Growth, in today’s world, has become a logical postulation that has evaded resolution. As a small and medium business owner sustainable growth is what will keep the business engine running. The instinctive reaction to this conundrum is to increase the activity levels on “marketing your brand”.
As previously stated small and medium business owners are challenged with the dollars required for mass marketing. Mass media, that purports to have a wide reach, can cost a fortune. Often, a single advertisement or promotional effort in mass media can wipe out the entire annual marketing budget of a small or medium business. But, in reality, the much perceived weakness of being a small business is your strength. Remember what Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing, said. Marketing done by small business is driven, not by money but by time, energy and creativity.
In the case of big business, very often, its sheer size is its nemesis in customer interaction. Traditionally the only option they have had is to reach out to their customers by way of a monologue. They spend large dollars in mass media to delivery their message, all the while hoping that the customer likes what she hears. In a recent insight produced by the globally renowned strategy firm, McKinsey & Company, with the explosion of the web and social media, the traditional “push” advertising that was the core of marketing has become irrelevant. Today is the era of deep customer engagement. It is this engagement process that has drastically transformed the conversation between the company and its customer. In the words of John Hayes, the Chief Marketing Officer of American Express, “We are going from a monologue to a dialogue”.
Long before this became a fashion, Levinson highlighted 20 different ways on how guerilla marketing is different from traditional marketing. One of the very compelling reasons on that list was how small businesses have the ability to sustain a rich dialogue with their customers. As a small or medium business owner you have the ability to start and maintain a dialogue with your customer.
True, like American Express’ Hayes mentioned, large business are slowly shifting to a dialogue too. But their ability to maintain a dialogue is limited.
To give you my own example. I drive a mini-van manufactured by a very well known Japanese brand. I have this model for the last 8 years and, every year, winters have been bad because in the Canadian cold the sliding doors get jammed. My current model is a relatively newer one (2011) and with the onset of this year’s brutal winter, I ran into trouble again. One morning when dropping my daughter off at school, none of the doors, save the rear lift-gate, would open. She had to crawl to the back and get off. I dropped the car off at the dealers only to get a band-aid fix which broke soon thereafter. To cut a long story short, even after 6 weeks there was no response from the dealer. I took to social media to express my frustration and within three hours I had the social media in-charge tweet me back asking my details. This company had the perfect opportunity to maintain a great dialogue with me. But the conversation that was started by the social media in-charge was not followed through as the dealership continued to maintain its nonchalant attitude. Finally after a 12 week wait after the problem first occurred I was attended to. Never mind continuing a conversation, this exasperating experience has made me decide never to buy this brand again.
So, large business will always have this challenge of starting and maintaining a dialogue with customers. As a small business you can leverage the potential of a dialogue.
As Jay Ehret, Chief Officer of Awesomeness at TheMarketingSpot.com says, “the true power of a brand helps customers choose your business”. And for a small or medium business owner it is easy to create such a powerful brand. The best way to do this, Ehret states, is to take your entrepreneurial passion and transform it into something that will attract customers you can satisfy”. By hiring the right team you can get everyone in the company as passionate to the cause as you are. In fact, the McKinsey report clearly states that the onus of marketing a brand is now on the entire organization and not just the marketing department. By creating a team of passionate brand champions you will elevate your brand to a new level. To ensure that customer engagement is sustained marketing should pervade the entire organization. Despite this, the accountability of the entire process should rest with you as the entrepreneur. Or with someone you can trust the delegation to.
With a driven organization that is customer focussed, dialogue can take many forms.
- All those questions that customers ask are an opportunity for a dialogue – an inquiry for pricing, an request for a quote, product availability, product features or the need for a rush delivery.
- The opinions your customers share, even their complaints, are an opportunity to start a dialogue.
- The praise your customer offers at the end of successful sale, opens the door to a request for a referral, the chance to start a new dialogue with another customer.
- A customer returning for repeat business is asking for another dialogue. I bet because they enjoyed the 1st one.
In fact, there are also a number of tactics that you, the business owner, can use to invite a dialogue –
- Signage – building or vehicle
- Logo’d wearables – you and your employees
- Business cards
- Seasonal products
- Promotional Giveaways
- Sales or discounts
- Newsletters, Blogs, Facebook or Twitter
- Thanks you notes
- Requests for referrals.
Once started, a dialogue that will allow you, build credibility by what you say and how you act. This results in building a relationship with the customer. Starting a fruitful dialogue could result in a sale. And, maintaining that dialogue will definitely result in additional sales.
So, what is stopping you?