Marketing is a bit of a Wizard of Oz act.
Most of us are trying to make our business seem larger than it is, hoping nobody will discover it’s just a tiny old man working the cogs behind the curtain.
You might currently be a one-person business running everything from under the stairs at your parents’ place. When the client sees your ad, website or sales pitch, they don’t know how big your office is or how many staff you have.
They just judge how it feels. We live in a golden era of virtual bluffing that can make your fledgling business look like a global powerhouse.
Unfortunately many brands give away their smallness with the language of their marketing and new business pitches. It’s the corporate version of Clueless Pickup Line Man in the club, unaware of the real messages his words deliver.
“Hel-lo! Do you have a map?”
“Because I’m lost in your eyes.”
Likewise businesses signal their smallness with pitch lines they think are solid gold client-bait, but actually make them look one step up from a street mime hustling for loose change. People can just tell.
Let’s look at a few old favorites.
1. “Our Team Has A Combined 85 Years Of Industry Experience”
What does this even mean? One person with 45 years experience who should have left the business years ago, and 20 others with two years each? Year-totalling presents a dusty and confusing image of your team’s skills.
2. “Acme Services Pty Ltd”
Or LLC or whatever it is in your part of the world. Small businesses love to add those letters as if being a registered company is a badge of prestige and proof that you’ve hit the big time. Only your accountant cares.
3. “Experience The Best!”
Drive around any regional area and it reminds you that there are only two kinds of pie shop: “Australia’s Best” and “World Famous”. Hands-on pie experience has taught you that these claims sit somewhere between mild exaggeration and flagrant lie. People who are the best never say so, except Muhammad Ali, and you are no Ali.
4. “For All Your Lawn Care Needs”
Anyone who hates ads on city TV should spend some time in regional towns, where all the ads are made in-house by the local TV station using one overworked writer, director and cameraman named Gary.
Gary doesn’t have much spare time, so his ads fit a strict template. It must open on a shot of a van pulling up in front of a local business in an industrial estate. And it must end with “For all your liquor needs!” or “For all your birdseed needs!” or whatever.
Even if you’re just writing your first website, try to break the Gary template.
5. Exclamation Marks!!
You might have noticed a theme throughout the small business claims so far: the exclamation mark. Nothing makes you look more like a small yappy Pekinese among the big dogs of business.
Desperate for attention! Hey, look at me!! OMG they’re multiplying like the broomsticks in Fantasia!!! And if you want to create a clear impression that you are a thirteen-year-old girl, keep using them!!!!
6. Like Us On Facebook
We could chat for hours on whether you should rely on Facebook and its vast armies of nostalgic older people. But if you do, just put the linked logo up there. The needy ‘Like us on Facebook’ is the language of small sandwich stores and family boat rental businesses.
7. More Than Just (The Thing You Do)
Businesses who say this usually do exactly the same as all their competitors, and no more. As a competitive edge it’s like the “infinity plus one” line small boys use.
You ask them what’s the “more” and they’re like: uh … it’s … our quality and service. The all-purpose non-differentiator that every small business uses.
A close relative is: “Experience The Difference”. You can take this lazy claim as a guarantee there will be no difference.
8. Graphic Clutter and Giant Logos
Aristotle came up with the scientific observation that nature abhors a vacuum. This is never truer than in small business marketing.
Small business people can’t bear the idea of blank space, because it’s room that can be used to wedge in extra “selling points” or “value-adds”. Or they enlarge their logo to fill all the available space, creating a cramped, try-hard look. Elegance and assurance come from giving graphics room to breathe.
Here’s a Hermes store, looking all effortlessly prestigious.
Now let’s give it a small business graphic makeover.
Calm down, less branding is more.
So how do you make your small business look large and successful? We’ll answer that next Tuesday, see you then.
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