Grand Opening by BJMcCray on Flickr
You have opened the door to your new business. What a great day.
Of course as a small business owner, you have lots of things yet to do but the shelves are stocked, everything is gleaming, and you even remembered to get change for the cash drawer (Yes, some people still use real money to make transactions. I rarely fit into that category but I have heard stories).
Some time passes and someone walks into your business. It’s the business owner from next door and she just wants to wish you good luck.
Some more time passes and some friends and neighbors have also dropped by. Some of them actually bought something but you don’t really count that as a sale. No, they were just being polite.
Some more time passes and a stranger walks in, looks around some and leaves.
Some more time passes and a group of people walk in. They look around and then begin to ask questions about one of your products. They ask about a discount if they buy several of the same item. As they make the offer, you are mentally wondering just how to respond. You tell them you will get back to them on their offer.
Some more time passes. Another person comes in. He comments he didn’t know that your store was even here. He is from out of town. He had researched his opportunities, didn’t see what he wanted but had another reason to come over to your town and just happened to see your temporary sign. You have several items he wants and makes a purchase. YOUR FIRST SALE! You feel like your business is officially open.
The day continues. Sales are slow. At the end of the day, you look at what you sold and get a little discouraged. This isn’t what you expected.
While a fictitious story, it fits the experience shared with me by several owners.
What happened? As you consider the results, the common theme seems to be following the myth, “build it and they will come.” Marketing is much bigger than sales. Marketing must happen early, be ongoing, and use a variety of tools.
So what marketing should have happened?
1. Marketing starts well before the doors are even open. It includes understanding who the customer is and what they want.
2. Marketing also means getting the word out. In the above scenario, nothing was mentioned about pre-opening publicity. Nor was there mention of a ribbon-cutting (free PR + creating awareness among other business owners). And while the inside of the store looked good, the outside had a temporary sign only plus there is no mention of inside signage that can answer questions and even increase sales.
3. Nothing was mentioned about traditional marketing that may have been done. There also could have been pre-opening networking to develop community awareness.
4. Also there was no mention about online marketing. It is important to claim your bubble on the various services such as Google, Yelp, Yahoo, and others. Also you need some web presence of your own – a website or a blog. This must something you own. The phonebook still has a place but remember that it may be nearly two years before your listing ever makes it into print. Online it can happen nearly instantly.
5. And there are so many other parts of marketing. Just a partial list would include pricing, packaging, store location, social media efforts, image, visual efforts, etc. The list goes on and on. Remember also that marketing is not a one-and-done effort. It must be consistent, build on a regular theme, and help develop your brand.
So while sales are the lifeblood of a business, marketing is the heart that keeps things flowing.
Bottom line – The day you think of a business idea is the day you start your marketing efforts.