7 Part Series of Advice for New Business Owners – Tip #4: Have Good Cake – Marketing vs. Substance

Disclaimer: In celebration of my company Nel’s Tax Help, LLC completing its second year of business, I decided to share some words of wisdom to other new business owners that will help them along their entrepreneurial journeys. Tips provided are purely for informational purposes only. Enjoy! 


When you ask most new business owners what is the one thing they think they can do to get more customers? They will usually say they need better marketing. But let me explain what marketing is to your business.

If your business was a cake, marketing is the frosting but your service or your product is the cake. Marketing is what going to attract people to your business. But your business still needs to deliver a great overall experience in order for the customer’s entire interaction with you to be great.

Using the cake example, here is what I have learned so far about marketing versus substance to sustain a business.

1. People like “pretty cakes” 

Humans are visual beings. The Graduate Recruitment Bureau states that people make their first impression of you within seven seconds.

This will explain why many online video advertisements allow you to skip the video after five seconds – they know your mind is probably already made up about whether you want to use that service or purchase that product within that time frame.

So it may be worth considering some of the following as just a few ways to make your business a “prettier cake”:

  • Consider a color scheme for your brand. Mine right now is different shades of blue.
  • Stick to no more than two font types (maybe three if you want to do something different for titles) for your websites, your business cards, and other advertisements
  • What happens when people first contact you in person and online? Ask someone who will give you honest feedback because you want to make a good first impression within the first seven seconds of contact.

2. Great frosting cannot make up for bad cake

Ever go to an event where they serve cake and the cake looks tasty until you take that first bite. The frosting is amazing but the cake is terrible!

What do you end up doing next? You do not take another bite, throw the cake away, and you might even tell other people to not eat it because it is a bad cake in spite of the “amazing frosting”.

I have witnessed too many business owners invest hundreds and even thousands of dollars in making sure their marketing is outstanding. But the same owners will cut corners on the actual operation cost to run their business well because they only worried about bringing in customers and not about retaining them. The results are almost always the same.

Customers become one-time only customers and those customers will begin talking about how bad their experiences were working the business which keeps other new customers away. Usually within months, the business closes in spite of an awesome location, beautiful decor, latest website design and apps, etc.

So what do you do?

3. Great cake is good cake even without frosting

Provide great services and deliver excellent products is what you do. Give your customers great experiences from first contact all the way through the end of the transaction or engagement.

There are plenty of cakes that exist and are eaten regularly that do not have frosting. They are usually harder to get people to try because it appears too plain. But once a person has a great cake without frosting they will typically eat that cake again because they offered a good experience one remembers.

Be that good experience your customers remember, whether you have marketing or not, and your customers will become repeat customers – or at least refer you to other new potential customers. This is how you keep your business doors open by attracting new customers and keeping the existing customers wanting more of your “cake”.

Come back tomorrow for Tip #5: Protect Your Personal Time

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