I’m researching a lot about content marketing at the moment to develop some new (and I hope unique, targeted) services and at the same time I’ve been reading local business news, which has been quite sad and disturbing.
A number of local (to me), well regarded and long established businesses are struggling, closing down or shutting their shops & following the ‘inevitable’ retreat to ‘online’ - it’s troubling, especially when these businesses are supposedly geared towards expert service, advice and skill.
“getting publicity in online platforms and news feeds is effectively just driving along the same old road”
We can all read advice about how we should analyse our own businesses, focus on what makes us unique, stand out from the crowd, have a USP etc but it’s never as easy as that is it? Some of the businesses I’ve read about do a very good job of telling their customers about their unique service and trying to educate them about why they’re different than online shops but are words enough? Even getting publicity in online platforms and news feeds is effectively just driving along the same old road (just maybe going faster & faster and developing road rage!).
Let me explain without specifically mentioning the business I’m thinking of (that wouldn’t be fair, they’re very local to me, are unique in terms of what they do - I’m no-where near their customer demographic but I will share this post with them).
A retail shop that sells items widely available anywhere from high street retailers to supermarkets and online only retailers offers a bespoke & expert service to ensure the particular item they sell is right for their customer. In this example there are health & wellbeing issues they specifically target but essentially they are a retailer AND service provider combined but they want to major on their expert service.
“we all know what first impressions can do”
Having announced they’re probably going to have to close their shop I took a look at their online presence, website & facebook and it struck me that what I was seeing was a traditional retail experience with a (admittedly expert) service ‘tacked on’ - at least that was my impression and we all know what first impressions can do don’t we!
I was left wondering where the service really was, what was it, where is the value in it, who provides it and how. The thing is we (small business owners) get so wrapped up in what we do, especially when we’re challenged, that we start to miss the obvious - what our customers/potential customers see! If you look like a shop that’s how people will treat you, remember people form a lasting impression in less than half a second! In that time they’re making judgements, choosing their next steps and making buying decisions.
So that’s all very well and good but what do I know, I don’t operate out of a shop? No, but I’m a consumer with an expert, critical eye on the places I visit and I’ve learned that a fresh, neutral perspective that can see opportunity and give straightforward ideas & advice can significantly change perceptions, experiences & first impressions.
“people buy from people”
In a business like the example above I’d immediately look at the current marketing and especially the visual impact it’s creating. The business is small & individual so as a customer I’d probably want to make a personal connection with the expert owner or staff. Looking at the website there is a real story behind why they do what they do - we all love a good story and that should be front and centre. Those stories we love often have pictures too, nothing creates an impression, impact like a picture and people buy from people - you can have the best product in the world but if people can’t connect on a personal basis they’ll probably not buy. Video is a great way of introducing people to a unique service, it’s personal, informative, shows personality and creates an immediate connection. So many businesses think video is time consuming, complicated and expensive but simple, ‘selfie’ type videos are the ones making waves right now. I stumbled across this fantastic example this morning on LinkedIn by Cat Hase of https://imagineif.ltd a simple, short but interesting & informative video on a subject that I might have been unaware of.
The video made me want to find out more, to see what Cat does and I visited her website to for details (Cat, add your contact details to your videos/posts!).
Finally I looked (with critical eyes) at the shop, I live just around the corner, and guess what? It looks like a shop! I know this is difficult but the shop is on a major road, literally thousands of people are passing every day, indeed it’s on a busy junction so people are even stopping and looking as they wait at traffic lights so the opportunity and the challenge is to present more than just a shop. To communicate the expert service available inside - to get them to take note, to find out more & follow up.
Block out fifteen minutes of your diary today, grab a coffee, if possible leave your shop, office or premises and sit and look at your business from a customer’s perspective. What are they seeing, what is their first impression (in person & online) and would you rather they were seeing first?
Make an impression, a personalised unique connection
How easy is it for customers to find out about you? and what are the messages you’re sending, are they the right order?
What sales channels are you using, what other channels could you utilise and what are your competitors doing?
What could you change? This doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, look at Cat’s video above. But other things a shop could utilise are flags & banners, posters - create a visual impact by changing up your displays, get outside and make the most of the space you have and your location opportunity available - get seen again
What are you doing in your business or what more could you do?
What ideas do you have for powering up the appearance of your shop or premises?
Let me know your thoughts and comments below.