The Self-Inflicted Wound of the Small Business Owner: You Don’t Market In 2017

This is a wake-up call to the small business owners who are fortunate enough to read this. The vast majority of you, are not good at marketing. It finally took a bad interaction with a small business, to spill over what I’ve been thinking for years now and land on this post.
When I was in 4th grade I received an assignment from my school teacher. The assignment simply was that if I had a million dollars, what would I do with it? While the majority of my classmates were buying toys, pizza, spaceships, etc. I opened a restaurant with my Dad. Fast forward 21 years and at the age of 30, I helped my Dad open a restaurant (we didn’t quite need a million after all). I now help with the marketing and accounting.
So now I’m tasked with bringing customers in the door. Luckily we have good food AND good service. I’m also not just saying that because I’m biased, we legit have good food. Since I started marketing last year, I’ve been able to stumble through building a bigger following on our respective social media platforms than our competitors. It’s not something to gloat about because it’s not huge but our competitors are simply not doing it at all. Even the ones who are, are not doing it well. We had more followers on Facebook in 3 weeks than the previous owner of our location had in 10 years. Our followers on Instagram aren’t something to be proud of either but out of the 9 direct competitors to our restaurant, only 2 of us have Instagram accounts. I know this because I did a full analysis on our competitors in terms of their business and their marketing. Most of them don’t have social media handles, they don’t pay for their yelp, their websites are outdated, Facebook pages have posts from 2014, you see the trend. Some of these places do have multiple locations that are pretty successful. Why are they successful you ask? Well, they have large capital with large store fronts and parking lots that are located on busy plazas/street corners. As Gary Vaynerchuk once said, “sure it’s cool to have revenue of 20% but why not 50% or 60%, why are you leaving money on the table?” The problem I have to overcome is a tiny storefront. Customers who have directions to come see us can’t even find us, let alone someone driving by is never going to see us. Our parking is in the back of our restaurant and we are so hidden that we needed to put up signs on the back of the building.
How long are the bigger businesses going to be around now that people know us little guys exist because they log onto Yelp to find a place to eat? I can’t even wrap my head around how you have the audacity to not even say thank you when someone leaves you a positive review? Do you realize what this person just did for you? They told an infinite amount of people that they should come buy from your place of business! This is the ultimate word of mouth! That review stays on your page forever! They don’t have to keep telling friends, co-workers, family, etc. about you. I can sympathize with some of you in terms of not knowing how to work social media platforms, or reply on yelp, google, etc. Fine, but you can’t sit here and tell me someone in your place of business doesn’t know how to do that, or a family member, a friend, or even find someone to pay that can do it for you? Thank your customers for their reviews, it’s the least you can do. Oh, but you don’t have time to do this because you are too busy sitting at the chamber of commerce events.
Let me tell you about the chamber of commerce. Yes, it’s great to network, and yes it’s beneficial to some people in particular industries. Here is my experience. When we opened the restaurant the ladies from the chamber were coming in all the time to eat and trying to get us to sign up, so in good faith we did and I went to an event. In my mind, I would get to meet some other business owners in our city, help each other with our businesses, trade marketing information, discuss village issues, etc. Instead, I sat through people trying to sell their product or service to each other! To make matters worse I had to sit by a very self-centered chiropractor whom I’ll call Bob. Bob decides to tell me how he doesn’t do any marketing at all. All he does is attend networking events. Bob looks down on me for doing any marketing at all. Well, Bob, I’ve been to a chiropractor and he charged my insurance $300 bucks to crack my back in 10 minutes. So by my estimation, Bob’s opportunity cost is $1,500 an hour. So while you sit here looking down on me for marketing, you could be at your office cracking backs and making $3,000. Instead, you are spending 2 hours at the chamber trying to get me to go see you, which is not happening because you have poor people skills. What I’ll do instead is pay yelp $500 to reach over 4,000 people a month and drive in sales of $15,000 just from 1 marketing avenue. ROI anyone? Now that Yelp is working for me, instead of sitting at the chamber listening to Bob pitch me, I can actually network with bloggers and Instagrammers. These influencers can cumulatively reach hundreds of thousands of people for me instead of the 50 people in the chamber. Oh and by the way I found my chiropractor online because he markets and has good reviews.
Exactly how my experience at the chamber played out, is how small business forums or groups play out as well. The ridiculous terrible pitches and in fighting that I’ve seen were so awful that I left all groups. I was again naive to think we could actually share ideas but instead, there were a million marketing/SEO gurus everywhere preying on poor business owners. Even when a good idea was shared, people would jump on each other like sharks bashing one another. Do you understand how unprofessional it is to bash someone’s idea and then plug yourself? If you are so good, why are you begging for business in Facebook groups or forums? Especially if you are a marketing and SEO guru. You out of everyone should not be begging for business. Your business is marketing!
Besides being a business owner, I’m also a consumer. That’s right I buy stuff and eat food. So I know what I hate to look at and what I don’t hate to look at. I hate the dumb commercials on videos that are longer than the actual video. I hate scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing a buy 1, get one free post every other post. As cute as your kids and dog are, I don’t need to see terrible advertising 5 times a day. Show me more of your personal brand because that’s why we are friends on Facebook and every once in awhile throw out a pitch but make it good. Stop advertising like everyone else. Before you post ask someone close to you who always tells you how it is what they think. You know that person, Aunt Lucy who has no filter. Ask Aunt Lucy what she thinks about the post you are about to put up. Heck ask yourself, “if I saw this, would I be compelled to buy or would I be annoyed?”
People are no longer going to come to the dying strip mall that was popular in the 90s. The new generation isn’t all of a sudden going to pick up a newspaper. People aren’t going to stop scrolling through Facebook during commercials. Stop living in the past. You are living through word of mouth but then what happens? People move, people get older, people pass away, and life happens. Then where do you get your customers from? My buddy who runs a furniture store was trying to implement a marketing strategy and the owner shut it down because the store was losing money so he wanted to save on cost. Well, sales plummeted 50% after that and he’s scratching his head as to why. When you cut your marketing, especially when sales are down, you rip open the wound. Whereas you were bleeding out before, now you’re dead. Red Crow Marketing estimates that we see 4k — 10k ads a day. Think about it, your competitors are out there in front of people and now you have all of a sudden vanished. How do we know you exist? You really think I noticed you as I drove by? You really think that just because you have a website, people will magically appear now? It’s even worse when you cut sales staff. You are cutting the people who are bringing in money! Yes of course if sales are down, review your sales staff and your marketing. You might be spending money in the wrong areas but don’t cut the budget. Cut some programs but add to others that are working. And if you made it this far, DO SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE.