I guarantee that there is somebody else selling what you are selling or at least something that can be substituted for what you are selling. Today it is taken for granted that your business will operate at an expected level of service; standing out means a lot more than simply providing your product and service as expected. You need to communicate what makes your business different, unique and overall the better place to do business. We can do this without ever saying a word. We can do it by designing every customer touch point to “speak” to our uniqueness – whether it’s precision, high quality, high service, comfort, peace or any other factor. Your company’s message can be “spoken” across the five basic human senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Let’s talk about two local small company examples: Blu Healing Spa (a client) and Freddie Louis Automotive Accessories (a great company that I recently purchased services from).
From your first step up Mr. Louis’s sidewalk you get the “feel” that this may not be your average Automotive Shop. The side walk is epoxy finished and fully covered. As you walk toward the door you will notice light music playing from hidden landscape speakers. Once you enter the location you immediately notice that there is something special about Mr. Louis’s company. You find a warm, relaxing waiting area equipped with oversized leather couches, a big screen TV, hot and cold drinks, free Wifi and recessed lighting. Before your first words with the receptionist, you instinctively know that you are dealing with a “high-quality” business.
When you enter Blu Healing Spa you walk into a world of relaxation. You hear the soothing trickle of running water as you move down a long, cool darkened hallway decorated with beautiful local art. You hear the soothing trickle of running water. You will actually feel your tension begin to leave even before you reach the end of the hall where you are warmly greeted by one or both of the spa owners. You are then moved to a relaxing waiting area where you are allowed a few minutes to decompress and enjoy a warm footbath and a glass of chilled champagne. There will be no doubt in your mind that Blu Healing Spa understands “the importance of slowing down – taking a deep breath and rejuvenating the mind, body, and soul.”
What about your business? What do customers “feel” when they come to your business or visit your web page? Why not ask them and see? One great way to understand if you are “communicating” your positive uniqueness to your clients is to ask them. You can do this through surveys, feedback forms, or even directly talking to them. Make sure to cover the following categories as a minimum:
Your Physical Location
The appearance of your physical location “speaks” loudest about your business. What does your location make customers’ “feel” about your business? Is it clean? Is it comfortable? Does it represent your core values?
Your Cyber Location
Your company’s website usually is the second loudest thing that “speaks” about your business. Sometimes we get so focused on the message content that we pay too little attention to our websites overall appearance. Does it look antiquated from the 1990’s? Is it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for?
Your Employees or Even Yourself (if you’re a one person business)
Remember that the appearance and attitudes of yourself and your employees’ counts. As my wife says, “It only takes one ‘uh-oh’ to wipe out a dozen ‘atta-boys’.”
Yes even this counts! Is your paper clear, precise, and not frustrating to your clients/customers? Are you making sure that your message is included? Think beyond content. How thick is the paper? How does it feel?
Your Marketing Efforts
What is the feel, appeal, clarity, design and message of your company’s logo and all other forms of marketing material from high-end brochures right down to your business cards.
Visit your competitors, buy from them, go to their website, get their paperwork and marketing materials. Ask your customers what they think about specific competitors. What opportunities, issues, or gaps do they mention?
Once you gather this information from your clients, you will have a clear picture of your current state. Ask yourself how, in a perfect world, you would have things done differently and make a list of items that could be changed. It is true that changing customer perception of your business can be costly and often hard to quantify. That is why I recommend picking only 3 to 5 items to change over the next few months. Once you have implemented those, gather more information from your clients/customers, make a list of improvement opportunities, and pick another 3 to 5 to make. Keep this up and over time you will have your business “speaking” for its self. Remember…even the sidewalks count.