On a recent trip to the hair salon, my lovely stylist told me about the marketing initiatives she had put into place to help ramp up her business. In particular she was talking about an advertisement that she had put together for the local newspaper, promoting the fact that she and her partner have more than 30 years of combined experience.

I commented on how impressive this was. Then, in a conspiratorial whisper, she mentioned that they actually have more 50 years experience between them. But they didn’t want anyone to know.

Now this struck me as very strange, surely the more experience you have the better, right? But as my stylist explained, if she promoted 50 years of combined experience, potential customers might think that the salon was run by a couple of old biddies who were still doing perms and blue rinse dyes from the 1970’s and would send anyone under the age of 70 running.

This raises a very interesting point. We entrepreneurs almost always boast about how long we have been in business. We use our tenure to make potential customers feel more confident in making a buying decision. Surely if a business has been in business for a long period of time, that is a good thing right?

Now I am not so sure.

In today’s world, it’s easy to see how decades of experience could have negative connotations. Are you as innovative as a young, hungry start up? Are you using technology as much as you should be? Has your service grown complacent? Are you at the cutting edge, or resting comfortably on your laurels? And will you charge more simply because you have been around for a long time as opposed to charging more because you are good at what you do?

Such questions have led me to rethink the idea of tenure as a marketing tool. Of course, there are merits in showing that you have been around long enough to be credible. But spotlighting five decades in business might work against you, especially if you are delivering products and services to customers who are more concerned about what you can do for them today.

Of course, it depends what industry you are in. If I was getting brain surgery to remove a tumor, I would much rather have the specialist who has done this operation a thousand times than the guy who is trying it for the first time.

For any business that has been operating for a long period of time, it is important to be really clear about the message you send to your potential (and existing) customers. What do they want? Are they looking for a business that has been around for a long time or one that is at the cutting edge of their industry? Maybe highlighting all those years of experience is a good thing. But give the matter some thought before you send a message that sends potential customers running.