I will admit, I probably have a bias. Both my undergraduate and graduate business degrees had a strong emphasis on marketing. Therefore, in the context of operating a small business, I am cognizant of details that create impressions. As a result, it seems to me that almost everything done in a business is marketing. The way the phone is answered creates an impression. The look of a proposal is marketing. The tidiness of a piece of mail that will land in someone’s hands. The absence of typos in a report. The look of the brochure, the report, the website, or anything tangible makes an impression. If customers come to you, is the walkway to your front door clean? How about the floors in the store or office; are they swept? Everyone realizes it in their own lives; if you go to a store or restaurant and get served by a surly employee, you know it reflects (poorly) on the business. The opposite is true, of course, and a standout employee can make all the difference. The thing is, people think of these as performance and I’m suggesting it is actually marketing. It is about impression management. When I call a law firm (something I do daily) and hear “law firm” spoken tersely by the person who answers the phone, I wonder how the partners would feel knowing the impressions created by something as basic as a phone greeting. Marketing evolves, and by this, I mean that, as businesses grow and develop, and as the materials they use evolve, newer approaches overtake older ones. I recently had a discussion with an attorney about how his firm’s brochure looked 20 years ago versus today – the same is true for ours. But, at every juncture for us, with whatever we used, or could afford to use, I considered how the things put in front of a client would look. Are pages smudged or creased? Start over. If a page of report has a flaw in the paper itself (that sometimes looks like a smashed bug), print a new page. Training employees to understand these points is not terribly difficult, but it sometimes does require training to explain that what goes out the door, or what happens with any client contact, creates a lasting impression. We work hard to make it positive!
David is right. It’s all marketing. From the manner in which the telephone is answered, to the style of written communication used in an email, to the attire worn in the courtroom (or research facility, during a mock trial), to a brochure, to a website, to the report of research findings prepared for a client, it’s all marketing. Over 20 years ago, Magnus employed a nice woman who had a difficult time answering the telephone in a warm, friendly manner (this was before the days of our automated answering system). Several clients complained to me that they did not feel their business was welcomed at Magnus, due to the surly way in which our office manager answered the telephone. After several attempts to train this otherwise excellent employee on “customer service while answering the telephone,” I discovered what proved to be a good solution. I bought a mirror with a brightly colored frame and it was hung above this employee’s desk (where it remains to this day), so that every time the phone rang, she could look at her reflection to ensure she was smiling when she answered the phone. What a difference a smile makes! Since then, we have had many people sit at that desk and all of them have been trained, by me, to look at the mirror, smile, then answer the phone. I have never received another complaint from a client regarding any employee’s telephone manners. David and I are relentless when it comes to ensuring the Magnus brand is protected and that our stellar reputation stays that way. In our opinion, a typographical error in a client’s report is more than a little mistake; it is a marketing failure in that it connotes we don’t care enough about the quality of our work to make sure it is correct. Sometimes, it is the little things that count a lot toward making a positive impression. One can wear the right clothes, say all of the right things, but maintain a bored, yawning, demeanor that, in and of itself, will ruin the most well intended marketing efforts. It truly is all marketing!