Old Fish in New Paper

by Sean O’Bryan

First off – let me be blunt. Good marketing can’t make up for a lousy product or service!

Don’t get me wrong, a well thought-out and implemented marketing strategy can be an incredible way to grow your business.

But first you need 2 things to make your business succeed:

  1. A great product or service; and
  2. Awesome employees, so that every contact with the public is incredible.

Without these 2 essential elements, you are just putting that old fish in a fresh piece of paper. It will still stink.

This hobby shop was located in the garage behind a house much like this.

As consumers, we have more choices than we ever thought possible. I remember as a kid there was a small hobby shop that a man and his wife in my hometown of Almont ran out of their garage. They sold model rockets and transistor radio kits. I would save up money for weeks working on a local farm so I could scrape together enough to buy something. Then I would head up there and make my purchase – and whatever that store had in their limited inventory was what I bought.

Today, my kids approach me for a purchase with hundreds of options. They are able to research everything about what they want, compare prices, and know it can be ordered and arrive the next day. They can read reviews from people all over the world who have tried the product they want.

“So why would anyone want to purchase something from a local business? Simply put – it needs to be the experience.”

Here is the thing – given the same chance to make a hobby store purchase like what I had in 1976 vs. online today, I would still go to the Hobby Shop in Almont. Why? For me it was special. It was the experience. The owner took the time to help me and make me feel important. He was an expert in making model rockets. He followed up after the sale to make sure I didn’t have any problems and to learn about my adventures. He even called when he had a new shipment of something he knew I might like. One time, he ordered a replacement part that I had broken at no charge and delivered it to my house. Looking back, I wasn’t just buying a product – I was buying an experience, one created by a man who had a passion for what he did.

A few weeks back, I asked about why, given the choice, would someone walk past $1 coffee for $4 Starbucks. The answers I received confirmed this — a better quality product served by exceptional employees. Overall, it was an experience – a small, personal indulgence that some people didn’t mind paying extra for – even as much as 4 times more. Starbucks understands this. Their CEO even talks about how the smell and textures you encounter in their coffee shops are part of their brand.

So before you even think about marketing your business – put your efforts into building those 2 foundation pillars. These are the bones of any good business: A great product or service & great employees to deliver it. That alone will help make your business grow more than a new sign or website. Once the foundation is in place – you then can work on the new paper. Trust me – then it won’t stink.

The hobby shop was filled with everything a boy

growing up in the 1970’s dreamt about.

Sean O’Bryan is the owner of Think Street Media, LLC, a Michigan marketing agency. He has practiced estate planning law for 30 years and has helped hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses succeed through creative marketing strategies.

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