If you want to get noticed in a noisy world, your message needs to be better, not louder. And, it needs to be delivered with polish and panache. Your budget may have limitations, but your imagination doesn’t, so just because you own a small business doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for big thinking. Or, big execution.
Need a tangible? Your website.
Thinking like a big company means losing the generic template, outdated fonts and bland copy. If you operate a home décor company that strives to connect to style-savvy urban hipsters but your website is cluttered, and very UN-edgy, you’re going to be perceived as anything but hip. Sure, a website isn’t everything, but in the current climate, it is your primary connection to a potential sale. So if your audience has style, and wants to know where to find more, lead them to it. With the smorgasbord of slick options out there, and myriad young techies-in-training seeking to build their portfolio, you should have no problem getting the look you want—and the one that is going to attract your ideal customer/client—at a price you can afford.
The same goes for your print collateral, which despite the digital takeover still has a place in modern marketing. Again, having shallower pockets than your competitors is not an excuse. There are zillions of DIY resources out there to help you attain the quality and packaging you want for your business. Granted, pretty packaging isn’t going to close a deal, but being up on graphic/design trends in print and online let perspective customers know that you’re in year 2013, and paying attention. I’m sure we could all go without hearing the word “innovator” for a few years, but anyone who is spending money (antique collectors exempt) is also seeking the “latest, greatest.”
Which of course is where it gets tricky. Along with that latest, greatest, consumers still crave experience and knowledge, and they want results. Three things that are not easy for newer, smaller businesses to prove. (This is one of the reasons blogging is so popular; it’s a way to show off expertise and gain credibility.)
So how can you get past the skeptics? It’s not by lowering your pricing or throwing in extra products or services. That’s OK in the beginning when you’re trying to earn a reputation, but part of acting like a big business is resisting the temptation to under sell yourself. The real wow factor comes from a convincing display of both contemporary and time-tested business practices, as well as captivating marketing tactics that make you/your brand look bigger than you really are.
You may not have the resources for a high-production promotional video, but thanks to social media, and nifty high-tech, high-res “home” video cameras, you can still make a splash on YouTube, PitchEngine and lots of other cyber spaces. You can also take the unconventional guerrilla marketing approach, which when done well, can make you look “simply brilliant.” This post is a couple of years old, but the ideas are interesting, fun and well, worth sharing.
Along with showing a little creativity in your marketing, you also need to show off your PR skills. Until you can afford to partner with an outside firm, YOU are a 24/7 publicity machine. Get to know your local and regional media outlets, and adopt a mantra of “research, network and pitch.” A good story with a fresh angle is always in demand, so don’t be intimidated.
Initiating informal conversations during off-peak hours is also part of your game plan. Just remember to ratchet back the “me” talk and to start by asking the other person about their business. If they express curiosity about yours, tell them a few of the most compelling details, then turn the microphone back over to them and listen to what they’re saying. Not only is this courteous, and demonstrates that you actually care about others, you may just learn something that will help YOUR business.
But before you can work your brand ambassador magic, you need to get a handle on your customer/client base. Not just your existing pool, but those you want to connect with. This starts by knowing who–and where–they are and what language they speak. This may be Business 101, but now that social media has changed the way the game is played, companies run a greater risk of missing their target because in trying to keep up, they’re posting here, there and everywhere. Be calculated in your marketing and public relations, whether you’re at a conference table, at the township Little League fields or hanging out or tweetin’ up on Google+ and Twitter.
Also, not everything happens online. Valuable marketing opportunities are all around you if you have your eyes—and your ears—open. One way to increase your visibility is to lead community events. The skills and exposure that you’ll gain is worth the effort. Just don’t put your name down and not show up for the job; customers want to know that the people they do business with are reliable. And, be choosey: Forging relationships with companies, groups and individuals who have a stake in your business isn’t self-serving, it’s smart.
There’s nothing wrong about wanting to stay small as long as you’re thinking big. By brainstorming and executing new ways to effectively communicate your unique offering, you’ll be in a better position to grow your bottom line.