Every so often I like to convert my personal misfortunes into marketing insight for small business owners. Well, today is that day.

A couple of weeks back, my family and I made our way out of the house in the morning for a typical day of work and school.  However on this particular day, my son left the water running in his bathroom located on the second floor of our home. I’ll spare you the details surrounding my reaction upon arriving home hours later.

Shortly thereafter, we acquired the services of a nationally-advertised water mitigation company. I’ve seen their marketing a number of times. Initially, I felt they lived up to their ads. They showed up quickly; their techs were highly skilled and friendly.

However, the entire process began to head south after subsequent visits from this company. A number of issues started to emerge: their scheduler became increasingly rude, my calls were not being returned, they chided me for not being home during the day (times most convenient for their re-inspection schedule) and on and on.

Prior to this experience, this company had a favorable position in my mind. In fact, I found their marketing and branding to be quite clever. However, my actual experience with this firm now has soured my opinion – cute ads stand no chance in recouping their reputation in my household.

If you are a small business owner, I want you to remember that a brilliant marketing strategy can be nullified over, seemingly, unrelated circumstances. As such, be sure the following does not interfere with your message:

Personnel
Nothing will destroy the credibility of your marketing campaign faster than a rude or aloof employee.  As a business owner, you should be bold enough to ask customers how your staff is doing. The people you hire are synonymous with your brand. If the interaction is good, the brand is golden.  If the interaction falters, you’ll end up throwing marketing money out the window – all while your rogue employee pulls back the curtains for you.

Disappointment
I’m no consumer psychologist, but I’ve learned disappointment alters buying behavior. My wife, for example, once found a fly in her salad at a steakhouse chain.  It’s been ten years since this event, yet the insect-incident has permanently pushed her away from this establishment – no matter how engaging the restaurant’s promotions.

Customer disappointment can be brought about by a number of things: empty shelves at your store, overhyped sales events, inferior quality, long lines at the register, cumbersome return policies, and yes, critters in food.

Be highly vigilant regarding areas that spawn customer disappointment and correct them immediately. Sometimes you won’t be given a do-over; my wife is living proof.

No Connection
In light of my recent flooding issues, I called a few businesses featured in home repair and carpentry ads. To my disappointment, no one picked up the phone; and worse, only one responded to voice messages I left. This experience is not exclusive to handymen; I’ve encountered this phenomenon with a number of other small businesses.

What’s the point of saying, “call today” and not respond to customers during business hours? If you are spending money to reach consumers, it is incumbent upon you to be reachable

Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker, consultant, and creative director for DSV Media, a creative services firm and ad agency specializing in Small Business Marketing for companies all over.  Ask your questions: walter@dsvmedia.com