About a month ago, I stopped into a national fast-food chain to grab breakfast for my kids. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was no line when entering the building. Before ordering, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of this newly remodeled location.
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This place didn’t look like a fast-food joint; it looked like a ski lodge – complete with wood décor, fireplace, flat screen TVs and seating areas that could compete with an upscale bistro. What’s more, this particular chain has spent an enormous amount of effort on retooling their menu. I also happen to know that they switched ad agencies a while back in an effort to rebuild their brand.
Despite all these things: snazzy new marketing efforts, aesthetics and menu overhaul, it all came crumbling down for me after about 15 minutes. Again, when I arrived there was no one ahead of me. Why the long wait? Adding to my disdain were employees that talked amongst themselves (about non work related issues). When speaking to me, they were apathetic and borderline rude.
The impact of the millions spent on marketing was instantly voided due to the abysmal experience at this establishment. From my vantage point, their marketing strategy died on the spot.
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know that I’m a small business marketing advocate. However, I’d like to use this experience to remind you that any marketing effort, no matter how great, can be eviscerated in a moment by your operations or customer interaction.
As you run your small business, know that marketing and operations perform like relay race partners – there’s a handoff that happens. No matter how efficient a runner, the other has the ability to ruin the final outcome.
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Allow me to go back to this fast-food chain. Last week, I paid them another visit; this time, a different location. However for this visit I opted for the drive-thru. Once again, I was there for over 15 minutes. I literally had to put my car in reverse and wind my way all the way back out of this line.
Now I’m beginning to believe that their problem is systemic.
If you allow your operations to undermine your marketing efforts, you will create critics that will never allow you to raise your brand above reproach – no matter how creative your marketing happens to be.
However, the opposite is also true. If you play your operations/customer interaction cards right, you can convert people into walking billboards for your small business – they’ll gladly market your business to friends and family via word of mouth.
Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker, consultant, and creative director for DSV Media, a Columbus Advertising Agency specializing in marketing help for small and mid-sized businesses. Follow him here: @wrdailey @dsvcreative