Nike-Billboard-Ad-CampaignBig brands deliver phenomenal marketing messages, particularly for consumer products such as sneakers, movies and more recently smart phones, but that high level marketing treatment is not an exclusive approach reserved only for the multi-nationals. No matter what the size of your company,YOUR BRAND deserve nothing less in terms of how you approach your marketing. Truthfully, when engaged in small business marketing you can afford nothing less BUT you need to find your edge.

Considering the high stakes involved in your own business, your brand should be portrayed in the best way you can (imagine how the folks at Nike do it – suddenly “Just do it” takes on an entirely elevated meaning as not only does that team market the message but they also internalize it and deliver on it).  You should devote considerable time and energy to thinking not only about what is your brand but also how others are going to view your brand. You should internalize you own messaging. You should strive to deliver on that messaging on a consistent basis. If you think the way you present your brand does not make a difference then consider why it is that all these publicly traded, well funded companies spend so much money on marketing and advertising? Why do these massive entities spend so much time and energy on delivering a consistent user experience?  Because it is important. People’s purchasing decisions are influenced in part by how these brands are presented and the big companies recognize that effective branding (both digital and traditional) has a huge impact on the bottom line.

As a small business you won’t have the same reach or budget as a global or even national brand but you have a decided advantage in terms of being nimble and also in terms of knowing who your audience is.  While you might not have the music budget, the ability to cast the perfect actress, or the type of budget to generate heavily effects laden video spots, you also have a big advantage over the multi-national conglomerates in that you have a prized asset that they do not:

The face of a real live human being that stands behind your business.

Perhaps your website isn’t as polished as you’d like, and quite possibly not even as well-developed as those of long-established brands, but again you have a decided advantage in that when you post from your business blog the person writing those posts is YOU, while when a big brand is posting on their blog there is no expectation the owner of the company is the one writing the post, most readers simply assume that the posts on large corporate blogs are generated by someone from the marketing department, so in terms of authenticity the advantage is yours assuming you’re willing and able to claim it.

The large corporations do an amazing job of in terms of the art of persuasion.  These companies employ a variety of techniques all of which have been developed over the years and all of which have been proven to be effective, and yes there is much to be learned in terms of how to utilize large corporate marketing techniques to your advantage, but there are also advantages to being a small business in terms how you market. While large corporations will play in your sense of need and your sense of belonging in order to justify purchases, a basic concept of small business marketing is that you are located in a REAL community you have the capacity to demonstrate to your readers that your services are also indispensable and provide real and tangible value to your own community.  So I’ll ask you now, when is the last time you presented your self and your business in such a compelling and convincing light?

Of course being a large company with a national or multinational product there is tremendous pressure to continually sell, and to continually meet very specific numbers in order to generate a profit. Often times in marketing that means casting a much wider net which has the potential to leave “some food on the table” and to market to many people who probably are not relevant to a particular product. As a small business, likely targeting a much more specific audience you have the ability (and likely the need) to be more targeted in terms of who you message and how you message to them. The truth is you probably cannot afford to miss too much with your marketing as whatever your margins, without the scale of a large brand you need to connect. With testing the upside is much more of your marketing budget is actually being directed at a real person rather than a broad demographic.  As a small business owner you also have a real advantage here in that you actually know your customer – your customer is not a ‘marketing persona’ but rather a real person whom you might even be on a first name basis with.

Being small is not enough – you still need to be smart!

Just because you are a small to medium-size business, your operations should accept nothing less than the best in terms of the force with which you deliver your marketing messages.  Also, as a small or medium-size business, likely in large part due to your diminished scale you need to be very thoughtful in terms of how you market. Make the time for the marketing meeting that you’ve been pushing off. And by making time for the marketing meeting that could mean sitting down with your team, or it could mean staying up late and sitting at the kitchen table with a pen and paper – not making the time to really consider your branding and marketing mix is a non-starter.

You likely have also noticed that most large national brands have carefully crafted identities that they seldom waver from, and each of these brands has gone beyond being simply a brand and has tried to evolve into something of a personality or to achieve some sort of iconic status. The idea that there is a difference between say a Levi’s and a Wrangler’s is somewhat suspect as both of these jeans sell for roughly the same price, and as far as I can tell they fit roughly the same (okay Levis pockets are a little bit deeper, but Wrangler’s seem to be a little thinner which for me is a plus) and yet we all feel as if these two brands are distinctly different. Why is that?  The cost of denim does not seem to be something that is subject to too much variance.  It is because Levi’s and Wragnler’s are marketed and decidedly different manners.

Similarly as you operate and market your business and you think about your own brand, your own digital identity, and your own marketing strategy you should be thinking very much about how some of these large brands do it. As a small or medium sized business you likely already have a built-in identity, a built-in personality, and a built-in look; that of course being YOU, so you have a great place to start from!

Also, building on YOU, don’t be shy about infusing your business messaging with your own real-life personality as beyond providing stellar service at a very competitive price point, it is you and your personality that will separate you from the pack and will encourage your customers to continue to come back for more. As you are a key selling point in your own business you are likely going to want to make sure that you have some of the “real life” you into your marketing (that is not to say you should be sharing personal information but rather then writing with a corporate tone of voice you should consider infusing some of your own personality into your writing).

A couple of great places to introduce the brand of YOU to your digital efforts could be:

  • In an “about” page that provides real-life details about you
  • If your business has been around a while a “company history” page can also be really great.
  • Another wonderful place to define your business is through the use of a blog which can be tailored to both your own voice and your own business.
  • With a picture of you – typically this is on an about page, but as you might notice on my site I’ve also added a ‘mini-about me’ section in the footer of my entire site

Thanks for sticking around this long – and hopefully when you next see a multi-million dollar campaign on TV or online you’ll start to generate some ideas for your own business! Just remember, for most small businesses the single largest asset is the owner.  The people are out there and they want to hear from YOU!

Photo Credit: Nike Press Kit