Should you offer new products or services?

graphic image of a rocket that crashed

Recently, we’ve been privy to a lot of conversation from small business owners who are trying to come up with new products or services…. some even considering startups.

No surprise.  The ongoing disruption small businesses are experiencing (Thanks, Covid) has left owners looking for new income streams to replace those that haven’t come back.

An obvious example is restaurants and bars. But any business catering to a downtown corporate market…. or convention trade…. or travel and hospitality industries…. is also scrambling to replace lost income as many workers continue to work remotely.

Over the years, we’ve seen more than a few startups crash and burn before they even got started. Since offering new products or services is not all that different than starting a new business, we want to share what we’ve learned.

Why do businesses fail?

Usually, there’s a simple reason behind a business failure and it’s generally one or more of these 3 things:

You haven’t identified your target market.

I always cringe when someone tells me “everyone” is their target market. Rarely is that the case.

OK, maybe for something like toilet paper…..or water. Necessities that all humans need. And even then, the target market for pricey high-end bottled water like FIJI is not the same as that of generic brands in the flimsy plastic that you pick up in the grocery store. FIJI customers are willing to lay out far more money than someone who shops by price.

For most ventures, there’s a specific audience. Luxury products are geared to different audiences than mass market offerings. Think Versace vs Walmart or Tesla vs Ford. Whole Foods vs Aldi.

The marketing you develop to sell your products —  the language, design and messaging — will change based on who you’re marketing to. That’s why FIJI’s water is “artisan” and comes in a sleek, beautifully designed square bottle. It’s aimed at customers who are willing to pay up for a premium product, not someone looking to save money.

You haven’t verified the need for your product or service.

This reason always makes me sad because I see it far too often and it’s so easy to avoid. You come up with a “great” small business idea — an idea, not a concept because a concept usually involves significant reasoning — and an idea…..not so much.

A doomed-from-the-start startup, on the other hand, usually is the result of someone falling in love with their idea. They’re so sure that everyone will love their product that they neglect to do market research.

The most egregious example I’ve seen was someone who quit a well -paying job (with benefits) to launch a business selling something that not only did not fill a need but few people would buy.

I was astonished.

Had I been able to say something……which I couldn’t because it was a personal relationship and my feedback was not requested….. I would have opened my (rather big) mouth because it pains me to see an eager entrepreneur fail.

But I had to keep quiet while the startup launched, burned and crashed….taking thousands of dollars with it. A pricey lesson that didn’t have to happen.

You haven’t set aside a marketing budget.

We’re website design and developers. We love creating custom sites, and nothing makes us happier than happy clients. But every once in a while, we turn down a project because while the potential client might be able to pay for a custom website, they hadn’t set aside any money for marketing.

Long ago when the internet was in its infancy, you could launch a new business on a website and get away with word-of-mouth marketing or a small public relations campaign to promote your company.

But today there’s no way in hell that can happen. There’s far too much noise….. online and off. We’re bombarded with advertising from a multitude of channels.

That’s why there are influencers on TikTok and Instagram and social media experts to manage your campaigns. Add in email marketing, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, trade shows (yes, they’re coming back!) and other content development and you’re looking at a marketing campaign. And campaigns cost money!

If you stand still and stop promoting, you can be sure your competitors will be waiting in the wings to overtake you. So putting all your money into a website is a really awful idea.

Recently. we turned down a lucrative prospect for reasons 1 and 2. So even though there was a marketing budget, we just couldn’t stomach the idea of participating in a project that was doomed to fail.

Instead, we suggested that they hire us for a few hours of consulting to review their idea and see if we could help create a more feasible option. Because as much as we like making money, we also want to help our clients succeed. 

Next time a colleague or friend tells you about an idea for a new product or service and you’re feeling iffy about it, do them a favor. Share this blog post with them. They might be very grateful.

Resources

Some interesting post-Covid business opportunities.  13 Post-Pandemic Businesses You Can Start Now

Here’s a book to read for more prep work. So when you come to us to build a new website, you’ve already qualified your business concept. 5 Books to Read Before Starting Your Business by Ken Dunn.

5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Your Clients.

Read this if  you’re already in failing mode. 5 Tough Steps to Save Your Failing Business by Doug and Polly White.

And if you’ve had to close up shop. Before you beat yourself up, see  what good company you’re in.

One failure does not make you a failure.  It makes you a little bit wiser for the next opportunity. Just ask Mark Cuban.  13 Business Leaders Who Failed Before They Succeeded by Lynn Truong.

If you’ve been mulling over starting a new business or launching a new product and having second thoughts, call us. We’re happy to brainstorm with you. Maybe we can save you some money. And grief.

 

Leave a comment

Small Business Marketing in the Throes of a Pandemic

When the world does a 360, everything you thought you knew becomes questionable.

In the grips of a frightening pandemic, advertising might be the last thing you’re thinking about. But businesses still need to be on their toes.

You simply can’t ignore campaigns you’ve been running because, odds are, the messaging needs adjusting. And if you don’t acknowledge the new normal, you’re going to look bad. Really bad.

See our latest video about companies that are thriving despite Covid-19.

The Good, The Bad & The Clueless

I’ve been watching way too much television since the pandemic.started.. But part of it is marketing research. I’m curious as to how businesses are handling messaging during the pandemic. Some are ignoring it and doing advertising as usual. Others are either creating new ads or tweaking existing ad campaigns to reflect what’s going on in the world at the moment.

Ad Age took a look at 7 brands whose ads coincided with Covid-19.

Norwegian Cruise Lines stands out for horrendous timing. There’s not much else to say about it ……other than I’ll never take another cruise. Will you?

Here are a few companies doing a great job of adapting their messaging to fit the current climate:

Ford
Their commercials are reassuring, offering payment relief for Ford Credit customers. The director of U.S. marketing for Ford Motor Co. said: “It’s important to be reassuring right now and not trying to say to people ‘Rush into your car dealership for a sales event.’ ”

Nike
Nike’s new campaign focuses on social distancing and staying inside. Play inside, play for the world.” Perfect.

Hyundai
Hyundai  replaced their previously scheduled campaign with new spots touting the Hyundai Assurance Job Loss Protection program which defers payments for people who recently bought or leased a car and lost their job during a certain timeframe.

Toyota
Toyota’s new campaign reassures viewers that they’re “here for you now and in all the better days ahead .”

The examples above show how smart marketing teams pivot and respond during a crisis. They’re proactive and they speak to the fears and needs of viewers.

In return, we feel like these brands really give a damn. And when life returns to normal, these brands will be top of mind.

Look to the Businesses that are Marketing Smart

So what can small businesses learn from how big firms are handling their advertising campaigns during a crisis? Here are 4 key takeaways:

  1. Be compassionate. Don’t try to do business as usual when nothing is as usual. Empathize with your audience. Let them know you understand (and share) their fears.
  2. Be authentic. If you want customer loyalty, give them a reason to be loyal. People can usually see through phoniness. If your company has run some ads that ignored the tragic state of the world, acknowledge the error. Apologize and move on. We’re a very forgiving people. You’ll have another chance.
  3. Be trustworthy. Can customers depend on your company’s products or services? Make sure you give them a reason to trust you. This does more for brand loyalty than almost anything else. ‘
  4. Be creative. What can you do to help customers and potential customers notice you, and hopefully, want to give you business down the road? Start by letting them know you’re here to help. Whatever it is they’re going through, be a resource.

Sadly, many small businesses will not survive the coronavirus. So while we’re all stuck inside, now is the perfect time to do what you can to make sure yours is one that does.

Leave a comment

4 Tips to Building a Better Brand

man at a blackboard with the word BRAND in the center

What do people think when they hear your company name? Ideally it’s something positive that reflects your brand vision.

If you’re not sure, it might be a good time to do a brand audit. If you’ve never done one, let’s start from square one.

What is a brand?

Your brand is your company’s identity. It’s the impression your company makes in the marketplace and in the minds of current and potential customers. Visually, it’s the look and feel of your logo, font, graphics and color palette. Emotionally, it’s your voice – the tone of your communications. Overall, it’s your messaging.

Does your tagline set you apart? How do you want your product or service to make people feel when they see it? What makes your product better than the competition? What is it about your company that inspires loyalty among your clients?

Good branding doesn’t just happen. It’s carefully created and nurtured and maybe occasionally tweaked. Then it’s disseminated far and wide. Consistently. Solid brands stand the test of time.

Let’s look at a few examples. See what comes to mind when you hear these company names.

Starbucks
No other coffee house in the world has the brand recognition of Starbucks. Even the rich coffee aroma outside a Starbucks is instantly recognizable. Your experience in a Starbucks will be consistently excellent around the world.

Mercedes-Benz
Luxury autos with price tags to match. Drive a Mercedes? You appreciate elegance, soft rich leather interiors and finely-tuned engines.

Chanel
Elegant, chic and sophisticated. When you wear apparel with the Chanel logo, it says you value quality and can afford it.

Subaru
Where Mercedes is all about luxury, Subaru’s marketing says “we make cars to keep your family safe”. Their commercials tug at your heartstrings — parents watching their child leave for college in the “old” family Subaru, young drivers avoiding horrendous accidents thanks to Subaru’s breaking system, a family heading on a car trip. The music is soothing, the emotions are strong, and the message is reassuring. If you care about your loved ones, buy a Subaru.

 

 

Amazon
Have you ever looked closely at the Amazon logo? It’s clean and simple and unassuming. And clever! The arrow below the company’s name goes from “a” to “z”. Just like Amazon’s huge range of products.

Big companies have big marketing budgets to build their brands. Your small business no doubt has a communication budget to match, but you still need brand development to grow your company.

So what can you do to build brand equity on a small business budget? Start by doing a brand audit. Ask yourself what people think when they hear your company’s name or see your logo. Is your logo recognizable? Does your messaging say “ we’ve got your back” or “we give a damn”? Is your tagline memorable?

If you answer no to any of these questions, the following tips should come in handy.

4 tips to build a better brand.

  1. Have a logo that’s relevant, unique and appealing. And use it in every bit of marketing material that comes out of your company – your website, newsletter, brochures, business cards, premiums, packaging.
  2. Have a style guide to make sure your brand identity is consistent across all marketing channels. This includes a clear color palette, a font guide and an overall look and feel. Memorable brands have solid style guides.
  3. Build a strong brand voice. Your marketing material should always sound like it came from your company, not a competitor. Your company’s personality should be consistent even as you target different markets. Is your company voice warm, fun and friendly like Southwest Airlines? Serious and knowledgeable about healthy eating like Whole Foods? Reassuring about environmentally safe products for your children like The Honest Company? Or quirky and fun like Dollar Shave Club?  Your brand voice sets you apart from the competition. It’s your promise to your customers.
  4. Make sure your messaging is clear and consistent. The language you use to appeal to Millennials is not the language you use to reach Boomers. It may also change as you add new products or services. But the company voice should not waiver.

Communicate clearly and relevantly to each market segment so they know you understand exactly what they want or need.

Need help with your branding? Find a reputable firm to help you. Like ours ;).

Reach us here.

Leave a comment

Six features your website must have.

Websites differ in design and style. But there are certain features that all good websites have in common. Here are 6 of them:

  1. Readability
    Legibility is paramount when reading digital copy. Can viewers read the copy on your website? REALLY read it? On a cell phone or tablet as well as a laptop?A good website is designed for ease of reading on ALL screens. That means fonts are web-friendly, reverse type is used judiciously (white type can be dramatic but it’s hard to read as body copy) and clutter is kept to a minimum.
  2. Clear Messaging
    Will visitors to your site clearly understand what it’s all about? Or will they have to fiddle around to discover who you are and what you do?Once someone lands on your site, you’ve 15 seconds to convince him to stay.

    Good websites keep visitors engaged.
    Good websites keep visitors engaged.

    Especially if your product or services fix problems for people. People looking for something they need are generally not very patient. Continue reading “Six features your website must have.”

Leave a comment