I was driving somewhere with my kids who, at the time, were five, four, and two years old. They were playing a game in the back seat identifying other vehicles on the road. My four year–old very excitably pointed out the soda truck. My five year–old promptly corrected her. “That’s not a soda truck, that’s a Coke truck.”

It’s pretty safe to assume that Coke engages in effective marketing. Coke’s marketing team utilizes consistent, clear, and professional rules when crafting each marketing plan. I’m not even going to touch on the fact that my youngest’s first three words were Mama, Dada, and McDonalds.

An effective marketing plan employs consistency, clarity, and professionalism. Working in tandem, these three principles will help a business’s visibility and increase their credibility.

Consistency

Consistency must be across the board. That includes websites, Facebook pages, business cards, brochures, newsletters, emails, and so forth. The average person needs to see a brand seven times for the brain to even recognize that it has seen it before. Advertisers refer to it as the “Rule of Seven.” If all your marketing materials are different or you consistently change it up, it makes it harder for potential clients to identify with your business.

In addition, consistency is paramount for online searches. Google’s and Yahoo’s ‘bots will consider differences as independent businesses, resulting in lower search rankings.

If, for example, this is how your business is listed on these sites:

1) Facebook
http://www.website.com,
123 Main St,
555-4567

2) Yelp
www.website.com,
123 Main Street,
555-4567

3) Yahoo
www.website.com,
123 Main Street,
(123)-555-4567

4) Foursquare
http://www.website.com,
123 Main St.,
(123)-555-4567

A search engine ‘bot, would consider these four separate businesses. While it may be time consuming initially, going through all of the listing services to ensure they are exactly the same may increase your search rankings.

Clarity

Do potential clients know what you do? Professional marketers agree that you have nine seconds to get your point across before a potential client moves on. Your nine seconds has to be clear on what you offer and what problem you solve for that person.  Why should they use your services? What sets you apart from your competition? Will your website and Facebook page hold someone’s attention so they will read further?

Your nine seconds could follow this format:

I help_________________          (people you help)

Who__________________        (problem you solve)

Feel __________.

My nine seconds is:

I help pet owners, who are looking for a holistic, compassionate approach to grooming, feel confident about leaving their beloved pet at the groomers.

Your nine second message should be on your FB biz page, website, brochures, and business cards.

What’s wonderful about business cards is that it makes your nine seconds permanent. I love magnetic cards because they always end up on a refrigerator where a potential client will walk past your message many times a day.

“Whether for networking or for clients, a clear, informative and attractive business card is a must. This may be a potential contact’s first interaction with your business so it needs to be a good one! It’s a first impression you’ll never get to change.”

– Alyssa Forss, Chief Creative at Paws for Design www.pawsfordesign.com

Clarity also means readability. Is your material hard to read? Fonts that are tiny or in script, as well as dark lettering on dark backgrounds or light lettering on light backgrounds, may be difficult to decipher. Does your marketing material stand out from the pack or are you using the same design as other pet professionals in your area? I recently attended a networking conference where 18 of the 42 business cards I collected were unreadable while 15 had the exact same design.

Professionalism

While you do not need to hire a professional, your marketing materials should look professional.  Sites such as Picmonkey.com, and Canva.com make it easy to design social media headers, logos, and business cards. I have always opted to hire a professional when it came time to design my logo or ads.

“Marketing materials are most often the first line of contact between your business and a potential customer, and as we all know, first impressions mean everything. As professional designers, our aim is to effectively communicate the mission, the function, and the goals of a business to their consumers by utilizing an essential form of visual communication that can only be learned through professional dedication to the craft. Hiring a professional when designing your marketing materials is like hiring a tailor for a job interview; you always want the best, and you always want to look good.”

– Chris Vernon, Graphic Designer & Brand Consultant of cmvernon.com

Many website hosts offer site builder tools or access to WordPress. However, it may be a worthwhile investment to hire a professional as a website doesn’t even get nine seconds.

A study done by Stanford University found that 75% of people made a judgment about a business by its website in .05 seconds. That’s half a second. That’s the time it takes to look at the portion of your website that appears when someone visits your website. Add in a report by Fleishman-Hilliard that 89% of people now search online for services, and you realize that the top third of your homepage is the most important part of your website. It will determine whether or not a potential client will keep reading or click away. In addition, the number of mobile users is growing exponentially. Is your website mobile friendly? Visit your website from your phone and see how it appears.

That half second won’t matter if your website does not show up in a search. A professional can help with keywords and listing with search engines. A keyword is the word or words a user puts in the search bar when they are looking for a service. These words need to be on your website, preferably in a heading. My website uses mobile grooming, dogs, cats, Danbury, and Pawsitively Pretty Mobile Grooming Salon as keywords.

Even though you may not have the marketing budget that Coke has, you can still effectively market your business when you apply consistent, clear, and professional principles. ✂