My wedding will be this summer, and there are many vendors who have already lost my business. Some were vendors I've contacted - and never heard back from - and others I could never find in the first place. And because this is a one-time-only event (fingers crossed!) they've also lost any chance of winning my business in the future. This was a concreteexample of online marketing and a poor process contributing to lost business. 

Confused customer path

I've been using the internet as my primary event planning tool. I've done research; booked the officiant; and found the location with the help of Google, Yelp, and wedding planning sites. Some businesses have thoroughly embraced online lead generation methods. My officiant contacted me after receiving my request for bids on Thumbtack.com. I'd heard about him previously by searching for officiants in my area. That approach made him stand out, and made the decision making process simple.

In contrast, I've now visited a number of sites for florists - which I have to imagine make a significant amount of money from events like weddings - and found that they don't even include email addresses on their websites, let alone contact forms. My inner marketer was intensely puzzled. Why limit their options for lead generation, or even bother having a website at all? I understand that they might not think that it would be worth their trouble to invest in a major online marketing push for their business, but little things like not including an email address on their website means they'll probably never hear from me.

How many other brides-to-be felt the same way, and lost them business as a result? At this rate, however, they'll never know. When it comes to events that require flowers, like weddings and funerals, time is definitely of the essence. Without the ability to quickly respond to customers it can mean that the event will have come and gone before they were ready to seal the deal.

It can be overwhelming to consider all of the options available for lead generation. Even the simple ones like an email address require someone to monitor it daily, and have a process for responding to inquiries. However, I imagine that all businesses have blind spots like these. 

Every small business owner needs to make tough choices in where to spend their time and money. There just isn't enough time in the day to manage every single possible method for communicating with prospects and customers.

That being said, what if these businesses had stepped inside the mind of their customer for just a few minutes? They would see what a customer does see when they stumble across their website (which you want them to do, right?). It wouldn't take much to realize that the most central method of digital communication wasn't represented. I'm not trying to hire a marketing expert - I'm trying to hire a florist! Give me an email.

Here are the takeaways I see from this:

  • Have you limited your options by only focusing on what you've always done, instead of what you could do?
  • Do you really know what your customer goes through when they're deciding on your business?
  • Are there customers that you don't really understand, but might be a great market for your business? (Are you used to dealing with the Mother's Day crowd, but aren't used to budget-minded 20-somethings doing last minute wedding planning? Is that a market you could serve?)
  • If time is the issue with not following through with communication methods, consider the impact marketing automation might make on your business.