Seven Marketing Tips for Small Business

I often get the same question through my blog and my online connections from small business owners. What is the best marketing for my business?

This is still an odd question because small businesses don’t have time to distinguish among things like sales, marketing, product development, customer service and on and on. As a former small business owner, I can testify to this reality. 

The small business owner is so busy try to stay afloat, that often they don’t have time to think like a big business does subdividing activities. Small business owners have to wear so many hats that you rarely stop and think about things in terms of different silos like marketing, quality or sales. 

Yet, the need to understand what to do to promote a business doesn't go away and keeps popping up. So let me offer 7 tips that I share with those who seek out my advice through Clarity. 

Be Original.  Don’t try and be like your competitor or other people who market with in your category. Find a way to use your own voice in how you share your message. You are unique and no one else can be who you are. Can you give your business and brand your own special personality?  Someone else can make a better cookie, but there is only one cookie that can come from you. Check out this wonderful small business whose tag line is 'Baking A Difference'. Saira's company, GIVE, provides amazing cookies and a choice of a charity to support. Saira is original. Seth Godin, the great marketing thought leader wanted to reach people who don't typically read books so he created a book as a magazine. Check out how original this idea is as a spark. 

Be a Story Teller: At its heart, marketing is story telling. It is attaching meaning and value to a thing or service. It is in the story that we transfer value. More people like McDonald’s coffee yet pay 5 times the price at Starbucks. Speaking of cookies, another cookie company was inspired by his grandmother in Alabama. Robert Armstrong's G Momma brand tells a story about these southern style bite sized beauties that his grandmother used to bake for him in Alabama. The story wraps around the cookie to make it connect beyond the butter and the sugar. Only these cookies could come from Robert who is a wonderful story teller. 

Be filled with Empathy:  Customers have needs that must be fulfilled. As you deeply understand their situation, their problems and daily activities, what emerges is an opportunity to provide them with a solution. Through your product or service, you can change how they feel. But first you must feel it. You must stand in their shoes and walk with them. Empathy is a small business owners greatest marketing resource to help them uncover true needs from their customers. 

Be Alert: We can all watch the same behavior and activities and take away different descriptions of what occurs. But the business that succeeds, grows because of their hyper sensitive awareness of what is occurring around them. Someone say, I’m so tired of waiting in the rain for a cab, why can’t they just appear (Uber). Or, I’m so tired of the same dull and boring hotels when I go to a new city (AirBnB). How much are you listening to your community talk about their own needs. Social media is a gold mine - like a public focus group to hear and sense where there are unmet opportunities. I can't program my thermostat; how can I save money on my energy bills? (Nest)

Be Useful: If you offer value and usefulness, people will want to buy from you. Utility is a powerful driver and many marketing people forget how helpful this can be.  Dove Soap brilliantly started to change how they showed woman in their ads to help reflect a more positive and transparent view of what woman actually look like. They helped a community to see beauty in a new light. They facilitated a fresh discussion. In return, over time, their brand grew and expanded because they were providing value and usefulness to their customers. (contrast this to the stupid stuff Coke did with Fairlife Milk inthe UK). Can you create a useful guide to your industry that gives information without asking for a sale in return? Some might think of this as karmic marketing - where what goes around, comes around. To me, you have to gain trust before anyone will buy from you. Why not begin by giving away something of value? 

Be Direct:  When picking tactics to reach an audience or tribe with common interest, how can you go as direct as possible.  Advertising is a mediated experience. Speaking in person to people is a direct approach to marketing. Direct mail that puts your product in the hands of 100 people to touch, taste or smell is remarkably effective if you truly have something remarkable. (worth remarking about). I'm always asking myself, what if I give away 100 samples of (my product or service). What will happen? Experiment. Test. Try stuff. But be as directly connected as possible so you can hear the customer's response. 

Be a Sampler:  How can you give away samples of your work? If you are a photographer, can you offer Saturday clinics for dads to learn how to take better photos of their kids? If you are an accountant, how can you offer an online forum to answer last minute questions about tax preparation? If you are selling an amazing chocolate dipped pretzel unlike anything ever made, how can you wrap it in a story and share a small taste with people who will post information on Facebook to their friends?

What tips do you have they you can share about marketing your small business? 

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And thanks. 

If I can be of help to provide marketing coaching to you, reach out through Clarity and set up time for us to talk. And don't forget your free copy of my eBook, just for signing up to this blog. 

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