Many small businesses advertise because they know they should. Only a few put any planning into the ads beyond what they want to say. This lack of planning causes the business owner to miss out on some of the best advantages of advertising.

A business’s advertising sends a message to the target audience about what they should expect when they come into the store. The message creates an image that is earned, not made, in the minds of the consumers. One of the goals of marketing is to create an impression memorable to consumers and have them respond to the message. To make that happen, the owner must look at the “total identity package” to ensure there is consistency in the message.

Identity is a way to communicate a specific message to customers and prospects alike. It helps put a face on the business so that people can feel comfortable and eventually have an emotional tie to the business. I remember when I lived in Peoria, Illinois, that I shopped at a store there that had it all together. All of their customer touchpoints had the same visual element. People got excited when they saw their gift was from this store. The store owners treated their customers with respect and always had a suggested item for sale that somehow just fit your needs. From their marketing pieces down to their gift wrapping, a calla lily was featured on them. People knew the store by the symbolic lily used in everything.

So how did that help the store? First of all, it created an image that made their marketing budget stretch further than the traditional price and item done by most small businesses. Their ads featured the lily, and over time they just had to say they were having a sale to generate response to the ad. The lily was always in the same place in the ad — lower right-hand corner for print and television. People began to recognize the lily and instantly knew the store and the quality it represented. I know this because at this time in my career, I was selling cable advertising and called on them. They explained their philosophy to me and they stuck by it no matter how hard I tried to change it.

Second, the calla lily became their highly recognized logo. The flower is considered very pretty and often a bride’s bouquet choice; the store had that same feel because of the many nice items for sale. Calla lily plants also tend to be fairly easy to maintain. So the logo had a message of beauty and ease of shopping, and the store delivered on that promise. They used this logo on all their paper goods — business cards, letterhead, envelopes, their receipts and seals used on packaging. They even slid a lily into the bow on any gift-wrapped purchases.

Third, this consistent messaging created a positive buzz around the business. I remember getting frustrated with people who didn't have the same reaction to my gift that they had to the gift with the lily in it. I started asking around and found out about the Calla Lily store and went there. People always said they knew they had a great gift when they saw the lily in the bow.

All of this consistency invited people to shop the store, stretched the marketing budget and grew sales. As I called on the owners, they often told me how that one simple marketing element really changed their shop from just another gift store to one that was favored by the Peoria community. They understood the power of marketing and were willing to build on their ideas and beliefs.

That same effect can benefit any small business if the owners plan their marketing and use consistent messages and visual elements.

Your area Missouri SBDC can help answer questions, offers training and one-on-one appointments, reach out to a location near you.

The Missouri SBDC is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.