We have been surveying owners of local small and medium-sized businesses about how they handle advertising and promotion. It’s a simple survey; because we wanted to get a feel for how we might help make our local area more commercially successful, and being in the graphic design business, this was an obvious subject to find out about.
The news was not good, but it is interesting.
- About 60% of business owners consider promotion an expense rather than an investment. For many, therefore, it is painful to spend money on promotion so they prefer to “wait for customers to walk in.”
- Sales people in retail stores and receptionists in offices are not actively engaging potential customers in a friendly, interested way. In most cases they are bored, uninterested and not paying attention.
- Some are stuck with outdated methods of advertising (when did you last look something up in the Yellow Pages?) that they know aren’t bringing in business, but don’t want to change because “promotion is expensive.”
- Some do not promote at all and – no surprise here – their businesses are struggling to survive.
- Some blame “the economy” and hope maybe something will happen to reverse the scene.
In all these cases we observed empty stores, quiet waiting rooms and an general atmosphere somewhere between disinterest and despair.
It’s not all gloom and doom, however. Many business owners understand that promotion is an investment, so they promote, promote and promote some more. These places, naturally enough, are the ones with customers. Even here, there is room for improvement. Not one of the businesses surveyed keep track of which ad, which promotion is bringing in new business, so their results are uneven.
We conclude that businesses could be immediately more successful if they gave attention to these few points:
- Promotion is an investment. It is supposed to bring in a return better than the cost of the promotion. Not to promote is very expensive.
- Keep track of your advertising. Note which items or methods drive in more business (do more!) and which don’t (drop!).
- In businesses that rely on walk-in traffic, such as retail or professional offices, ensure that your staff are trained to be attentive, interested and friendly to potential customers. Bored, inattentive staff drive business away.