What’s Your Refresh Cycle?

How many times have you walked into a store and thought, “This looks old (or dated)!” Or how many times have you opened up a web page and immediately thought, “This looks so 2010 (or 1995)!” Or how many times have you walked into someone’s office and thought, “This office really needs a makeover.” My guess is more times than you’d like to admit.

But the reason this is so important is because what’s the thought behind your thought? When you see someone’s business that looks dated or old, you immediately begin to discount them. In your mind, they’re less.

On the other hand, when you enter someone’s business or visit their website or open their brochure and everything looks clean and up-to-date and excellent, what do you immediately think? Exactly. This is someone I want to do business with.

Now, the person with the old ugly website may be 10X better than the person with the new pretty website, but you’ll never know because chances are, you’ll never give them the chance to prove how good they are.

Years ago I was doing some research on staff dress policies and I came across the following quote that’s helped me immensely over the years,

“Clothes don’t make the man. They make the message about the man.”

Forgetting the sexist part of that statement, you get the gist. For 99+% of the people who could do business with you, they bring their eyesight with them. And before they ever get a chance to know you or experience your business’ products and/or services, they’re making judgments based on how your business and marketing collateral look. Their judgments may be dead wrong, but they’re being made all the time.

So, how can you work your way out of this? Here are a few thoughts as we kick off this new year (which, of course, is a perfect time for some refreshing)

I. Own Up to Your Perceptual Blindness

We all know this experience. You walk into your office. You see a water spot in the ceiling tile. You think, “Someone needs to replace that tile. It looks awful.” A week or two later you no longer even see the water damaged tile. It happens to all of us. Familiarity breeds a lack of awareness. Our brains have to filter all the data coming in and one of those filters is familiarity.

So when you walk into your office or go to your website or pick up your brochure or look at your signage or read your copy or look at your packaging or review your ads, etc. you need to acknowledge that you have befallen the same fate that befalls us all, perceptual blindness (or what psychologists call, “scotomas”—or normal people, “blind spots” :-).

If you don’t own this, you won’t see what’s really there. You’ll see what you think is there (which, by the way, is one of the reasons why DaVinci always drew his objects from at least three angles. He distrusted his first way of seeing things. There’s a lesson in there).

So, step one, do you own this problem?

II. Set Up a Refresh Cycle

Once you acknowledge this is a problem, the natural solution is to come up with a system that doesn’t rely on your ability to remember to do something. In other words, set up a routine refresh cycle.

For example, in the world of websites, things are changing so fast, that if you’re not updating the look and feel of your website on a yearly basis, you’re behind the 8 ball. In fact, if your website isn’t mobile ready (and more importantly, “responsive” so it automatically adjusts in order that it looks good on a smart phone, a tablet and a laptop) you’re in massive trouble since most web traffic doesn’t occur on a desktop browser anymore.

Acknowledging this, how can you avoid looking dated? It’s pretty simple. You set up a yearly website refresh cycle. In my case, since I actually enjoy playing with my website, I usually refresh mine during Christmas break every year (I know, I need therapy :-). So, when will you refresh yours?

Note: Not everything needs to be refreshed every year. However, somethings need to be refreshed more frequently. It just depends on what the item is.

III. Consider Each of the Following Items

Note: Don’t limit yourself to the following, but this is a good starting point

Marketing Items

  • Website
  • Marketing message
  • Blog (by the way, if your last blog entry was 2011, delete it from your site navigation. If your last post was awhile again, this hurts your perception in the marketplace)
  • Brochures
  • Trade show banners
  • Testimonials
  • Copy on marketing materials
  • Ads (radio, tv, web, print, etc.)
  • Logo
  • Direct mail
  • Stationary
  • Business cards
  • Sales presentations/Powerpoint presentations

Physical Building/Office

  • Entrance (external)
  • Entrance (internal)
  • Entrance furniture
  • Painting (current color preference change)
  • Lighting
  • Carpet
  • Ceiling
  • Landscaping
  • Signage
  • Furniture
  • Dividers
  • Wall hangings
  • Magazines and other reading material

There are plenty of other areas that could use a regular refresh, but you get the idea

IV. Budget for Refreshing

This is usually the hard part because refreshing usually doesn’t feel like progress. It feels like work. “We already have a brochure (or carpeting or stationary or a trade show banner), why ‘waste’ money refreshing it?”

Because of what we discussed at the beginning. In most cases, marketing material that’s older than a year, is old (and it’s hurting you). If you want to keep growing your business, then you need to keep refreshing your material at a minimum of at least once per year (and often, more frequently)

When it comes to a physical plant, color preferences change every few years. And every employee knows how much nicer it is to go to work in a clean, fun, up-to-date space. Productivity increases so don’t pinch pennies here.

So, based on what needs to be refreshed this year, how much do you need to allocate (or re-allocate) for refreshing your business this year?

If you want to keep your business on the cutting edge, you need to need to create a regular refresh cycle because the more current your business looks and feels, the more attractive you’ll be to your prospects (and the more money you’ll be putting in your bank account).

To your accelerated success!

P.S. I’ve shared some of my thoughts on refresh cycles, but what do you think should be the rhythms of refreshing your business? Do you agree or disagree with some of my assessments? Share your thoughts in the comments section below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by email or RSS)

Flickr image courtesy of hotographie

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