnut – The Magic is in the Hole!
  9. WAVE POOL – A Contemporary Art Fulfillment Center
  10. Yats – Cajun. Creole. Crazy.

Hey! Ho! Let's Dough!A Contemporary Art Fulfillment Center

Cajun. Creole. Crazy.Each one of these taglines combine with the business name to clearly communicate what the business does, while letting customers know what makes it different and special from competitors. For Dewey’s Pizza, VooDoo Doughnut and Yats, the tagline conveys the fun vibe found at these establishments. Others, like LMB Associates and TriState Water Works set their service models apart from competitors.

The Magic is in the Hole Adjust. Advance. Thrive.

 

Marketing Podcast: Facebook Timeline for Business

In this small business marketing podcast, learn some tips for marketing with the new Facebook Timeline and why I believe it’s a good marketing tool. For instance, businesses should change their cover image to match current marketing campaigns.

Listen or download below:

Facebook Timeline for Business

Marketing Podcast: Facebook Timeline for Business (3.1MB)

This segment first aired during “Getting Down to Business” on Alaska’s Fox News Talk 1020.