Image is NOT everything…..

But it IS very important - regardless of whether you operate a retail store, or if you are in the service industry.  In today’s competitive marketplace, owners need to evaluate every aspect of their business in order to attract new customers, as well as to retain their existing customer base. 

Consumers are bombarded with endless options to choose from in almost every market sector.  Good quality and good value are no longer enough.  Customers are looking for the “Total Experience”.  If you don’t offer this, I guarantee there is someone in your industry that does.


What are your keys to success?

Quality and Value are always going to be the 2 most important ingredients in the staying power of any business.  But if you look at truly successful businesses, they offer much more than that:  They provide their customers with intangibles.  These are qualities that customers can’t always elaborate on, but add to the “total experience” that makes them want to come back again and again. It’s the feeling of being welcomed, safe and comfortable.  The two key components to creating these feelings are 1.  Your Employees; and 2: Their Surroundings.  Just as a customer wouldn’t want to frequent a business where the employees were rude or disinterested; they don’t want to spend their money in a shabby looking facility.  There’s a direct correlation between perceived quality of goods and services and the appearance of your building and site.

You won’t find “parking lot striping”; “nicely paved parking lot”; “straight and orderly parking signs” or even “well lit and attractive monument signs” on most people’s list of reasons why they frequent a business.  But these items do send a message to customers and potential customers.  If your parking lot is full of pot holes and is poorly maintained, people may not feel comfortable driving or walking in the lot.  If the striping is faded and ambiguous, they’re liable to be concerned about their cars being damaged by other vehicles; and how can you expect your customers to feel safe in a poorly lit parking lot?  These items all contribute to the overall aesthetic of your business – and may make the difference between thriving or just surviving. 

As an example, let’s look at 2 different dentist offices that I know.  One is located on a sub-collector street with limited traffic.  Their parking is immaculate – it’s been repaved, restriped and their signage is all standing straight.   The 2nd dentist is located on an arterial street with high traffic volumes.  Their parking lot is a mess:  potholes everywhere; striping barely visible and signs twisted and bent every which way.  The parking lot on the sub-collector street is almost always full; while the one on the arterial street rarely has any cars in the lot (I know this because I frequently drive past both at various intervals during any given week).  Obviously, the exterior maintenance is not the sole reason for the success of one versus the other, but it definitely does contribute towards it.  Both property owners are sending messages to their patients:  one good, one bad.  Think about it this way:  in which lot would you prefer to park?


The COST of Deferred Maintenance

When money is tight, the natural tendency is to cut back wherever possible.  This is logical, but only to a point.  Instead of wholesale cutbacks, you need to evaluate the long-term effects of deferred maintenance.  There are three reasons to consider investing in preventative maintenance:

1.  The money that you spend on prevention today will always be less than what you’ll need to spend on future repairs (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure).

2.  With a down economy, you’ll get more “bang for your buck” (historically, retailers wait for economic lulls before starting a major remodel or new construction in order to help to stretch their dollars).

3.  The cost of money right now is very inexpensive.  It’s a matter of comparing today’s dollars versus those of a year from now.  (Not only for the interest that you have to pay out, but the interest that you are being paid on your money.)


Keeping your customers safe

Potholes; bent sign posts; uneven concrete; loose or missing signs – all can be hazards to your customers and employees.  Slip and fall claims tend to increase during a recession.  Unattended repairs can be viewed as negligent acts and could result in a claim against you and your insurance.  Think of preventative maintenance as protection against a lawsuit and higher insurance premiums. 


The Bottom Line

People will judge your business before they step out of their vehicles (and even before pulling into your parking lot).  What does your facility’s site and exterior say to your customers?  Does it convey the quality of the products and services that they will experience on the inside of your business?  If the answer is no, perhaps it’s time to do something about it.