You should never hear a customer say “Why didn’t I come here first?”. If you do, you know that your marketing strategy really isn’t working…
Today has seen a huge amount of debate about the state of the UK High Street, prompted by the release of the Portas Review.
This, naturally, prompts me to think not only about the condition of the High Street as a place brand (more to come on this soon), but also about the nature of small business marketing.
The following comment was left on the BBC website coverage of the Portas Review:
I’m an independent shopkeeper in a city suburb. Time and time again I, and others locally, hear the same thing from customers – “Why didn’t I come here first, I forgot you were here” . More needs to be done to promote the smaller independents, they are the only ones that provide service and variety
Why didn’t I come here first, I forgot you were here.
Do these words strike a chord with you?
Do they give you a sinking feeling?
How many times will you allow customers to say this before you take action?
If you’re hearing this “time and time again”, there’s something very, very wrong. And you need to stop what you’re doing, now.
It’s not enough to say that something else needs to happen in areas where you have no control.
The commentator on the BBC website suggested that “More needs to be done to promote the smaller independents”.
I would be willing to guess that the commentator has very little control over the general marketing plans for the area.
I suspect that they’re probably not consulted about any area-specific local advertising or promotion plans.
Does that sound like you? Are you a part of a jigsaw in which you have no control over the overall picture?
I’m going to tell you something surprising.
Something that might even sound completely wrong on the first reading.
You have the ability to be in control.
You are in control of your own business (at least, you should be).
You control how you market (or promote) your own business.
You have far more chance of influencing change in your business than any outside grand design will ever have.
So why wait for an outside body to do something, by which time you might be out of business?
If you and your neighbours are hearing statements like these, then you need to stop what you’re doing and reassess your marketing plan. Think about these four steps:
Step One: Treat your customer feedback as a gift.
What do you do when someone tells you that they forgot you exist?
Smile ruefully and say that you hope they’ll remember you next time around?
Or use it as a learning opportunity, asking the customer why you slipped their mind, what they’d like to see to remind them of your existence, how you could help them get what they need, when they need it?
Seeing your customers’ comments as a gift will help you to engage with them more deeply and build a lasting relationship.
Step Two: Stop what your marketing, advertising and promotional initiatives. They aren’t working.
Repeated feedback on the lines of “I forgot you were here” is a clear indication that you’re throwing your money against the nearest wall, and none of it is sticking.
Step Three: Talk to your neighbours.
See what sort of feedback they’re getting. Are you alone with these comments? What do they think that the problems are?
Dare to dream between you all about how you might make people remember that you exist.
Step Four: If you don’t know anything about marketing, ask someone who does.
Some businesses seem scared of marketing, thinking that it’s all fluff and nonsense.
It’s not. Marketing (or ‘promotion’) is one of the most important activities that you can engage in.
It’s the science and the art of getting a share of your customers’ minds, so that they don’t forget you exist.
Send out a help call via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. There are people out there (like me) who will be happy to share some thoughts pro bono.
Google ‘small business marketing‘ – you’ll get more results that you can digest in several sittings.
Just make sure that whatever you do is in keeping with your business ethics, ethos and budget (NOTE – marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re a bakery, get someone outside giving away free samples and building buzz. If you’re a stationary shop, try setting up a calligraphy competition. If you’re a clothing boutique, work with a local college on a fashion/design show. If you’re a marketing agency, gift some time to a charity. None of these are expensive options but can be quick ways to build buzz.)
But whatever you do, don’t let another customer say that they forgot about you.
Turn “I wish I’d come here first” into “I’m glad I came here first”.
Because if you don’t, if you keep waiting for someone, somewhere to do something, you’ll lose everything.