“I’m too busy running my business to think about marketing… Social media, a new website—I don’t have time for that.” Sound familiar? It’s the all-too-common refrain from small businesses owners everywhere. But here’s the thing—you already ARE marketing to your audience, and the message is “we don’t have much time for you.”

With that said, the first step to better marketing is not creating a Facebook page. It’s taking a look at the places you interact with your customers in the real world—your touch points—and improving them.

For several years I worked for one of the most successful upscale restaurant chains in Canada… Lets call them Chain K. They are experts at maximizing their natural touch points. To illustrate the point, lets compare a standard table greeting with an example of the expectation from Chain K.

Most restaurants:

“Welcome to _____ can I get you started with some drinks?”

Chain K:

“How’s everyone doing this evening?”…

“I detect a bit of an accent, are you folks from out of town?”….

“Well let me take a minute to tell you a little about our menu. Our specialty is slow-roasted prime rib. It has been marinated for 24 hours and the AAA beef (or better) has been aged for 28 days. This all works together to maximize tenderness…

That said, my personal favourite is the filet mignon done Chicago, rare, with mushrooms and our special house sauce—the steak will melt in your mouth. If you’re not into red meat, we actually just received a fresh shipment of Atlantic lobster this afternoon...

As you’re thinking about what to order can I offer you a glass of our easy-drinking pinot noir?

Oh, and if you have any questions, my name is Steve”

While not everyone is in the business of selling food, this example demonstrates several key communications principles that you can use yourself without adding to your communications burden.

Ask questions that add value

At a nice restaurant, guests are looking for a social experience, not just food. If this table was from out of town, I now have ways to provide extra value to them by making suggestions for local attractions and also a subject of conversation for the rest of the night. Together, they transform dinner into a great social experience.

What questions could you be asking in your day-to-day interactions with customers to maximize the value you offer to them?

Highlight your specialties

Most businesses have some services or products that shine—don’t assume your customers know what they are. Take every opportunity to demonstrate the things you do best, especially when you have a natural opportunity.

What does your business do better than anyone else and how can you tell people about it?

Turn your features into benefits

Have you described your specialties in such a way that you answer the all-important “what’s in it for me” that the customer really cares about? Slow roasting, marinade, AAA beef and 28 day aging do nothing for the consumer but tenderness and rich flavor do—connect the feature to the benefit.

How can you turn the unique features you offer into benefits for the consumer when you talk to them?

Give personal advice

Like my steak recommendation—with add-ons—pointing out other services or modifications to your service can help meet unique needs. Even the fact that you can be flexible helps. How many times have you had a customer say, “I didn’t know you did that?”

How can you use your existing staff/space/communications to tell your customers about unique ways you can meet their needs?

Not everyone wants your “prime rib”

It may have been a steakhouse, but what if I was serving vegetarians? While you don’t want to be everything to everyone, sometimes your non-core service offerings can open the door to customers who otherwise might not want to buy from you.

Who are the potential customers that are ignoring you only because they assume you have nothing to offer them?

Be specific

Offer someone a general drink and you’ll give away water. Offer a specific product and benefit and you’ll sell wine. Simplify the decision making process by pointing people in the direction you want them to go using suggestions about specific products and benefits instead of hoping they figure them out there on their own.

What are some ways that you can change your conversations from general to specific offers?

Introduce who you are

You can do all of these great things but if you’re not taking the time to help customers connect what you offer with who is offering it to them, you lose the opportunity for a personal relationship. Small reminders of who is giving that extra service go a long way towards creating a lasting impression on your audience.

How can you more naturally introduce yourself or remind your audience who you are?

For the small business owner, marketing isn’t all about building a new website or getting involved with social media. It’s about using every communication touch-point you have to your advantage. If you’re worried about time, start with the touch-points you already have, get them right, experience the benefit, and suddenly you’ll find yourself a lot more eager to find time to explore how new touch points can add value to your business… Maybe even using a new website.



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