I woke up one morning to my alarm clock blaring a GEICO advertisement. I turned on the TV to catch the weather before I got dressed and there was that cave man commercial. I jumped in the car and tuned to my favorite station only to hear that smarty pants lizard with a Cockney accent shilling for the insurer. I drove my normal route to the office and saw a billboard across the railroad bridge claiming that I could save 15 percent on my car insurance. I finally arrived at my office and pulled into my parking spot and as I stepped out I heard the buzz of a small airplane overhead, so I look up to see that it is pulling; yes you guessed it, a GEICO banner. This is advertising muscle at its mightiest. What can your small firm do to match this kind of power? The answer is maybe nothing.
Small businesses have always been frustrated with the marketing and advertising power of large multi-national firms and it has been even more so in today’s tougher economic climate. We certainly can’t concede the marketing war and give up hope that anyone will buy our product or service, but the task seems so daunting when you just can’t get away from a competitor’s advertisements and you even find yourself whistling the catchy tune on their commercial or chuckling at their online video that just went viral.
However, the little guy does have options. Here are a few things you can do to help you stand out without breaking the bank.
1. Be laser focused. The big shops can afford to spam the world. You can’t. Make sure you know your audience and focus on them very carefully. A well-designed, thoughtful campaign can yield great results if it really speaks to your potential client.
2. Be original. If you directly compete with a big industry player as most small businesses do, take a distinctly different demeanor or air in regards to your product or service. It could be that you are exclusively for those potential customers whose service is overpriced or maybe you offer educational seminars in an industry that does not currently have these.
3. Temper your expectations. Your latest mailing campaign went out and you are sitting by the phone, just waiting for it to start ringing off the hook. Really? Adopting an unrealistic view of the results of a single ad or campaign will give you acid reflux and not help your bottom line. Take the long view and tailor your marketing campaigns to work together for the best results.
4. Ask for help. The big guys have huge ad agencies and fancy consultants. You might only have your Uncle Buddy that did a mailing campaign once back in the 80’s. Don’t talk to him. Ask your colleagues for their opinions, or for a bigger campaign, find a local pro that can help you even if it is a modest fee. It’s worth the investment.
5. Publish press releases. Use a service like PRweb.com that gets your releases to potentially hundreds or thousands of online outlets. You will be pleasantly surprised with the results and web awareness it brings.
I left social media out of the short list above because it is now a given that you must participate in the online conversation. LinkedIn seems to be the best choice for having a directed, business-related conversation,hereas Facebook is great for letting your personality shine through. All these sites are arranged around relationships and commonality, not the traditional search model like Google. This is where smaller organization like yours can really shine because you don’t need sophisticated tactics or a $50,000 budget; you just need to be you. Well, a better you.
I did not literally mean do nothing when competing against a larger competitor. What I meant is, don’t try to do exactly as they do. The biggest reason is that you may not be able to afford to do it and you will not get the same results if you mimic their efforts on a fraction of their budgets. The power you have is your originality, your reputation in the marketplace and the small-business expertise you bring to the table. Don’t be just like GEICO—be just like you.