RESOLUTION 2010: Don’t Take Advice from Large Companies

Are your marketing efforts not yielding results justifying the investment?

Before you react, consider your view
of marketing itself.

I’ve found a tendency for small business owners to consider marketing in the way big businesses practice it. To illustrate the point, think of five advertisements. Now, compare your marketing budget to theirs. Do they compare?

Celebrity endorsements, television commercials and billboard ads are expressions of marketing that typically come to mind. It’s natural. We’re a product of our environment and we’re constantly saturated with corporate messaging.

How businesses have marketed over the past 80 years is a result of mass production. Large-scale output led to mass marketing and created mass media. Like its products, companies found that packaging and delivering marketing content was also an efficient business practice.

Businesses wanted their messages to be seen by the most people possible. The bigger, the better philosophy worked because demand exceeded supply. “Market” evolved into a verb. It became something that producers did to customers.

Return to the Marketplace 
To reevaluate your view of marketing, consider an original practice. Marketing began hundreds of years ago as literally going to a marketplace to sell a good. Craftsmen would engage buyers face to face. He encouraged conversations and built relationships in order to sell his product. His craft became an extension of him. “Market” was something done with customers.

For small businesses to succeed in 2010, you’ll need to return to the marketplace. Rather than setup a booth at a flea market, try to give customers what they want. Not just with your product or service, but in your marketing.
I can’t think of someone who demands more adverting but everyone appreciates a good conversation. Conversations engage us in a powerful way. They contribute to partnerships, inspire ideas, make us laugh and may even cause you to sell something.

Determining the best place to start your conversation will depend on your product or service. Start by investigating options to market online. Consider social media networks as an opportunity to allow you to convey your unique voice. Like the old marketplace, encouraging a conversation will build relationships. Not only is it more personal, it’s more effective.

Continue to Invest in Your Business 
When some small business owners feel the pinch, they react by drastically reducing their marketing budgets. However, continuing to invest in your business is especially important during a downturn.

Competition actually increases during a recession. As many talented people are laid off, they substitute their time by innovating and opening businesses of their own. The Internet itself is also increasing competition. For example, Esty is a website that allows individuals to sell goods without having to operate a business of their own.

As consumers become more conscious of the dollars they spend, they more thoroughly evaluate potential purchase decisions. Consumer review and price comparison websites keep today’s consumer well informed.

Facing increased competition is not a time to lay-low. Smart marketers know that their efforts create long-term friendships. When we emerge from the recession, the value of continually maintaining friendships will be realized. If your business isn’t proactive, your competition could recruit the majority of post-recession friends!

Continue to invest into your business. If you’re marketing efforts haven’t achieved the results you desired, re-think your strategy. Consider relying on a professional or hiring a consultant to advise potential strategies.
Stop considering yourself as a company. 
This may seem counter intuitive. As a small business owner you wear many hats, from accountant to supervisor. The next time you put on your marketing hat, stop thinking of yourself as a company.

People don’t particularly like companies. Companies want to sell us on something. They use automated phone systems that keep us from a human being for as long as possible. They charge us too much for coffee.
The challenge isn’t to convince people to like your company. That’s a difficult fight to win. Instead focus on the associations people have with your company. What does your product or service mean to them?

To help realize your potential in 2010, consider your business’ identity in the minds of your customer. It’s how they define you that really matters.
Take Calculated Risks 
People like to stick to what they know. We are creatures of habit and tend to fear change. But, if you completely eliminate risks, you also eliminate the opportunity to grow.

It’s a new era in business. We have new challenges that require new solutions. Perhaps you have refrained from new opportunities to market your business fearing they won’t match with your customers. But consider the importance of reaching and influencing existing customers. Yes, frequent customers make up a significant portion of your sales but frequent customers aren’t synonymous with loyal customers.

Consider marketing less-popular products or services to target lower-volume customers as they represent the greatest growth potential. Small businesses are more nimble than the big guys. If you try something new and it doesn’t work out, you can more quickly change your strategy. You don’t face long negotiation processes, there’s no red tape and minimal office politics stand in your way.
There is uncharted territory to be covered along with new successes to be realized. Maintaining complete control is a losing game in today’s market place. Instead take a managed risk. Just start small. Until you venture to try something new, you won’t know your business’ full potential.
Re-Define Failure 
We have come to a universal understanding that failure is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs. You’ve heard the phrase, “happiness is a state of mind,” but consider that failure, too, can be a state of mind.

Failing can actually make us smarter. There is great value in learning from our mistakes. If we apply an understanding of what went wrong to future efforts we can improve their effectiveness.

Re-think your definition of failure. Even if an effort doesn’t achieve your initial goals, don’t jump to classifying your efforts as a failure. You may actually uncover success in your failure in the form of information. Apply what you learned to improve the effectiveness of your next initiative.
Just as there are new challenges for 2010, there are new opportunities. Technology has gifted business owners with thousands of new opportunities to reach customers. Unfortunately, new technologies are frequently avoided. We don’t always understand them and they have yet to be “prove” their effectiveness.

The truth is that you don’t have to be a technological expert to employ all these new technologies. Many innovations are so user-friendly; they don’t require hiring an expert. Regardless of how your business uses technology, the role of technology in your customer’s life is increasing in importance.

Once we realize that failure doesn’t have to be a disheartening blow to your ego or bank account, we can begin to plan on failure. Accounting for failure reduces the risk involved with failing and establishes a system for future successes.

About the Author :

Tony Wood is a partner with Wink! an agency specializing in non-traditional marketing for small businesses and authors Changing the Channel, a marketing blog for small business owners. Tweet at Wink @winkes on Twitter.
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