Last week, I wrote on how we, as business owners, present ourselves and through that, our business in a positive light and what that may entail. It’s more than we expect and requires us to take a deep and personal look into our own behaviors. This week we will tackle how to present our business processes and through that, our digital and advertising efforts in a positive light and more importantly, why this matters.
As you will recall from last week, presentation is EVERYTHING because it sets not only our own expectations but also our clients and customers expectations for doing business with us. With so much of our lives being lived digitally – let’s be honest, most of us have a tiny computer in our pocket that we happen to call our phone which ironically, we rarely use for that purpose – the two, business production and digital presentation need to be tied together. But first, let’s discuss what I mean by business production and processes.
Business Production and Processes
Business production is focused on what you make. From handmade goods to services you provide, it all falls under what your business produces. For restaurants, this would be the food served, the type and presentation style tells people what to expect from eating at that restaurant. But there’s more to it because any restaurant owner will tell you that the atmosphere matters just as much as what is being served. You can be selling high end, farm to table meals but if your interior design looks to be that of a diner, then that is how you will be perceived.
This, then is your business processes. It is the support system in which you present your goods and services, or business production and tells people what to expect when working with you. Yes, the atmosphere you create, says a lot about your business. Let’s start with a big one that most of us consider in the creation of the business but may not have top priority as we grow.
When is your business open? Hours of operation are key to the success of any business and highly depend on the type of business you are in. Are your hours of operation clearly listed, digitally and physically if you have a physical location? Do you adhere to these hours of operation or do you make exceptions? And if you do make exceptions, are you clear in those or are you presenting that your hours of operation are merely suggestions?
Having clear and defined hours of operation for your business is not only important to maintain your own sanity, but also tells customers what to expect from your business. Certain types of businesses are expected to operate during specific hours, or “banking hours.” Whereas, others may have a very different set of expected operating hours. Having hours of operation that fit your specific business type may be rather straight forward. Say you operate a spa – your hours of operation tell customers a lot about what to expect from their experience with you. But it’s more than that. You are setting an expectation.
Let’s consider the expectations you set from your hours of operation. If you are in a situation where there are culturally accepted “normal” hours of operation, such as Symbiotic Marketing, our hours are already set by what is already accepted and expected. Businesses who work with other businesses typically operate under “banking hours,” Monday through Friday 8-5 or 9-5. This is why many networking events take place early morning, lunch time, and in the evenings. However, as many business owners will tell you, their hours of operation are very different!
While this may be because our personal “business” hours most definitely fall outside the “normal” hours of operation, because it does. But also, because not all businesses can operate successfully withing “banking hours.” For those, creating hours of operation and expectations for such are much more stringent but also flexible, which leads to another Catch-22 which is again, tied to frustrations.
Are You Setting Frustrations?
Any business owner will tell you that setting hours of operation can be a frustration. When you set that expectation, you are telling potential and current clients that you are working during those times. But then the kid gets sick. The car needs an unexpected repair. You have a doctor’s appointment. These things happen, and when they do, they interfere with your “working” hours. So, you make adjustments and work outside of your hours of operation to get things done. All the while, you are becoming more frustrated because honestly, how much longer can you keep this up? We’ve all been there.
What’s more important, is the customer’s perception and their possible frustrations that are being set by your hours of operation. This comes down to knowing your target audience, who you want to reach with your business. Who you are servicing with your business should be closely tied to your hours. Retail stores in a downtown environment have a very different set of expected hours than those in a strip mall. When you adjust your hours to be more restrictive or flexible than the expected hours of your location, it can make you appear to be difficult to work with. However, if you own a specialty service, you have the flexibility of creating more specific, non-traditional hours. And in doing so, sets the expectation that what you have to offer may be more of a luxury item.
In either case, you are setting expectations related to frustrations. People tend to do business with those that operate within the expected norms not only within the industry but also the location it serves. If you fall outside of those norms, you are presenting to your customers that you may be frustrating to work with or buy from or that an outside frustration can affect the continued use of your business.
Let’s return to the restaurant for a moment. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love a good meal and sometimes, that’s expensive. When our budgets allow, we are more likely to eat out and eat at nicer restaurants. However, when things are tight, we’re more likely to cook at home. It isn’t something we like to do, it’s something we feel we need to do. This not only affects the restaurants we eat at, but all other goods and services outside of what we see as our “real needs.” As budgets shrink, we tighten belts, and this is when items that are considered to be “luxury” are cut. We, at Symbiotic Marketing, have felt this as much as you. That’s when tough decisions are made. But here’s that Catch-22, as we become more frustrated, our “needs” either shrink or grow.
When Frustrations Grow
When our frustrations grow, we often look to convenience first. How can I make this frustration go away? There’s a reason why we can now buy a car online and pick it up from a vending machine and why we can now do all of our grocery shopping online and have it dropped off at our door or we can pick it up on our way home. We’re busy people! For our little frustrations, finding a quick and convenient way of addressing it, is key. Maybe it’s popping through the drive through for dinner because you just don’t want to cook. Or it’s having cat litter delivered to your home because lugging it from the store, to the car, and into the house is just too much work.
But what do we do when those frustrations are larger, because the need is larger? Or even worse, what do we do when we are frustrated, and we don’t even know why because it’s somehow all tied together? For a business owner, it is all tied together. Your budget is directly tied to your finances. Your marketing is directly tied to your budget. Your sales and client load is directly tied to your marketing. And the result of your sales and client load is your finances. It can be a vicious cycle.
So, how do you speak to the customers and clients who are in the cycle of frustration? Whether their frustration is one from convenience, such as not having the time to maintain a yard or from some other outside frustration, such as looking for assistance with financial concerns, you need to be where the people are – specifically, your target audience.
Be Where Your People Are
According to Pew Research, 96% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, and 81% own a smartphone. No matter how much time is actually devoted to being online or playing a game, it is clear how quickly and easily technology has integrated our lives.
Having lived in and remember the time before the internet (weren’t those the days), I am fascinated by easily certain transitions from what could be considered analog to digital are accepted and then expected. What I mean is that we used to meet people face to face or over the phone. That was how we communicated directly with each other. Today, we are much less likely to speak to one another on the phone but rather through text and messenger platforms. And now we can respond to these texts by a watch we wear on our wrist.
This speaks to our convenience frustration. We want things to be at our fingertips and we want it now! But it is more than just communication we want – we also want all of the things. We go to the internet for advice, recommendations, quotes, and most of all, for information. At a time when you can literally look up anything from Andy Rooney videos to communities devoted to cats, people are there. And they are consuming all of it.
There’s a reason why major companies advertise online and on specific platforms. Ever wonder why there are ads that play before a YouTube video? Because that is where the people are. While it can be easier for a larger company to spend the money on a larger campaign to reach more people, smaller businesses do not have this luxury. We need to be more specific, more targeted in our approach because we are pulling on a much smaller audience.
Knowing Your Audience
Having a clear view of who your audience is, is only part of the picture. You also need to know where they are, physically and digitally from you to be able to reach them. Physically, the determination is rather simple – how far are you or your client willing to travel for your goods or service. Digitally, it gets a little murky – for many, it’s about as clear as mud.
Your digital presence says a lot about you as a company and sets expectations for what it may be like to work with you. While there are some clear expectations for businesses, such as it is acceptable when you are small to start off with a social media account and grow into a website. Which platforms and how to use the accounts effectively is where many small business owners start to become lost.
To add to this frustration, how to reach those audiences, which we all know are there! Our frustration grows, because we know this ties to other aspects of our business, and this is when decisions are made. Do we dismiss this audience because we don’t know how to reach them or, do we dig deeper? Come back next week, when I will discuss how to go deeper into digital, specifically social media and how you can work to find your target audience and present your business to them in a positive light.