My clients (a husband and wife team) owned a multimillion-dollar local business for over forty years.  Their business was comprised of three profit centers, one being wholesale and the other two, business to consumer (B2C).  Over the previous forty years they relied on traditional marketing – newspaper advertisements, flyers, word of mouth, etc, to gain visibility and customers for their business. 

I gave a presentation to a business networking group on the power of social media marketing. Afterwards the wife invited me to come to their offices to discuss how I might help them improve their marketing.

At our meeting, it was clear that the owners and their top management team had very little online marketing knowledge. This is not uncommon for business owners who were not brought up in a digital world.   I understand this on a personal level being of the same generation.  I recommended that I perform a complete marketing assessment to uncover areas where they could improve.  What I brought to the table aside from understanding their digital angst was a trained and experienced marketing perspective. I embrace both traditional and digital marketing and look at business’ marketing problems with a holistic eye.  I do not believe problems can be solved in isolation.   My training has taught me that a good marketing plan came from embracing the core ethics and goals of the business.  Like a puzzle, each piece has its place, and I love a good puzzle.

My assessment was comprehensive.  Here are the high priority issues I discovered.

  1. My client had three different websites, one for each profit center. There was no consistent message or branding. Each website had different colors, different styles, and different fonts. Not even the company name was consistent. It was a marketing nightmare.  I discovered that the owners had hired “quick fix” marketing services to handle their websites, reputation management, and business listings.  These services accounted for 42% of their marketing budget. When I investigated further, I discovered that two of the three domains were owned not by my clients but by the marketing company.  A red flag, indeed.  No respectful marketing company owns their client’s website domains.  The only reason this is done is to lock the client in and make it difficult to exit the contract. These unscrupulous companies rely on the fact that nobody is watching or able to discern whether their services are delivering on their promises. 

The solution was the creation of one, well branded website with pages for each profit center and an active blog.  A professional photographer was hired to take high quality, web friendly photographs.

  1. The company’s Facebook page was set up by an employee as a personal page, not a business page. Since two of the three profit centers were business to consumer (B2C) and they appealed to middle-aged customers, Facebook was a good choice for a social media platform to increase visibility and grow their clientele.  However, none of the benefits of a business page are available on a personal page such as company description, hours and services, analytics, Facebook advertising, etc.

The business also lent itself to beautiful visuals, but the page was poorly presented and neglected.  Posting was inconsistent and engagement was minimal. 

Solution:  A new business page was created and populated with regular posts that were relevant and engaging to their audience.  Followers steadily increased to over 500.

  1. The Point of Sale system the company was using was a significant and necessary expense but wasn’t being used to full capacity. The system offered the business the ability of downloading customer’s names and emails. Email marketing would be a powerful way for the company to communicate directly with their loyal customers.  However, the POS system capabilities were not fully understood. I often see this with my clients.  A marketing or sales system is purchased but not optimized because there is no employee on staff that can understand the system or are willing to dig into its assets.  I liken this to purchasing a BMW but not having the keys to start the engine.

Recommended solution:  The owner needed to invest in training an employee(s) on the system or hire outside help to vet out the complete capabilities of the system to get the full ROI.  Email marketing campaigns, at the very least, should be considered

  1. One of the most powerful assets my client had was a beautiful, iconic, and traditional roadside sign. The two-way sign was made of wood, painted white, and had a black insert that allowed for the message to be changed. This sign sat on a busy two-lane road which the local police chief estimated had 25,000 cars passing by each day. The problem was the sign was not kept up.  Paint was chipping and the letters on the sign had seen better days. As is often the case, this obvious asset was overlooked.  Sometime when we look at something day in and day out, we no longer see it. 

Solution:  A small investment in paint and new letters allowed my client to once again send the right message to commuters and use this communication asset to the fullest.

There were other issues, but these were the most startling.  I will mention one more because it is so familiar to small businesses. My client was constantly being hit up for fundraiser product donations.  They always donated but they never asked the recipient to provide proof that they would be mentioned in the fundraiser’s advertising or donation list.  By not making this request, they missed an opportunity for people to know about their willingness to support their community and build goodwill.

When I present a complete, comprehensive marketing assessment, the issues I find are laid out in detail and recommendations for remediation are made. It is then up to the client to decide how they want to invest their money.  A marketing assessment often leads to my company being hired to methodically solve the problems.  I am fortunate to have a team of marketing professionals to work with so I can offer my clients a range of solutions from website development to social media marketing and everything in between.  Our goal is always a happy client.  Check back next week for more sage and savvy insights.

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