marketingSmall Business

Are You a Messy Barber?

Have you heard the one about the messy barber? It’s brain teaser that I learned growing up and it’s remained one of my favorites.

A business man was in BrainBashers Village for a meeting. He had time to spare before the meeting, so he decided to get a haircut. He looked at a street map and was surprised to find that there were only two barbers in town, right across the road from each other. He walked across the village and came to the two barber shops. He went into the first one and was shocked by the dirtiness and the hair everywhere. The place was a mess! He looked at the barber and the barber had a really messy haircut all in his face and uneven. He went across the street to the other barber and saw the place was immaculate, clean and shining like new. The barber was nicely dressed and had a dazzling haircut: it was perfect. However, the man walked across the street and got his haircut at the shabby barbers. Why?

The answer? Since people can’t cut their own hair and there were only two barbers in town, the two barbers must have cut each other’s hair. As the messy barber had a poor haircut, it must have been from the clean barber. The good haircut was therefore performed by the messy barber. Additionally, the reason the messy barber’s shop was so messy was because he was busy, while the clean barber doesn’t get many customers.

How does the messy barber relate to marketing?

First impressions are important. Having a nice website, a clean logo and polished messaging are important, but not as important as the quality of the service you provide. In the riddle, it’s not known if the barbers have good signage, a functional website, or an active presence on social media. However, what we do know is their work ethic. The messy barber is busy. He also very confident in his skills that walking around in a bad haircut given to him by the competition doesn’t seem to phase him, or his business.

When I first meet a client, I immediately ask myself — are they a messy barber? In other words, are they very good at what they do that a social media strategy can only enhance their work? If they are a clean barber — they may be more concerned about how they look, rather than how they perform. Clean barbers tend to be overly concerned with what others think of them, over-react to negative feedback and are very sensitive to constructive criticism.

Naturally, I prefer working with messy barbers. They are hard-working, passionate about what they do and fully invested in improving the customer experience. They love all kinds of feedback and strive to be better. It also means that their brand is just an extension of who they already are. It’s not a manufactured persona, but rather an authentic experience.

Messy barbers may need to help maintaining an online presence but because they are good at what they do, promoting them is so easy. Additionally, many quickly learn to incorporate new tools into their skill set, while clean barbers can’t be bothered. Over time, messy barbers can clean up their act so they can have it all — a sophisticated online presence that complements their stellar service.

Be careful not to mistake a messy barber for uninformed, lazy or naive. Doing it all — branding, marketing, promotion — is hard. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to be great at one thing – whether it’s making bagels or cutting hair. Let your trade speak for itself and the rest will follow.

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