The first major marketing concept that small business owners and managers need to understand is consistency. Consistent marketing starts with the creation of an idea then the mission statement, and everything else to follow. Consistent marketing also lowers the cost of marketing, increases synergy among employees, and projects the proper image in advertising and promotions.Establishing a BrandWhen an entrepreneur starts a business, they decide what they are going to sell. Sometimes, they find a want or need in a certain market and create a product or service to fill that void. They buy necessary products or design the proper services, and then they begin selling. They sell to a few customers, get a few more, break even, and even begin to make money. Then sales drop. They are doing okay with their current customers, but some are not buying again, and they are not bringing in more business. They add other products and services, but these just cost more to offer and eventually cost the company more money than they are making. They run advertising campaigns that don’t really connect with the business, and they can’t understand what is wrong.Here is the answer: Consistency. All marketing activities and concepts revolve around consistency. If owners and managers neglect consistency when it comes to their marketing, which includes collateral, advertising, promotions, and even products and services, they face huge up-hill battles that often are not won. Consistency plays a big part in other aspects of the business: sales, employees, physical locations, and many other elements.When you begin a business and decide what it is you will sell, you must create a brand immediately. What is meant my creating a brand is determining who you are, who you sell to, what exactly you will sell, and how you will sell it. You must decide upon the specifics that make you unique and what makes customers come to you. While making these decisions you must remain consistent. It is not consistent for a bakery to open and say they are going to sell to health-conscious customers when all they sell are huge, fresh-baked chocolate cookies covered in mounds of peanut butter. There is no consistency to who they are selling to and what they are trying to sell.There are many aspects to establishing a brand, which we discuss in later topics, but consistency must be a key element in every part of establishing a brand.Consistent Marketing CollateralWe touched on consistent marketing collateral in “How Much Does Marketing Cost?” but we must reiterate that point here in consistency. If you are creating your marketing materials yourself, or you are obtaining the services of a professional designer, make sure everything is consistent with your brand, image, and the other pieces.It does your business no good to have a beautiful logo, eye-catching business card, and top-notch brochure if they don’t complement each other and lose consistency. The logo should match what you sell and to who. Next, the business card should match your logo in color schemes, appearances, and what it conveys. Many business owners don’t value consistent marketing collateral and will decide or demand inconsistent elements because they look nice or they think it will make people pick up their card. You want to create business cards that are unique and eye-catching, but potential customers should know it belongs to you, the computer repair guy, and not a fashion designer.Consistent marketing collateral also means to portray your company in brochures and websites the same way as you do in person. Make sure customers know what they will receive from you when they do reach the physical part of your relationship (i.e. consultation or online order). It will leave a negative result with a customer that sees a brochure with a downtown hi-rise pictured, model-quality customer service reps, and a $1 million dollar reception area and is presented with a small metal building in the middle of no-where and they have to wait in the sun to talk with you. There is nothing wrong with the latter part of that example, but don’t build customers up with different expectations that what they will receive. Being a successful business doesn’t require a huge investment in an office and personnel, but it does require consistent branding and image. A potential target will become a loyal customer if they are prepared before-hand for what they will receive and the business delivers the same way or better each time. Consistency is another name for success, and that includes marketing collateral.Online MarketingThere are many arguments to be had on the difficulty or simplicity of online marketing. Some professionals will say that online marketing, social networks, and a web presence are easy and anyone can be successful. Others will tell you that it is a complicated process that should be left to professionals that know how to manage it. Either way, they will agree on one thing: consistency.The online world has attracted a lot of players, and not all are good. For this reason, any business trying to establish their brand online must develop trust and lasting relationships with customers and potential targets. The easiest way to do this is through consistent marketing. Using the same avatar, posting similar ads, and targeting similar groups are examples of consistent marketing. Keep in mind, once someone sees any of these consistent examples and decides to surf to your web site, it must remain consistent. Using a crazy animated ad to draw attention may get clicks to your site, but those clicks will mean nothing if the user leaves your site immediately because it is not what they expected.One major area that must remain consistent with the rest of your marketing efforts is your social network. As a small business, the owner or general manager will probably be in charge of social networking sites, blog postings, and other social activities on the web. You may also decide to outsource this work, and find a marketing firm that can handle these tedious tasks for you. Either way, you must make sure that you, your employee, or your hired firm produce a consistent image with what you sell, who you sell to, and how you sell it. You don’t want your myspace page to be full of teen pictures, music, and alcohol bottles if your company sells computer equipment to doctor’s offices. Your networking pages can have a personal twist to them, especially if your business is small and the owner is the one managing this segment of your marketing, but make sure you are attracting potential customers and delivering the proper brand image.Another mistake that is made in online marketing is an inconsistent website. Some businesses will never make use of social networking sites like facebook or myspace, but everyone must have a web site. Today’s society demands some type of online presence even if that means just a website. 66% of consumers surf the web before making purchases. Unfortunately, many business owners fail to convert potential customers because their website turns customers away. Businesses must realize that a website is just like a physical store. If it looks cheap, cluttered, and dirty, customers will leave. They will not dig deep, ask many questions, or make purchases. They will just leave!Web design can be an expense that many businesses can’t see a need for, but a properly designed site will go a long way. Many owners and managers feel that they can design their own website with the help of a book and Microsoft Frontpage, but more times than not, that is not true. Some owners and managers have the experience and know-how to produce a professional website, but if you don’t have that ability, you should seek help. In the end, the site must be consistent with your other marketing collateral and your brand. When a customer takes a brochure and then looks to your site for more information, it must give them the same feeling and expectation as the brochure and your sales staff does.Sales Management and Other EmployeesOne major key to success in your business is creating synergy among your employees. By est
ablishing a consistent mission statement, purpose, and cohesive goal, you can bring your employees together and allow them to provide consistent results with that of your other employees and your brand image.There is an ongoing feud between sales and marketing departments between who is responsible for what. By creating consistency between your marketing and sales management, these two departments can come together and work together instead of against each other. The primary item to understand is to make sure you are directing your company and its staff in a similar and consistent manner. Each department must perform their tasks in unison with the others so that you deliver a consistent message, product, and service to your customers.Advertising and PromotionsThe final area of marketing consistency is advertising and promotions. Once you have defined who your company is, what is will sell, and who you will sell it to, you have to maintain this consistency in promotions and marketing.Pay attention to the various marketing campaigns you encounter. Compare them to the rest of the message that you receive from that company. Is it consistent? Do you get the same image and feeling from that advertising campaign as you do from their online efforts? Think about this when creating and implementing your marketing campaigns.To create consistent marketing and advertising campaigns doesn’t mean you have to run the same ads everywhere. Many times this is effective, but it is not always the case. Creating consistent campaigns means to analyze your basic brand and be sure you are conveying the right message. If one campaign positions your company as a traditional accounting firm with solid experience, and the next campaign portrays your company as the cutting-edge modern accounting agency with young professionals, your target audiences will get confused.Another place to consider consistency is within an individual campaign. Let’s say you are trying to drive your existing customer base that is used to coming into your physical store to your website. You have created summer-long campaign filled with instructional brochures, direct mail pieces, in-store promotions, and various other activities. Consistency will become an issue and this campaign will probably end up a failure, if each activity is different. You give away golf balls in your store, but your direct-mail pieces are themed with cook-out imagery. Your brochures pitch your website as easy to use, but your sales staff tells you customers they need to sit through 8 seminars to be able to log on. All of these are inconsistent and don’t produce a similar theme or message.There are several reasons for consistency, especially in advertising and promotional campaigns. First, potential customers are bombarded with advertising every where they go, everything they hear, and everything they see. Second, it takes at least 3 real impressions before a potential customer will take notice of something new that was not referred by word-of-mouth. Some sources say it is as many as 7 impressions before your campaign will take effect. Consistency in campaigns will result in more impressions that have effect on potential customers. This also relates to the rest of you business. Once you have a customer, you must continue to remind them who are and why they should continue to buy from you. Consistent letterhead, websites, brochures, advertising campaigns, and sponsorships all contribute to consistent branding and image-building.