Marketing is something every business does. Even if you don’t spend a red cent in advertising, operate out of an unmarked warehouse, and rely upon word-of-mouth to expand your business, you still engage in it.
While it’s most often associated with advertising, ‘Marketing’ is a blanket concept that includes anything that can have an effect on how people view your business. This includes every interaction with your customer, from things as massive as integrated multinational ad campaigns all the way down to thing as simple as invoices and phone etiquette.
Your marketing shapes the way people perceive your company, your staff, and your products and services. But does marketing always shape it for the better? How can you tell how well your marketing efforts are working? And, more importantly, how can you tell when your marketing is actually harming your business?
Your marketing sets the tone for every transaction you make. First impression to final sale, marketing is everywhere. It’s the sink-or-swim first impression that garners interest and brings them to your door, the memory that they walk away from, and the story that they tell their friends.
Regardless of your industry, quality and consistency are the key to a professional image. And, while many would rather not admit it, image is the driving force behind the perceived value of your company, as well as your product.
Thought Experiment: Looney Tunes Law Office
They hand you some paperwork to fill out: a form with “LegalDocs.com” in the top-left corner, and a pen from Big Sal’s Used Autos. You fill out the paperwork and meet with the lawyer, who gives you a business card that has his name and number, but no mention of Wyles Eaves and Coyote or ACME Law on it.
A few weeks later, you receive a plain white envelope with Wyle Eaves and Coyote’s return address hand-written in green. Inside is an invoice with a QuickBooks logo in the corner.
Now, before you continue, answer a few questions:
Would you feel comfortable with Wyles Eaves and Coyote representing you in court?
Would you recommend Wiles Eaves and Coyote to friends and family?
How would you expect them to bill compared to a more conventional law office, with a more consistent brand?
The point of this exercise isn’t actually to point out how terrible this hypothetical straw man is, or even to give a worst-case scenario with regards to brand marketing. The point is this: The above didn’t mention their track record or their experience.
They could be the best law firm in the world and it wouldn’t matter. Poor marketing can undermine a company before it even gets a chance to prove itself.
Simply put, if your marketing is inconsistent, you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, regardless of the actual quality of your product or service.
To be perfectly blunt: It screws you.
Business owners are often reluctant to spend thought, time, and money on marketing, particularly if they’re operating under a tight budget. There’s always a temptation to cut corners for the sake of just getting it out of the way, sometimes farming out to the lowest bidder, sometimes even going so far as to do it yourself.
Which, unless you run a marketing firm, is probably not the best option.
When you’re considering your options for marketing, there are some things you need to keep in mind:
- Poor branding can be confusing and misleading. As the linked article shows, even well-established household names aren’t immune to poor branding decisions.
- Poor branding can also turn away potential clients. Like the thought experiment above, amateurish branding makes people view you as an amateurish company.
- Poor literature can confuse and frustrate your clients, and even undermine your own authority. This applies more to companies that deal with technical, medical, or legal concepts. After all, nobody is comfortable making an important decision or major investment in something they don’t understand.
- Poor advertising can make cause disinterest, or even drive current customers away. Scripts and templates are often used as cheap alternatives to original advertising, but they’re designed to be generic and interchangeable, which makes them forgettable.
- In general, poor marketing tells the world that you don’t give a damn, about either your clients or your industry.
The exact opposite of poor marketing:
- Quality branding is eye-catching, memorable, and accurately represents your business, industry, or core philosophy at a glance.
- Quality literature provides an enormous value-add for clients, particularly in industries that deal with complicated or technical services, as well as those that represent a significant investment.
- Quality advertising can help you stand out from your competition, ideally finding innovative, memorable ways to address specific desires, concerns, or even specialized demographics.
- In general, good marketing tells the world that you give a damn, about both your customers and your industry.
Online components have a vast array of analytic tools that have been designed to track every minute detail of your visitors’ web experience. Unfortunately, you can’t put a tracking cookie in someone’s brain to measure how memorable your brand is, or how accessible your literature might be.
Unfortunately, self-assessment can be extremely unreliable. You’re simply too familiar with your own business to be an impartial judge, especially if you (or someone close to you) created some of that material.
If you’re serious about improving your marketing, a good option is to bring in outside help to take a look at all of your marketing components. An experienced professional will be able to tell you whether your marketing components are doing what they’re supposed to be doing effectively (or, in some cases, if they’re accomplishing their task at all), and offer insights and suggestions that could help you drastically improve the image (and, therefore, perceived quality) of your company.
Of course, there’s a third option that doesn’t involve hiring a consultant: Ask.
You already have access to your own customer base. When someone new comes in, ask them how they heard of you. If you’re advertising, ask if they’ve come across your ads. If you have an intern or a co-op student, have them ask random passers-by about their impressions of you. Do they recognize your logo? Do they know what you do? Have they seen any of your advertising?
There are a number of brand research resources, including this helpful article on Branding and Brand Identity Surveys (complete with handy-dandy resources). Or you could have a copywriter assemble a set of questions for you.
If you’re still uncertain, or know you need work done but don’t know what, you can always request a consultation from a marketing company. Depending on the size of your business, many will offer you their recommendations on how they can improve your marketing (which means pointing out holes in your game) for free.
Conclusion: Be Cheap, Look Cheap.
We aren’t exclusively about money. Our goal, as a company, is to make great things for great clients. This means our top priority in these early stages is to show the world just how well we can help your business.
Through this offer, we’re hoping to build a dossier of successful case studies that showcase our ability to produce and manage highly successful campaigns within the Google Display Network.
All that we ask in return for this discount is the ability to talk about your campaign in a case study, possibly alongside a short testimonial about our service.
Questions or comments about how bad marketing can tank your image? Do you think your own industry can get away with DIY marketing? Leave your comments below and give us the what-for!
Think that professional marketing ends at the logo? Check out our (somewhat) related article, “Do I Need to Hire a Copywriter?”
Interested in finding out how we think we can improve your marketing efforts? Contact Us to request a consultation.
He is also unable to make a 'Penseur' pose without looking at least a bit ridiculous, as evidenced by his profile photo.