I pulled into the gravel parking lot of my swimming pool company this morning and an unexpected thought came to mind— “Geez this place is pretty ugly.”
I know, sounds rather rough, doesn’t it? But it’s true. It’s such a plain metal building. No glitz. No pomp. And if you were to drive by it, you probably would not even give it a glance. And you certainly wouldn’t know it was the home of the most popular swimming pool website in the world…….
Good-Bye Pretty Buildings, Hello Smart Marketing
As many of you know, about 3 years ago I completely changed my shift and focus as a business owner. Instead of solely relying on antiquated marketing principles to generate business, I did a 180 and embraced content and inbound marketing. This was easily one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made, but it also coincided perfectly with another major shift in my thinking as well.
You see, I used to equate the success of my business with the image people saw on the outside. This image was derived, at least in my mind, from retail stores. There was a time when I honestly thought that if I had really nice stores, this would naturally lead to more profitability and sales. This is also what I was taught when I entered the industry in 2001, which explains why just a few years ago I had one of the nicest retail stores in all of Virginia for swimming pools, offering a full line of game room equipment, pool tables, tanning beds, hot tubs, and much more.
From the outside, the place made quite the impression, but from the inside, it practically crippled the company. Not only did it require huge time, employees, and management to operate such a facility, but it also was, at best, a break-even financially.
After having been in this location from 2006-2009, my business partners and I realized a couple of important realities.
1. Our website, not our stores, created the consumer perception of our company’s brand.
2. Old-school retail, in many industries including ours, was a dying business model.
With this realization, we ‘sold the mills’ and got rid of all retail. We also took all of the energies we had been spending on the frivolous minutia of running the store to producing a website that would generate leads and sales through content– and lots of it.
And boy did the strategy pay of in spades.
Customers Don’t Care About Your ‘Stuff’
My pool company has gotten more leads in the past month than at any other time in our history. These leads have translated into sales– LOTS of sales. And do you know how many people have commented or asked about our buildings/offices/retail stores?
If you answered ZERO, you were right.
At the same time though, guess how many of these clients have talked about our company’s website– and the feeling, or ‘perception’, they got from all of the information they found therein?
If you answered ALL of them, you’re right again.
Switching gears for a second, most of you know that I do a lot of web coaching, speaking, traveling, and consulting these days for other businesses, some of which are multi-million dollar companies. I don’t mention this to brag, as it’s nothing special, but I just want to stress this critical point again:
How many clients have asked me about where I run my business from or what my office looks like?
Again, you already know the answer. None of them.
They don’t care that I work out of my home. They don’t care that when I’m talking to them on the phone, I’m likely wearing a t-shirt with my bare feet propped up on the desk.
Nope, all they care about is what they see on that dang screen….
Perception Based on the Digital Realm
We live in a time folks where the perception others will have of us has nothing to do with ‘stuff’. It’s has nothing really to do with what they see in the real world, but everything they perceive from the digital realm.
So if you, as a business owner and entrepreneur, truly want to taste success, start thinking day and night about your digital brand and perception. How do you come across to others online? Are you viewed as a thought leader? Do you have a community that further validates your ‘expert’ claims? Are you producing the content that’s required to be a mover and a shaker in your industry or niche?
These questions and many others just like them need to be clearly understood if you want to be successful. And it’s not a one-time thing either. It’s a subject of utmost importance until the day your business and brand no longer exist.
My point? If there is anything distracting you and your business from online greatness, drop it. Just let it go. I’ve been asked many times why I let go of my swimming pool stores. Many people thought it was a dumb idea and would hurt my image. But what they don’t understand is I know who I am, and I know how my customers make their judgements about me, and it sure as heck isn’t based upon those yellow metal walls. Nope, it’s all about the little digits on the screen, and when it comes to that screen, I’m going to make sure the impression is a lasting one.
How has your branding shifted now that we’re in the digital age? And what are you doing with your blog/website/etc to improve the perceptions others have of you? Finally, what do you find is the biggest struggle with this online branding process?
As I’ve stated before, whether you’ve commented here 100 or 0 times, you’re always invited to share your thoughts and submit your questions below or in private on the contact form.