Small Business Marketing Memes

Small Business Marketing MemesThose of us with small businesses “wear a lot of hats,” but many elements of small business marketing are similar whether your’re in retail, B2B, service or other industries.

Here are some memes small businesses share that show our enthusiasm, ingenuity and tenacity:

  • Putting out fires
  • We’re real go-getters
  • Do more with less
  • Think outside the box
  • Give 110%!
  • Too many chiefs
  • Don’t drop the ball
  • I love my job

In your small business, how many of these phrases do you and your employees use? What other metaphors and phrases are popular with your team?

Green Marketing Gimmicks

Marketing gimmicks give marketing a bad name. The worst form of marketing gimmick is falsely promoting a cause to profit from it. These days, this tactic usually takes the form of “green marketing.” Take, for instance, this “Save the Earth Gum:”

Green marketing gimmick - Save the Earth Gum

“Buy this gum and save trees.” Yeah, right. Chewing gum and trees have so little to do with one another that this marketing gimmick is obviously ridiculous. (Also, the brand neglects to mention that trees are required to make their cardboard display box, along with the resources required to produce the plastic tubes and labels.)

Even supposed environmental organizations aren’t free from this marketing hypocrisy. At a local event, the Hamilton County Recycling representatives were trying to promote recycling at restaurants and bars… by handing out copious amounts of full-color, double-sided, aqueous-coated business cards. Not only did they avoid printing on recycled paper, but these waterproof cards would take years to decompose in a landfill.

In an attempt to maintain an appealing landscape, the maintenance crew for the EPA office down the street sprayed noxious chemicals through my open car windows. Along with the lungful of chemicals, they were spreading the message that green grass is more important than their mission.

If your business has a core philosophy and set of values, your marketing plan should highlight them and educate your customers. But companies using a thin veneer of popular “values” to hock products won’t succeed at it for very long. Fads are fickle, and customers are growing more skeptical every day.

Marketing 101: What is a Brand?

The basic marketing question, “What is a brand?” is rarely even adequately covered in marketing classes. But understanding your business’s brand is the most crucial concept for any marketing effort to be successful.

So, what is it, then?

Your brand is the essence, the soul, of your business. Your brand is what your business values. It’s what makes your business valuable and useful to customers, suppliers, employees– and yourself. Your brand is why your business exists.

See, it’s pretty important, eh?

The excellent movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, shows a beautiful example of branding. From the film’s introduction:

Sushi Branding“JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimages, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.”

Jiro Ono has spent his entire working life (since he was nine years old!) honing his brand. He goes so far as to ensure his suppliers put their heart and soul into their businesses, as well. His son, Yoshikazu, says, “Our tuna vendor only sells tuna. Our octopus vendor only sells octopus.” And their rice vendor refuses to sell Jiro’s special rice blend to anyone but Jiro, claiming no one else could possibly prepare it properly.

The soul, or brand, of every business in this film is ever-present. They put their heart and honor into being the very best and consciously defining what they do and who they are.

Perfection is not just a platitude for these businesses. If the tuna dealer can’t find any fish he considers perfect, there’s no tuna for sale that day. Jiro’s apprentices spend 45 minutes massaging the octopus to ensure it is tender enough to serve.

Watch the trailer: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Watch the trailer: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

When a business knows its brand, marketing decisions become much easier. Sukiyabashi Jiro would never consider switching suppliers to lower costs or starting mass sushi production, because it wouldn’t fit their purpose. They know who they are, so they also know who they aren’t.

To truly direct a business and its employees, a brand must be specific enough to escape being generic. It has to answer the question, “Why does this business exist?” Answers like, “To be the most trusted provider of…” aren’t meaningful or unique enough to give your brand life– on the whole, aren’t your competitors pretty trustworthy, too?

For defining a compelling and meaningful brand, small businesses have the advantage over big ones. The soul is a unified thing, and it’s hard for large businesses to unify behind one purpose and set of values. Small businesses have the vision of one person (or a small group of people) to give them a truly purposeful brand. Don’t you think it’s worth answering the question, “What is my business’s brand?”

Implementation means, “Keep at It”

So, you’ve developed a strategy that informs where you want your company to go. You’ve involved your team in developing and planning for this strategy. Together, you’ve made sure this strategy communicates with customers in ways that are meaningful to them and ensures your company is easy to do business with. You’re probably feeling pretty satisfied with your progress. But your work has only just begun.

The most difficult part of any plan is implementation. It’s not because the tasks of implementation are hard. Usually accomplishing these tasks don’t require great skill or superhuman brainpower. The difficulty arises because implementation requires dedication and tenacity. You have to keep at it. Every day.

For many small business entrepreneurs, this process is boring, and implementation is often cut short, displaced by more exciting strategizing and perceived opportunities. But a small business can never reach its potential without completing the initiatives it starts.

Here are some tips for implementation success:

  • Pay attention to details. Read my recent blog post about a business had a failed advertising strategyby ignoring the details on the printed piece.
  • Develop easy-to-understand success metrics. Know you’re succeeding (or failing) by establishing milestones along the way to your goal. These milestones should have due dates to create a sense of urgency.
  • Hold quarterly or monthly check-up meetings. Grade your company’s success on a regular basis with progress reports on your milestones. Make these meetings short and to the point, or everyone will dread them (don’t you hate meetings that drag on and keep you from work?).
  • Don’t be a roadblock. Often small business owners are the bottleneck in the company’s decision-making process. Decide which decisions you don’t need to make. It will free up your time and speed up your strategy’s success.
  • Use your team’s strengths. If you find it difficult to stay on track, someone on your team likely has strong implementation skills. Give them authority to check in, set meetings and make sure progress is made.

Now use these tips to go forth and implement!

Small Business Marketing Spotlight: Reflected Spectrum Photography

Reflected Spectrum Photography is an Indianapolis-based firm specializing in wedding photography, creative portraiture, and fine art photography. Although the business has only been in operation for a year, owner Laura Poland has turned it into a successful venture. Laura is a professional photographer who also runs the business. In this interview, she will share her advice for small business success, some challenges she has faced and the joy she has for photography. I’m certain readers will also enjoy the beautiful photographs she has supplied for this article.

Laura starts by telling us what she enjoys about owning her own business:

I love the freedom I get from owning a business.  I have full creative control over all my work, so I’m free to try new techniques and experiment with new ideas.  I’m also able to work at my own pace, set my own hours, and choose my own assignments.

But all small business owners discover challenges as they grow. For Reflected Spectrum Photography, Laura was already an experienced photographer, but running the other aspects of the business, such as sales, marketing and finance, was difficult at first. Since her core competency was photography, she sought advice:

I continue to learn as much as I can about these fields to improve my knowledge and skills in those areas, but I have also benefited greatly from the help of good consultants, such as Zoo In A Jungle Marketing and Andrew Technology. Having expert advice available has been extremely helpful to give my business a head start.

As with most successful small businesses, Reflected Spectrum Photography focuses on the customer experience and building relationships. Relationship-building is easier for small businesses than with large ones, which is a key competitive advantage of being small. Laura agrees and adds, “I really enjoy building relationships with all my clients. I find it very rewarding to be present at the most special moments in my clients’ lives, and to see how their children have grown at each new portrait session.”

Laura realizes that satisfying her clients involves more than delivering beautiful photographs, so she ensures they have a great experience during the photo shoot as well:

I try to help my clients feel relaxed and get them excited about having their pictures taken. If my clients are enjoying themselves, that allows me to capture special moments as they happen and preserve them as art, and I hope that they will be treasured for years to come. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the expression on my clients’ faces when I’ve captured the perfect expression of happiness on their child’s face, or caught a spark of real emotion from their wedding day. If my customers enjoy the experience and love the results, they are likely to hire me again in the future and refer me to their friends.

As for building her customer base, Laura has employed a very successful web marketing strategy and client referral network. She says, “Before you can make a client happy, you first have to actually get some clients, so well planned sales and marketing strategies have played a key role in my success.”

As a successful small business owner, Laura parted with the following advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:

Before you start to focus on selling your products or services, build a solid foundation for your business to grow on.  Once you become successful, you may be too busy with your clients to focus on building a good web site, formulating targeted marketing initiatives, or finding a record keeping system that works for you.  If you need help with any of these things, don’t be afraid to ask!  Help is out there in many forms.  Books, forums, internet articles, and expert consultants are all available to help you get your business off to the right start.

Contact Info:

Reflected Spectrum Photography
Laura Poland
http://www.reflectedspectrum.com

Introduction to Marketing Quality

The Passion and Purpose of Design

Do you want your marketing to be good? Do you want it to be great?
Over the next few months, this series of articles will provide practical tips to help you create a great marketing message and make your business more successful. We will explore your customer experience, web marketing, graphic design and writing. But today, we need to establish a foundation for the marketing tools that will come later.
Marketing is really all about design. Great marketing is about quality design. We design graphics. We craft stories and narratives. We compose photographs of happy, smiling people for the advertising campaigns we planned. We design grand brand strategies with flow charts. We even design our budgets.
We design every communication we have with customers, whether intentionally or not. We need to take ownership of our design and design for quality.
Robert Pirsig writes in his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, that quality cannot be defined, but it does exist, and we all know what it is. He describes quality as a train in motion. Everything we know is catalogued in boxcars, and everything we don’t know yet lays on the track in front of us. To practice quality, we need to acknowledge that reality is constantly changing, and we must combine what we’ve always known with what we’re about to learn.  In business, aspects about our customers are constantly changing, and we need to keep up by designing our customer interactions with quality.1
To create quality design, we need to have a passion for it. Pirsig describes it as “caring” and writes, “Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares.2” Passion is a mindset, and that is why we have to establish the quality mindset before explaining specific tools or methods.
Lack of passion leads to an overabundance of mediocrity and—even worse—a lack of purpose. If the purpose of the design is lost, then the design is useless.
In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, a small group of architects fight for the purpose of design. The protagonist Howard Roark designed buildings to help make living a joy, not to impress the neighbors or conform with precedent. He had a passion for building what “should be” and never settled for mediocrity. As he exchanged with a prospective client who asked him to use supposedly decorative flourishes:
“’Mr. Janss, when you buy an automobile, you don’t want it to have rose garlands about the windows, a lion on each fender and an angel sitting on the roof. Why don’t you?’
‘That would be silly,’ stated Mr. Janss.
‘Why would it be silly? Now I think it would be beautiful. Besides, Louis the Fourteenth had a carriage like that and what was good enough for Louis is good enough or for us. We shouldn’t go in for rash innovations and we shouldn’t break with tradition.’
‘Now you know damn well you don’t believe anything of the sort!’
‘I know I don’t. But that’s what you believe, isn’t it? Now take a human body. Why wouldn’t you like to see a human body with a curling tail with a crest of ostrich feathers at the end? And with ears shaped like acanthus leaves? It would be ornamental, you know, instead of the stark, bare ugliness we have now. Well, why don’t you like the idea? Because it would be useless and pointless. Because the beauty of the human body is that it doesn’t have a single muscle which doesn’t serve its purpose; that there’s not a line wasted; that every detail of it fits one idea, the idea of a man and the life of a man.’”3
Purposeful design is not limited to architects. The purpose of marketing design is to focus on the customer. We want to inform our customers, delight them, help them use our products and get them to do things (like buy something or refer a friend). Don’t focus on competitors, impressing trade groups or what you did last year unless it helps you with your customer goals.
Don’t let your next web page be mediocre. Think again before letting Val-Pak design your company’s ad for you. Realize that a typo speaks more about you than anything else you’ve written. If you seek out passionate, purposeful design, you will see the results in your bottom line.
In the next article, I’ll build on the design principles of passion and purpose and provide helpful tools you can start using right away to increase the quality of your marketing.

Do you want your marketing to be good? Do you want it to be great?

Marketing is really all about design. Great marketing is about quality design. We design graphics. We craft stories and narratives. We compose photographs of happy, smiling people for the advertising campaigns we planned. We design grand brand strategies with flow charts. We even design our budgets.

We design every communication we have with customers, whether intentionally or not. We need to take ownership of our design and design for quality.

Robert Pirsig writes in his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, that quality cannot be defined, but it does exist, and we all know what it is. He describes quality as a train in motion. Everything we know is catalogued in boxcars, and everything we don’t know yet lays on the track in front of us. To practice quality, we need to acknowledge that reality is constantly changing, and we must combine what we’ve always known with what we’re about to learn.  In business, aspects about our customers are constantly changing, and we need to keep up by designing our customer interactions with quality.1

To create quality design, we need to have a passion for it. Pirsig describes it as “caring” and writes, “Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares.2″ Passion is a mindset, and that is why we have to establish the quality mindset before explaining specific tools or methods.

Lack of passion leads to an overabundance of mediocrity and—even worse—a lack of purpose. If the purpose of the design is lost, then the design is useless.

In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, a small group of architects fight for the purpose of design. The protagonist Howard Roark designed buildings to help make living a joy, not to impress the neighbors or conform with precedent. He had a passion for building what “should be” and never settled for mediocrity. As he exchanged with a prospective client who asked him to use supposedly decorative flourishes:

“’Mr. Janss, when you buy an automobile, you don’t want it to have rose garlands about the windows, a lion on each fender and an angel sitting on the roof. Why don’t you?’

‘That would be silly,’ stated Mr. Janss.

‘Why would it be silly? Now I think it would be beautiful. Besides, Louis the Fourteenth had a carriage like that and what was good enough for Louis is good enough or for us. We shouldn’t go in for rash innovations and we shouldn’t break with tradition.’

‘Now you know damn well you don’t believe anything of the sort!’

‘I know I don’t. But that’s what you believe, isn’t it? Now take a human body. Why wouldn’t you like to see a human body with a curling tail with a crest of ostrich feathers at the end? And with ears shaped like acanthus leaves? It would be ornamental, you know, instead of the stark, bare ugliness we have now. Well, why don’t you like the idea? Because it would be useless and pointless. Because the beauty of the human body is that it doesn’t have a single muscle which doesn’t serve its purpose; that there’s not a line wasted; that every detail of it fits one idea, the idea of a man and the life of a man.’”3

Purposeful design is not limited to architects. The purpose of marketing design is to focus on the customer. We want to inform our customers, delight them, help them use our products and get them to do things (like buy something or refer a friend). Don’t focus on competitors, impressing trade groups or what you did last year unless it helps you with your customer goals.

Don’t let your next web page be mediocre. Think again before letting Val-Pak design your company’s ad for you. Realize that a typo speaks more about you than anything else you’ve written. If you seek out passionate, purposeful design, you will see the results in your bottom line.

Footnotes
1. Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
2. Ibid., 281.
3. Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. New York: Plume, 1999. 163.