According to a recent study conducted by The Hartford, small business owners are optimistic about the economy but remain conservative about risks their businesses may face in 2014. Many small business owners say they have not taken more risks over the past six months. No risk? Entrepreneurs understand no risk equals no reward. If you are thinking about your marketing strategy for the New Year and working on your master plan to beat your competition, conservative thinking does not seem to fit here.
No, Mr. West has not launched a new business school but he is a small business owner who seems to get a few things right. If you have followed West’s career and antics with the media over the years, you know he is far from conservative and his marketing tactics leaves some consumers writhing with contempt. Albeit, a large percentage of the nation wants to give West the boot, the other percentage is singing a different tune. To the tune of millions of dollars in album sales, endorsements and sold out concert ticket sales. This $20 million dollar self-made millionaire and small business owner could teach us a thing or two about marketing. Let’s face it, despite how you feel about him you can’t seem to forget him.
Consider these marketing tips for your small business:
Marketing Tip #1: Walk Before You Crawl
While some folks believe you should crawl before you walk, serious entrepreneurs who are on a mission to generate revenue understand that your effort to reach your audience can sometimes be a matter of life or death for your business. The world of marketing has changed with the introduction of social media marketing tools, tactics and strategies. Businesses do not have the luxury of crawling in this race. If you are still crawling and straddling the fence when it comes to implementing a marketing strategy, you can expect to get left behind. If you sell products or services to the individual consumer (B2C) you have to be social, you have to be quick and nimble to reap the rewards and generate the type of income you are expecting.
The Hartford 2013 Small Business Success Study, which surveyed 2,000 small business owners, revealed that small business owners may be taking a more conservative approach to running their businesses in 2014.
Sharing, engaging and informing your target audience keeps you in the spotlight and fresh on the minds of the people you want to impress the most. According to the 2013 State of Digital Marketing Report, 54 percent of B2B marketers and 60 percent of B2C marketers said they have generated leads from social media. Social media can have an impact on the bottom line. As you evaluate your current marketing efforts and develop new ideas for 2014, consider boosting your social media presence and integrating some quick and easy ways to entice people to sit up and pay attention to what you have to offer. West’s controversial hip-hop album, released this summer, entitled “Yeezus” managed to move over 325,000 copies in a week to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart without a traditional album rollout. Surprisingly, there was no single for radio play, no video for MTV or YouTube and a limited press run — yet, West was still able to catapult to the #1 spot the first week.
Marketing Tip #2: Say It First, Think Later
There are plenty of oopsie daisy moments we can remember this year where entrepreneurs just couldn’t seem to keep their feet out of their mouths. Remember, there is no such thing as bad press. Conservative activities leads to slow and hopeful results. As a small business owner, you have taken on full responsibility and the risk of the organization and you are fully aware that it is your derrière that is on the line if an employee, manager or contractor says something in public that doesn’t necessarily represent your views or perhaps just wasn’t data for public consumption. We can think of a few who have called on the PR power rangers to rescue their companies from the pitfalls of fumbled publicity. Mr. West is no stranger to opening mouth and inserting foot moments. However, the fallout is heightened awareness, Twitter trends and boosts in sales. Booz Allen and Lululemon have battled their own public shame to spin it for good. Next time they will think about who they hire and control the message a bit more tightly or maybe not.
Marketing Tip #3: Claim Superiority Over Your Competition
Hip-hop artists do this well. They are not shy and they are certainly confident they have the skills to battle any competitor on the open market. What’s the harm in staking a claim in your territory or drawing a line in the sand when it comes to your product or service’s value to your customer? We see it every day on television commercials where company A makes a claim that their product can beat their competition (company B) or is preferred 2-to-1 over the leading brand. Are small businesses afraid to confidently shout from the roof tops their gadgets will beat your gadgets in a public battle? Identifying the weakness in your competition is a vital exercise when you are evaluating what you do well, what areas you can improve in and comparing what you offer to your competition. It’s what you do when you write your business plan or create your marketing strategy. If you have not conducted a SWOT analysis it is high time you do so. While you are at it, pay a little bit extra to have your product tested in a lab or studied to provide real analytical or statistical data to use when you stand on the stage to proclaim your product walks on water and the others don’t. If you can back it up – go for it.
Marketing Tip #4: Shock Your Customers
There is a fine line between pleasing your customers and annoying them. You have to remember what is important to your customers and understand why they buy from you. If you cannot answer the question, “What do my customers want?” how can you give it to them the way they want it, when they want it and how they want it to meet and exceed their expectations? Consumers have become accustomed to poor treatment and poor service from places like restaurants with rude wait staff, to the automated customer service line where you can never reach a human being, to long lines at the DMV when it is time to renew your driver’s license. We’ve been desensitized to poor service. However, when we are treated well and the small business exceeds our lowered expectations, we will follow you home, rub your feet and tell our friends all about you.
As a business owner, it is your job to know what the customer wants. You have to manage the process of delivering what the customer wants. You have to shut up and listen. If you are great at what you do or your product truly meets the customer’s needs the integration of the two can be a powerful combination for success. If you have done well, ask your clients to become an advocate to share their pleasurable experience with others. You don’t have to beat the customer over the head with how great you are because when your customers’ problems are solved and you make their lives a little bit easier or brighter they will gladly do the work for you.
Marketing Tip #5: Display Your Passion Publicly
Passionate people are infectious. However, confident people are not loud, boisterous and they certainly don’t throw temper tantrums in public. Well, maybe some do but the proper way to demonstrate your belief in the product or service you offer is to be strategically vocal. If a customer is unable to feel your passion, see your commitment or your belief in your service they will question your authenticity and the value you bring to the table. Use your voice to educate the audience, to promote awareness, to fill the audience’s knowledge gap and to weave in your call to action. What would you have the audience do for you?
Create talking points for your company and/or products/services. Host presentations online or in-person to help educate the audience because online videos work well to help answer questions and shorten the sales cycle. You can use a site like Fiverr.com to find experts to design and create useful video marketing collateral to use online for your business.
If you have experienced a slowdown in sales over the past few months and you are not sure of the root cause, it is probably your marketing has not penetrated the audiences’ mind. You simply have not given them a good enough reason to remember you. That’s the kiss of death for any enterprise large or small. Don’t let the slowdown in sales get the best of you and unintentionally drive you to create an internal environment that reeks of desperation. Being in a position of desperation makes you do crazy things. Identify and remember why you started the business, what your core business is and build a platform to help you convey that message using mediums that will help you reach a larger percentage of the market within your budget. If nothing else, simply be relevant in your industry and market.
If you are optimistic about the future, but uncertain about the investment needed to sustain your operation do not let conservative thinking impact your marketing strategy. As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you should remember conservative marketing yields little results. The proper investment in your marketing budget and strategic activities should reflect your projected expectations. Take it from the most loved and hated guy on the planet, conservative gets you second place. You want your customers, your potential targets and your competition to remember who you are and to buy into your passion because it is the only way your small business can create opportunities today to help you reach tomorrow’s goals.