15 Sep No sign of life (Part 1)
Recently, while driving through a commercial area not far from where I live, I spotted this large banner in a shop window:
“A business without a sign is a sign of no business.”
It turns out that shop was in the business of producing signs and awnings for storefronts. But what wise advice for every business.
Whether you run a brick-and-mortar business or offer professional services or produce widgets in your garage, you don’t exist unless your customers can see you.
What can happen if you don’t hang out your sign, either physically or virtually? Here’s a perfect example:
A retail coffee store in my neighborhood we’ll call Local Coffee lost their lease and appeared to be closing after 20+ years.
“Don’t worry,” the shopkeeper told me. “We are looking for new space. And in the meantime, I am grinding coffee at home and delivering.”
Looking for new space? This is a storefront business. It failed to insure itself a physical location during the months before its lease ended. No location, no sign. Out of sight, out of mind.
Grinding at home? How can I find you? How do I order your coffee I wondered. I don’t know where you live. I was addicted to a certain type of bean only Local Coffee carried. So of course I looked online. No website! Not even a page displaying contact information. There was no sign online. In cyberspace, it was also out of sight, out of mind.
Weeks later, Local Coffee sent an email. The owner informed customers that they could call and order coffee because she had set up weekly deliveries to my neighborhood.
Too late! I had already found a coffee replacement nearby because I could not find my old favorite.
I had been their loyal customer for 20 years. Who else did they lose?
Several months after the first email, Local Coffee send a second. Yes, I said months. In the six months since they closed their doors, they only communicated two times to all their customers. (Did I mention the emails were from a personal gmail account? That is a topic for another discussion.) This time, the owner happily reported, “Good news! We’re back. Our Grand Opening is September 12 in our new location at 36 Main Street. Join us for a cup!”
Good news for who? For you maybe, but not me. Are you offering me something special for coming back?
I haven’t heard from you in six long months. Do you think I gave up caffeine while you were gone?
No, I just went to your competitor two blocks away and now I — your former dedicated customer —
have no reason to return to you.
The message is clear. To expand on the advice dispensed by the local sign company: A business with no sign is a sign of no business — and no customers.