Marketing Advantage: Small
Small business has powerful advantages over big business when it comes to marketing.
But small businesses often miss using these advantages because they are seduced into emulating the big
The typical approach to marketing by big business
is to use the resource they have most of - money. Those big corporations tend to throw large dollars at
expensive advertising campaigns.
If your small business is to survive and grow you
must learn quickly to avoid the temptation to act like big sister or big brother. Never go head to head with the
mega corporations. You can compete and win by playing your game - not theirs. David did not try to go toe to toe
with Goliath, instead he slayed the giant with a sling shot. Your small business is a David in a world of
Goliaths. Change the rules. Don't wish to be like the giants. Instead, discover your sling shot to gain your
In marketing your business you would be wasting your time and money emulating big
business and subsequently going out of business. Instead of trying to launch an unaffordable advertising campaign
discover and use your unique resources - like the sling shot.
What is Marketing?
Marketing is about sending messages. Everything you do or don't do sends a
Examine all the ways you can send messages. Advertising is only one way. Big business
tends to wear blinders that only allow them to see advertising as marketing. Partly because they have always done
it that way and partly because spending large sums of someone else's money is fun and seductive.
How else can you send your marketing messages?
Here are some possibilities you can use:
Media news releases
Guest appearances on radio and TV
Sponsoring events and awards
Holding a contest
Volunteering for a community event or business association
Product information seminars
Public speaking at special events
Through your staff
Through your suppliers
With the help of your clients
This list is not exhaustive but it should give you a broader understanding of
marketing possibilities. Most importantly all of them cost much less than advertising and with greater impact. In
small business you might spend some of your hard earned money on advertising. But remember that it is only one form
of marketing and the most expensive.
Marketing is part of everything you do. The most important P's & Q's to mind with
your marketing is to be consistent and persistent through all the channels of communication. If you preach about
quality but buy the cheapest components you are not consistent. That conflict of messages will destroy your
intended message. It should not take a genius to realize that if you dump on your staff they will dump on your
customers. If you lie to your suppliers it is reasonable to assume you must be lying to your customers.
Use your advantages
As a small business owner you have several advantages in the marketing
You are closer to the customer.
You can build personal relationships.
You can use the CEO factor.
You have less money and therefore must be creative.
You are nimble like the sailboat while the huge oceanliner takes time to change
Closer to the customer
You make the cold calls to prospects, close the deals and follow-up with your
customers. You get to know how they think and feel. You know why they bought from you or why not. Try to tell me
that the president of the big bank knows what goes on at the front counter.
That proximity to your customer gives you a special advantage. When you launch a new
product you can use the information you have gained from your relationships with customers. What is important to
them? What packaging is the most attractive? What features are most valuable? You are in the front lines. Ask
questions, listen and remember.
There is something special about being able to speak to the president. Just try
calling the president of your bank or automotive company. You will get the frustrating run-a-round. Make it easy
for your customers to reach you. Return calls - even if it is to say no thank you. Most will appreciate the
A friend of mine wrote to the prolific science fiction author and scientist Isaac
Asimov. Asimov answered his letter. He wrote that my friend's idea had merit but needed improvement. My friend in
his disappointment destroyed the letter. I thought, "Wow you got a letter from Isaac Asimov!" My friend did not
realize how he might have leveraged that letter.
Make it Personal
Life is personal - so is business. We make buying decisions based on our personal
feelings then we find the logic to justify the decision. Don't hide in your office. Your most important
responsibilities are selling, and building relationships. Build relationships with prospects, customers, staff,
suppliers, and colleagues. We would rather deal with people than with faceless corporations. Even when we must do
business with corporations it often is because of the trust built with individuals.
In a small business your character becomes the company culture. Treat your staff with
respect and pride and they will show respect to customers and pride in the company. Your customers will feel the
pride and respect - and they will feel good about doing business with you.
Build relationships with your customers. Learn their names, their buying habits, and
important information about them. Be sure to store this information on your database. Include personal information
such as birthdays, hobbies, Alma mater and family members. Make it a habit of staying in touch with all of your
customers by phone or by personal correspondence regularly. Send them hand written birthday cards, postcards, and
notes about significant events in their lives.
Use the CEO factor
In your business you wear many hats. That grants you intimate understanding of the
company, your customers and the market. Depending on the time of day you play the role of CEO, sales
representative, or shipping clerk, accountant, quality control or telemarketer.
When your customer talks to you they are talking to the CEO. Your customers feel
special when they can speak to the CEO. Make it easy for them. Be available and accessible.
Remember how frustrated you get when you can not talk to the person in charge.
Imagine walking into your bank and asking to speak with the CEO? Or when you are shopping for a car just try and
speak to the president of the car company. I dare you. Try it and drop me a line on what happens.
Large corporations are falling all over themselves lately to apologize for their
misdeeds. You name it; banks, airlines, tire manufacturers, automotive companies. They are putting their CEO in
front of the media to say sorry for the bad service, stupid mistakes and faulty product. We are suckers for those
who admit their mistakes. We are willing to give most anybody another chance. Why? Because we all made mistakes and
have probably asked for a second chance ourselves.
Maybe you have not yet really screwed up with your customers - but it will happen one
day and when it does you must say sorry. The advantage you have when you make a mistake is that we believe it more
when you are the CEO. If we know you, we want to forgive you - all you have to do is ask for forgiveness. And when
you do - call or send a hand written note. The CEO of the bank or national airline can't do that.
You present a human face to your business. Notice how few corporate CEOs are able to
be the human face of their company. The skills that enable CEOs to battle it out in the boardroom are not the same
skills you need to build rapport with customers. It is so much easier for you to present your face. When we do
business with small companies we like to know the owner. So get out there in the front lines. Volunteer your time
in your community, for your chamber of commerce or industry association.
Although a large corporation, Marriot does a fine job of humanizing their business.
They have the picture of the founder in every lobby. Although you do not meet the founder or even the current CEO
you still feel a personal contact. At the other end of the scale is Holiday Inn. Who is the founder and CEO? Who
knows? You pay much more at the Marriott than the Holiday Inn. It's not the beds that make a difference. It is the
perception of personal service.
When is less money an advantage? When it forces you to be creative. If you have
millions of dollars to spend on marketing you might hire some Madison Avenue advertising agency and buy 30 seconds
on the Super Bowl game. If your marketing budget is considerably less - say a few thousand or a few hundred, you
will have to be creative. You might put extra effort in being nice to your customers. Happy customers are your best
marketing agents. They talk about you. It costs nothing and they have much more credibility then a paid
spokesperson. When you don't have tons of money to throw at expensive advertising campaigns you should put more
effort into the simple marketing techniques like exceptional service, respecting your customers, returning phone
calls promptly, guaranteeing results, free advice, contests, …
The best marketing is free marketing. That comes when people talk about you. Do
things that cause customers to talk about you. Something outlandish. In the old movie Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman
boasted he could eat 50 eggs. I don't suggest that you eat 50 eggs but maybe you could cook a 50 egg omelet for
If you can't be bigger and stronger be smarter and faster. Be a practitioner of
business judo. How many times have you been annoyed by someone quoting company policy? "I'm sorry, but company
policy won't allow me to help you."
Company policy is created to protect the company - not help the customer. I get so
frustrated dealing with employees who are hired to enforce company policy instead of helping the customer. You can
adapt to customer needs and unique circumstances. When you do, let your customer know that you have intervened with
policy to help them in this unique situation. Treat them special and make them feel special.
Sometimes it is smart to provide your customer with something extra at no charge.
Send them an invoice for what you would normally charge but with the price stroked out and your hand written note -
"Regular fee Waived" or "Policy Over-ruled."
Develop your company policy for efficiency and be prepared to change policy to
delight your customers. It will be some of the best and cheapest marketing you can buy.
Find the most annoying 'rule' of your business. What do customers hate most about
buying your product or service? The most annoying rules tend to be about time and process. Break that 'rule'. It
will gain you a loyal following and provide fantastic marketing opportunities.
Marketing is about sending messages. Marketing is part of everything you do. Decide
on the messages that you want to send. Then review everything you do to be congruent with the messages you want to
George Torok brings practical insights to business. He is co-author of Secrets of Power
Marketing, the first guide to personal marketing for the non-marketer. As host of Business in Motion he has
interviewed over 400 business leaders. He is available to deliver keynote speeches and business seminars. Contact
him at 905-335-1997 or visit www.Business-Speaker.biz
You can read an excerpt from the book
at www.PowerMarketing.ca. Get
your free Marketing Tune-up at www.MarketingTuneUp.ca.
Marketing expert, George Torok is available for speaking engagements and media interviews at
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Business Articles by Business Speaker, George Torok