Flashback: early revelations
“I grew up in a small business in Culpeper, Virginia. I was a lucky young woman who was free to observe and learn in the store. Being dependent on the store’s survival made it the center of our family life for a time, which was a good lesson for this lady. I learned the value of pitching in and working hard. I witnessed feedback from both sides of the sales counter. I knew what happy customers looked like and what that meant for my parents. Especially when I would watch my parents do that high-five wiggle-dance in the back room, with the silent yell “Ha-cha!” signaling a really happy customer and really big success for the business.
Dinner discussions would include things like “sales were down today” or “today we had a fantastic sale.” And the conversation always went back to “why?” What advertisement had the customer seen? What referral had sent them in to buy? What good deed was karma repaying this time? But more importantly, what could be repeated or improved inside or outside of the store? One thing was certain, we could never rest on our laurels.
I did not live in the cocoon of just our family’s store. I met our neighboring business owners and their kids and families. And I also heard what businesses said about each other…the good, the bad and the oh so ugly. I learned to evaluate their successes as well as my parents’. And I soon became fascinated by comparing everyone’s “displays” (what I now call advertising methods).
A nagging thought began to creep into my young mind. Could it be that advertisements were the key for bringing in sales? But… what about the really nice employees we had? Or the really pretty shiny things we sold? We were nice people. That should be enough for someone to do business with us. And then it hit me. Direct from the trenches it dawned on me the first basic truth, “It all comes down to PERCEPTION.” And thus, the fledgling marketer within me was born.
Fast Forward: professional perspective
I find it to be a sad reality, but true nonetheless. You see, a business owner may have the most amazing product in town. It’s possible that you’ll never find one better and it would bring a tear to the eye to witness the product’s amazing benefits. But left on it’s own, without the public’s PERCEPTION of its value, that product (or business or store) will quietly remain overlooked, no matter how amazing it might be.
It all comes down to PERCEPTION. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where basic marketing is the key.
Notice I said basic marketing. Not crazy, fancy, super-expensive advertising that will sap all of your time, energy, and money. A business can’t go wrong with proven basics. So today I will ask a business the basic question #1: “Is your business image showing your customers what you want them to know about you?” Or to put it differently, “is the public aware of your value?” If not, why not?
It’s the first place I start. It’s the first place you can start on your own, right now.
Helpful Tip: Find Some Fresh Eyes and Ask!
A major benefit I offer in helping businesses is that I am a fresh pair of eyes. And you can find your own fresh eyes right now. Ask a customer or an honest friend to help you. 1) Ask this friend what they think of your _________________ (fill in the blank with logo, advertisement, store display, website). 2) Do they PERCEIVE your _________________ (fill in the blank) the way you wish them to perceive it?
How did they respond? Was there a disconnect between what they see and what they should be seeing? Start right there. That missed message is a reasonable starting place for strengthening your marketing right now. Or was there a match, between what their fresh eyes saw and what you intended? If yes, the message matched then congratulations! You are on target with good marketing. Fresh eyes are a free, easy way to determine “How is my business being perceived?”
This post is part one in Sonja Wise’s series: “What Retail Taught me at 13: The girl who grew up in a jewelry store.”