Don't want to get back to basics for just a moment?
This screed will leave you very unhappy.
Your relentless scribe is feeling relentlessly assaulted.
It seems there's suddenly a vast conspiracy to shove small-business marketing mediocrity right in everyone's face and something must be done.
It is coming from left, right and center, from my mailbox to local radio advertising to magnetic car signs.
It cuts to the core and by all that is righteous and honorable, something must be done.
I say now to the small-business marketer inside of you...
GET ON THE OUTSIDE AND LOOK IN!
Doing that, and one stops wasting money and starts marketing like a pro.
And we're talking a real, simple, no-nonsense pro.
Not the kind of overpaid, creative pro who thinks that dogs riding ponies in outer space on behalf of a processed corn snack is going to win him a big ugly trophy even if it doesn't sell anything for his client who doesn't understand genius anyway.
No, sir. Not that guy.
We're talking the kind of nuts & bolts, ROI-centric marketing pro who understands that selling at the local level with a local prospect is about entering into a conversation the prospect is already having.
And nowhere in that conversation is the word, "needs."
SO, WHY IS THIS SUDDENLY HITTING US IN THE FACE LEFT, RIGHT AND CENTER?
It's as if the local landscape is a marketing battlefield and we're outflanked on all sides by lousy copy that no smart person wants to read.
But instead of trying to cover it all--and it is lately as multitudinous as harassment claims against The Candidate Who Shall Remain Nameless--let's focus on the single best non-starter piece of local advertising to cross our threshold lately.
"Your one stop shop for all your electrical and HVAC needs!"
Two! Two! Two clichés in one!
Some well-meaning local electrical & air-conditioning contractor has been sending out large-format postcards to all addresses in the ZIP code and beyond.
IS HE DETERMINED TO MAKE US NOT CARE?
Let's forget about whether the brand is utterly forgettable.
Let's just go with the fundamental belief that a business must advertise.
So often, a business owner never goes any farther than the thought, "I need to advertise."
And then starts writing something that sounds like advertising.
Not good advertising, mind you.
But it sounds somehow familiar and comfortable so it must be advertising.
And he ends up with something like, "Your one stop shop for all your electrical and HVAC needs!"
FIRST OF ALL, IT'S NOT A "ONE STOP SHOP."
(Which needs to be hyphenated to "one-stop shop." "One-stop" is a compound modifier of two words being used as a single adjective to modify "shop," therefore the hyphen is necessary to make it clear that's what's happening.)
A one-stop shop is a place where one can go do all one's shopping, thereby killing several birds with a single stone.
If you're a contractor, your customer is not stopping in to buy all their electrical and HVAC supplies for the week.
"Hey, I can get HEPA filters, zip cord, a fan motor, freon, and a shore-power cable all in the same place? Whee!"
The Home Depot might qualify as a one-stop shop for "all your electrical and HVAC needs."
But The Home Depot need not say anything so silly because they are the place of, "More Saving. More Doing. That's the Power of The Home Depot."
The Home Depot has an actual brand.
And that brand is not, "For all your home improvement needs."
Let's solve the apathy problem with a simple 180.
PLEASE, JUST STAND BACK AND PRETEND TO BE YOUR CUSTOMER!
As a customer, what's the single most interesting thing in your life?
How would you (as your pretend customer) feel about a postcard that says, "Your one stop shop for all your electrical and HVAC needs!"?
As your customer, are you having a conversation with yourself that goes, "Is there anyone I can call to handle my electrical work AND my heating, ventilation and air conditioning?"
You're not having a conversation anything like that.
YOUR INTERNAL MONOLOGUES ARE ABOUT YOU!
They're about things like making the coffee and getting the kids to soccer practice and getting the dog to the vet and waxing your upper lip and putting dinner on the table!
The customer is a person with a full life who has actual, immediate challenges.
Nobody is going to bust through the clutter of the internal monologue with a Post-It Note that says, "Hey, we do electrical and HVAC!"
Especially if there's never going to be another postcard--which is how these efforts often work.
But might the customer be interested in a different message?
How about a message about her home?
"HAY, LADY! IS YOUR HOUSE ABOUT TO BLOW UP?"
Yes, it's sensational and over the top.
Not to mention rude and sexist.
But at least it's interesting.
No, it's probably not addressing a real problem.
But back off it a bit.
What's an acute problem that a homeowner can have and not know?
Where's the pain point?
Where's the ambiguity and the chaos?
If there's only ever going to be this one postcard, what problem does it solve that is likely to make the not-really a one-stop HVAC/electrician's phone ring immediately?
AS AN ADVERTISER, MAKING PEOPLE CARE ABOUT YOU IS A CHALLENGE
But if the advertising message sounds as if it cares about the customer, if it talks about them, if it sounds genuinely interested in them, guess what happens...
They become interested.
If the message can be creative and surprising, even better.
But first, it has to be interesting and relevant.
And having a "one stop shop for all your electrical and HVAC needs" is neither interesting nor relevant.
Be your customer.
And ask if your customer would care about what you're trying to say.
Do that, and you are on the way towards trouncing most of your local advertising competition.
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.