Small Business Marketing

If you are looking at or already have started a small company that’s based on a hobby or something you enjoy doing and you want to grow it listen up.

Your new business is based on a hobby, something that is enjoyable, so there are many players in the industry. What does this mean?  You have competition.  You’re just an amateur but there are many professionals in the market and they charge too much.  You found your niche as an affordable musician, renovator, photographer or artist, whichever you are, people need these services and you can provide them at an affordable price.  But it’s not as easy as it seems at first.  How do you tell people about your service?  You don’t have a lot of money but you will put your heart into it so you know it was be great work but how do you get that message across to your potential client?

Pro Bono. Why not?  Lawyers do it, maybe for different reasons but they are still getting experience and building their own portfolio.  Take on a project for free, ensure you get lots of exposure and the time you invest will pay out ten fold.  If you don’t have a large (or any) advertising budget you may as well show someone how good you really are.  If you are that good they will tell someone about their experience, if not, get feedback on how to improve and don’t settle until you are remarkable.  It is at that point when your business is remarkable, that you will no longer need to advertise.

Dear Signs: I Don’t See You Anymore

In the 1960’s when advertising took off globally, mass media worked, radio sold advertising, TV was one of the best mediums, billboards commanded your attention, then it hit a tipping point.  At a certain point in time advertising became too much, I’m not sure when it was but it was at that point when we had to start ignoring ads.  This video clip from marketing guru Seth Godin sums up why marketers have lost our attention.  I like ads, I like questioning marketing campaigns but for the first time the other day I caught myself ignoring ads.  It was a fascinating trip to the grocery store that proved for myself how hard it is to get a message across, even when it’s staring you in the face.

Just like everyone else in our world that doesn’t shop at Safeway, I received bad service at a grocery store.  Such a bad experience drove me to going to their website and trying to give them feedback as to why I was unhappy leaving their establishment.  During the feedback questionnaire one question caught me off guard, “Did you notice any signage talking about 1000 flavors of Canada?” I reflected on my visit and couldn’t remember seeing anything so I selected “no”.

A week passes and I’m in the area of this super market again with nothing else close by to patronize instead. In a hurry I decide to pick up something to eat.  Entering the super market I recall the survey I took so I look for “1000 flavors of Canada”.  Little to my surprise was that the entire store was covered with these signs and I didn’t see one of them in my previous visit, not even one sign.

I finally understood what Mr. Godin was talking about.  This grocery store was trying to interrupt me with their signs.  It didn’t matter the size or location, I wasn’t looking for them so I didn’t see them.

Just because our eyes see something does not mean our brains remember it.  Our generation is getting increasingly better at ignoring messages that we don’t want to remember.  Therein lies the power of the internet, it is there for when I want something, until then don’t bother interrupting me with your message.

Ignorant Assumptions

In your day to day interactions it is difficult to look back and reflect on something you have said/done, unless you e-mailed it. How lovely it is that technology keeps track of the conversation we have via e-mail.  Occasionally this comes in handy, like it did for me today.

Recently I put a team into a sports league not knowing what I was getting myself into.  Two weeks later I sit frustrated, and defeated, all because of an ignorant assumption.  Reflecting on what happened I searched to the root of the problem and the why behind it.  All it came down to is an e-mail that should have been reviewed before sending, that’s it.  If this person would have reviewed what he wrote before sending I think he would have caught his ignorant assumption and changed his tone and argument.  He never reviewed it, and now I am left to think of this gentlemen as less of a person because of the udder idiocy that is attached to an ignorant assumption.

When you assume something that is completely outlandish, inhuman or plain illogical people make their own assumptions about yourself, especially if they do not know you very well.  Conflict is unavoidable but ignorant assumptions within conflict immediately makes you down grade the conflict to a misunderstanding because of the others metal capacity on the given issue. When someone assumes something that is ignorant, we as humans place judgement, not intentionally, but in the back of your mind you know exactly how you feel about this person.

Sympathy you say?  Yes you need to have it with friends and colleagues but towards people that have a position of power that should be reviewing their own e-mails, no.  I’ll keep you updated to see if we in fact did get in the league, as for my adversary that needs a lesson on e-mail etiquette, please, use the phone next time.

The Bad Service Strategy

No company in their right mind would ever admit to it but the fact of the matter is offering less(bad) service can be quite a cost saving and yes this is a strategy, surprisingly a very good one.

It’s frustrating at times to find help in a store that prides itself on no service.  Have you ever tried to call Super Store with a question or problem?  You can’t there is no number.  Ever asked a Wal-Mart employee a detailed question about a non-stick frying pan?  You may luck out but the odds are the person can’t help you.

The reality is these large corporations understand that service costs money and after performing a cost-benefit analysis on service they determined it was not worth it.  Customers would rather have lower prices rather than paying from someone to help them while shopping.  Is that what we really want?  Would we all pay a little extra for better service?  There’s the catch.

Would you still shop at Wal-Mart if the prices were increased by five to ten percent but it included good service?  Maybe, but I would be willing to bet that the majority of us do not need great service, it is a small minority of people that actually do need it on a regular basis.

Why is this a great strategy?  If you can attain the lowest selling price, history tells us you will sell a lot of products so you don’t need a value added strategy, the lowest price is the value.  So who’s complaining?  There will always be companies that have the lowest prices and with it will come poor service; it’s to be expected.  At the same time you will always find a niche clientele that is willing to pay more for value added service.

You are free to go to the more expensive stores, you now know why you pay more, expect great service.  As well you can still frequent the stores with the lowest price, but please save us all some time and don’t complain about service.

Baseball Hecklers and Good Marketers

Baseball hecklers go to games for a reason, they have a goal and for the most part they are good at what they do.  The goal? To get in the pitcher’s head so he’s off his game.  They go about in many different ways but in the end, if the pitcher is at all affected, the heckler considers his work a success.

But what if the heckler is distracted from his goal?  What if the crowd likes him?  All of a sudden he is the entertainment, his focus is taken off the pitcher and put towards impressing the crowd.  He is no longer seeking his long-term goal but instead looking for that short-term gain.

Marketers go into projects with a goal in mind, at least they should be.  When that goal is achieved the project is considered a success.  But what if along the way the marketer creates some funny radio spot, a great Facebook ad or some flashy branding material that really impresses the client?  Is the goal now making the client happy in the short term, or is the long-term goal still in the sights?

Too many hecklers and marketers start with a long-term goal in mind and soon after change to the short-term gain of impressing the client.  Trying to be the funniest, flashiest, loudest, marketer out there may impress the crowd for a couple innings but at the end of the game it’s the guy who stuck to the long-term strategy that is the successful one.  The next project you take on, ask yourself, “Am I trying to get in the pitchers head? Or just impressing the crowd”.

A Boring 480 Minutes or a Uber-hard 15?

We all have a choice, in life, in everything we do.  This post is about your choice of career path.  You either have the boring, mundane, heat the same lunch up in the microwave for 30 years at the same job or you have a terrible 15 minutes.

Let me explain.

Boring jobs? You say “not me!” Right?  Wrong.  Do you love your job?  Do you wake up twenty minutes early some mornings to try to get to your cubicle a bit early because you are so excited to work? No you don’t and you’re not alone, over 50% of our society hates their job, that means for eight hours every day over half the people you know are not happy.  So why do they do it?  Why do we settle?

Why is the societal norm to find something that is so mind numbingly boring that no one else will do the job so that the Government of Canada has to pay YOU a premium?  Granted, it could be the jobs themselves that need and overhaul but I think there is more to it.  Simply put, people don’t like awkward situations.  They don’t like stepping out of their comfort zone.  Boring is safe, safe is easy and easy just happens to be what the majority settles for.

So what’s alternative?  Well it’s the super stressful 15.  That’s all, just fifteen minutes a day.  If you set aside fifteen minutes a day to do the worst possible thing on your list for that day I guarantee you will be more productive for the rest of your day and week for that matter.  We being humans hate being out of our comfort zones but for the ballsy, the ones that want a bigger purpose in life, they have figured it out, they can step out more frequently than the rest of society.

Just think back to all the things you passed up because you were too scared, too shy, the bar was raised a little too high.  A different decision at any of these points in life would have made for a much different outcome now wouldn’t it?

Well its not to late, take the leap into the terrible 15 minutes and start enjoying the rest of your day.  The more you are out of your comfort zone the more you will learn, explore, realize different things about life and the beauty of it is every time you do it the easier it gets.  As soon as you figure this out, the closer you will be to achieving those goals you set way back when you decided to take that job because you thought it would be easy.  Refuse to accept easy from now on and do something that scares you.