The first major marketing concept that small business owners and managers need to understand is consistency. Consistent marketing starts with the creation of an idea then the mission statement, and everything else to follow. Consistent marketing also lowers the cost of marketing, increases synergy among employees, and projects the proper image in advertising and promotions.
Establishing a Brand
When an entrepreneur starts a business, they decide what they are going to sell. Sometimes, they find a want or need in a certain market and create a product or service to fill that void. They buy necessary products or design the proper services, and then they begin selling. They sell to a few customers, get a few more, break even, and even begin to make money. Then sales drop. They are doing okay with their current customers, but some are not buying again, and they are not bringing in more business. They add other products and services, but these just cost more to offer and eventually cost the company more money than they are making. They run advertising campaigns that don’t really connect with the business, and they can’t understand what is wrong.
Here is the answer: Consistency. All marketing activities and concepts revolve around consistency. If owners and managers neglect consistency when it comes to their marketing, which includes collateral, advertising, promotions, and even products and services, they face huge up-hill battles that often are not won. Consistency plays a big part in other aspects of the business: sales, employees, physical locations, and many other elements.
When you begin a business and decide what it is you will sell, you must create a brand immediately. What is meant my creating a brand is determining who you are, who you sell to, what exactly you will sell, and how you will sell it. You must decide upon the specifics that make you unique and what makes customers come to you. While making these decisions you must remain consistent. It is not consistent for a bakery to open and say they are going to sell to health-conscious customers when all they sell are huge, fresh-baked chocolate cookies covered in mounds of peanut butter. There is no consistency to who they are selling to and what they are trying to sell.
There are many aspects to establishing a brand, which we discuss in later topics, but consistency must be a key element in every part of establishing a brand.
Consistent Marketing Collateral
We touched on consistent marketing collateral in “How Much Does Marketing Cost?” but we must reiterate that point here in consistency. If you are creating your marketing materials yourself, or you are obtaining the services of a professional designer, make sure everything is consistent with your brand, image, and the other pieces.
It does your business no good to have a beautiful logo, eye-catching business card, and top-notch brochure if they don’t complement each other and lose consistency. The logo should match what you sell and to who. Next, the business card should match your logo in color schemes, appearances, and what it conveys. Many business owners don’t value consistent marketing collateral and will decide or demand inconsistent elements because they look nice or they think it will make people pick up their card. You want to create business cards that are unique and eye-catching, but potential customers should know it belongs to you, the computer repair guy, and not a fashion designer.
Consistent marketing collateral also means to portray your company in brochures and websites the same way as you do in person. Make sure customers know what they will receive from you when they do reach the physical part of your relationship (i.e. consultation or online order). It will leave a negative result with a customer that sees a brochure with a downtown hi-rise pictured, model-quality customer service reps, and a $1 million dollar reception area and is presented with a small metal building in the middle of no-where and they have to wait in the sun to talk with you. There is nothing wrong with the latter part of that example, but don’t build customers up with different expectations that what they will receive. Being a successful business doesn’t require a huge investment in an office and personnel, but it does require consistent branding and image. A potential target will become a loyal customer if they are prepared before-hand for what they will receive and the business delivers the same way or better each time. Consistency is another name for success, and that includes marketing collateral.
There are many arguments to be had on the difficulty or simplicity of online marketing. Some professionals will say that online marketing, social networks, and a web presence are easy and anyone can be successful. Others will tell you that it is a complicated process that should be left to professionals that know how to manage it. Either way, they will agree on one thing: consistency.
The online world has attracted a lot of players, and not all are good. For this reason, any business trying to establish their brand online must develop trust and lasting relationships with customers and potential targets. The easiest way to do this is through consistent marketing. Using the same avatar, posting similar ads, and targeting similar groups are examples of consistent marketing. Keep in mind, once someone sees any of these consistent examples and decides to surf to your web site, it must remain consistent. Using a crazy animated ad to draw attention may get clicks to your site, but those clicks will mean nothing if the user leaves your site immediately because it is not what they expected.
One major area that must remain consistent with the rest of your marketing efforts is your social network. As a small business, the owner or general manager will probably be in charge of social networking sites, blog postings, and other social activities on the web. You may also decide to outsource this work, and find a marketing firm that can handle these tedious tasks for you. Either way, you must make sure that you, your employee, or your hired firm produce a consistent image with what you sell, who you sell to, and how you sell it. You don’t want your myspace page to be full of teen pictures, music, and alcohol bottles if your company sells computer equipment to doctor’s offices. Your networking pages can have a personal twist to them, especially if your business is small and the owner is the one managing this segment of your marketing, but make sure you are attracting potential customers and delivering the proper brand image.