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Small Business Marketing

Does your small business marketing feel like a game of darts?

Back in April, I had the opportunity to have a booth at the local small business development center’s annual expo.  At my booth, I created an interactive “small business marketing game” that business owners could play when they walked up to the booth.  It was basically a game of darts, except instead of getting points for hitting the dart board, the business owner got to draw a card based on what color their darts hit:

  • For red or green, they got to draw a “positive consequence” card
  • For black, they got to draw a “random” card that could be positive or negative
  • For grey, they had to draw a “negative” card

The positive cards represented small business marketing best practices and the negative cards represented common small business marketing mistakes.  The best practices included things like making sure to say thank-you to their customers, and forming strategic partnerships with other non-competing businesses who served the same target market.  The mistakes included things like not testing the “contact us” form on their website to make sure it worked, or not realizing that their voice mail box was full and wouldn’t accept new messages (both of those are way more common than you’d think, by the way).

Positive cards were worth positive points, and negative cards were worth negative points.  If the business owner racked up enough positive points, they would win prizes like free marketing books and DVDs.  People could play the game as long as they wanted to try and get points, but in true carnival style I had the game pretty well rigged so that it was nearly impossible to win a prize.  As soon as the person playing started to get close to winning, they’d have to draw a negative card and would loose points.

Small business marketing isn’t a dart game

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that it was unfair of me to create a game that was rigged to keep people from winning.  However, I wasn’t trying to entertain the people stopping by my booth–I was trying to teach them a lesson.  The lesson was that if they treated their marketing like a game of darts–i.e., trying tactic after tactic and hoping something “stuck”–they would never “win” in the real life “game” of their business…which of course isn’t a game at all.  Unfortunately, this is exactly how many small business owners approach marketing.

Here’s what usually happens: they hear about someone else having success with a particular tactic, so they go out and try it themselves.  However, they neglect some seemingly minor detail that is actually critical to making the tactic successful, and so the tactic fails.  Ironically, in most cases the business owner isn’t doing anything to track the results of the tactic anyway, and so wouldn’t even know if it was successful.  Eventually, they will give up and move on to the next tactic, and repeat the process.

There’s a better way

The good news is that there is a better way to do small business marketing.  The “better way” is basing your tactics on a carefully planned and researched strategy that narrowly targets your ideal customer, and communicates a meaningful message to that customer that differentiates yourself from the competition.  Once that strategy has been created, you then put in place a way to track whether or not any tactics you use to support that strategy work.  Then, and only then, do you start using any particular tactic.

The Duct Tape Marketing System that I teach to small business owners uses this approach.  It takes business owners through a seven-step process that helps them create a marketing strategy that will be successful, figure out what tactics will work best to support it, and track the results so that they can be improved.  If you’re interested in learning this system, download our free ebook entitled Seven Steps to Small Business Marketing Success.  After you’ve read it, come back to our site and complete a free Signature Brand Audit so that we can help you think about how to apply the system to your business.
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