A Small Town Business Formula For Successful Do-It-Yourself Marketing
And Advertising

by Tom Egelhoff

The principle reason for the existence of this web site is to assist small business owners in the handling of their own marketing, advertising and promotional efforts. To be "self-marketing," if you will.

Most marketing books and guides have never dealt with the small business owner who must decide where to spend the $250.00 advertising budget for the month. There is a big difference between spending $250.00 and $250,000,000.00 on advertising or promotion. Which of the two amounts will tolerate the most mistakes? The second amount can afford the most mistakes.

The two hundred and fifty dollar merchant must generate $250.00 in business profit or that business is in trouble. The $250,000,000 mistake is also costly but businesses of that size can often weather storms of that magnitude much easier and for longer periods than the small business person can.

But the one thing that is most important is that mistakes in marketing and advertising can put you out of business quickly. Advertising, marketing and promotion must pay for itself. It must be an investment not an expense.

The Small Town Self-Marketing Formula

This week I want to outline a formula for success for the small business owner than can help keep you and your business on track. I will break it down in as much detail as I can, but in order for it to be successful, you will be required to assemble the information to plug into the formula.

I should also point out, before we go any further, that this isn't an X + Y = Z type formula. You are going to have to do a little business homework and examine your business in more detail than you have before. As we go along I think you will be able to see why it works.

Start With Your Customers (Target Market)

Harvey Mackay, in "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive", remarks that the Japanese definition of the typical American marketing plan is, "Ready?, Fire!, Aim!"

What this means is that we often create a plan with no idea who our target market is or if the plan will appeal to them. We also seem to have no idea if they are receiving our advertising.

As Sales Trainer Tony Alessandra says, "most people aim at nothing and hit it with amazing accuracy." This is exactly what small town marketers do with "amazing accuracy."

When you started your business, you probably had a pretty good idea of who your target market was and how to reach them. Has anything changed? Are their more competitors? Is your customer base growing or shrinking? Is your profit margin increasing or decreasing?

The first step must be your customers. Re-think your past target marketing position. Is your past target market your current target market? Has your target market changed in any way? Are you losing customers to your competitors? If so, why?

Positioning For Your Target Market

Retail guru J'Amy Owens of the Seattle based, Retail Group, Inc. says, "a shopper should be able to determine the following about a retail store in three seconds; its name, line of trade, claim to fame, price position, and its personality." Can first time customers do that in your place of business? (For more about J'Amy Owens, click here)

So, how do your customers see your business? Have you asked them? Have you done any in-house surveys? If I didn't know your company what would my initial impression be? In a small town people will carry the word about who and what you are or what they "think" you are. Sometimes this is not the information you want to have distributed about your company.

Your target market must see you as the answer to their problem. If you don't have a position strategy yet, see: "How To Develop Your Position Strategy."

Networking: Is It Just A Tired Overworked Buzz Word?

The word is worn out but the principle is as valid as it was in the time of Adam and Eve. We all buy goods and services from people we have met or know in some way. Even a chance meeting can make the difference between buying from a competitor or from you.

I can't stress strongly enough how important it is to get involved with service clubs and community organizations. These are the people who will carry the word about your business. They will promote you and recommend you even if they have not personally done business with you. They are of inestimable value to you.

Don't forget your church. Every church has at least 50 people at each service. Make it a point to meet some of them. If you have kids, or even if you don't, volunteer or donate time or product to school activities. The payoffs from community involvement will make all the difference in your business. See: "How To Make Friends And Turn Them Into Customers."

Use The Media And Let It Use You

Many small business owners avoid the media like the plague. The truth is the media is one of the most important allies you can have in building a successful business.

You don't have to add your advertising sales rep to your social calendar. You should take advantage of the information and expertise that the sales reps have at their disposal. Demographic information and success stories reported by advertisers who have businesses similar to yours. Send them a Rolodex card with your name, company name and address, years in business, phone, fax, email, cell phone numbers. You might also include a short description of your area of expertise.

Get to know the local media people. They are always looking for a story and will be happy to carry information about you as long as it isn't a blatant commercial.

Be An Industry Expert

Also, be sure to let the editors of the paper know that you are a person they should contact regarding information about your industry. The chances are you will know about news in your industry long before it makes its way into the mainstream news channels. Whenever possible, let the local editor know that a story is about to break that will affect your area of the world and the local industry.

Let them know that you are an authority on this particular area of your industry.

Speak Whenever Possible

Ah, public speaking. A study once reported that people have a greater fear of public speaking than they do of dying. That's a pretty powerful fear. Do you have it? If your competitors are out on the local speaking circuit, you should be too. It's a fear you must learn to conquer.

If they are out speaking and you aren't, then they have a decided business advantage over you. When you are speaking, you are perceived as an expert in your industry or field. People have a new respect for you and your business.

Do Charitable Work

Most businesses are approached almost daily by some group or organization that wants you to donate something to their cause. Some are worthy and deserving and others are not.

The question is, does all this giving ever benefit your business?

Could A Major Company Force You To Close Or Relocate?

Let me give you a real life example from right here in Bozeman, Montana, my current hometown.

About 4 years ago a Staples store (a national office supplies chain) moved into a shopping center here in Bozeman. Located two doors down, in the same center, was an Insty-Prints store. They are a quick printer (short runs of 4 color and spot color printing) and a copy shop. Staples put pressure on the shopping center management company to not renew the lease for the Insty-Prints location. Since Staples also offers copy services they specify in their lease that no other copy shops will be permitted.

For the shopping center management company its a matter of renting an empty 50,000 square feet and moving and old tenant and re-renting a new tenant of 4,500 square feet. They wanted to rent the larger vacant space. It would be much easier to find someone to take the smaller Insty-Prints spot.

When this proposed eviction was announced in the local paper, Staples was inundated with letters from local business owners explaining why they would never enter the Staples store unless the Insty-Prints store was allowed to stay. Staples had used this same tactic all over the country and were quit surprised by the outpouring of public support and negative feedback before the Staples store had even opened. Staples had forgotten the first rule of small town living. Outsiders don't come into a community and push locals around.

Staples finally gave in and they and the Insty-Prints store are almost side by side some four years later. The question is why did business owners in Bozeman display such a high level of support against Staples when others hadn't in other towns?

The answer is the owner of Insty-Prints. Mike & Kathy Dawkins own three Insty-Prints in the Bozeman area. One, downtown by the local post office, another in the shopping center with Staples and a third in Belgrade, Montana, a neighboring town about 8 miles down the freeway. Even if they had to close or relocate the one store, they would still have a business. They would not be bankrupt.

Mike and Kathy had spent 19 years in Bozeman, donating printing services to the Red Cross, United Way, Humane Society, Cancer Society, Symphony, Schools, Churches, Service Clubs and almost any worthy cause that approached them.

When Staples came to town demanding that Insty-Prints move out, it was time for all those people over the years who had come asking for a hand-out to give something back for all the help they were given. And they did. That's how a small company can be successful against even the largest company.

The moral of the story...get involved with your community. Don't give away the store but support where and when you can. It will come back to you ten-fold.

Don't Forget Direct Mail

In a small town, it's the cheapest most effective form of advertising. You can target specific neighborhoods, carrier routes and reach only those customers you want. Take advantage of postal regulations and bulk mail savings. Bulk mail that often sits on the dock for weeks in a major city is usually delivered much more quickly in a small town. Bulk mail here in Bozeman often arrives the next business day.

Start with your current customers. These people need to hear from you 3-4 times a year with a sale or some type of offer that will bring them back into your business. What neighborhoods do your current customers live in? Use direct mail to target your good customers neighbors. For formulas that determine successful direct mailing, See: "Direct Mail: Formulas For Success."

Last But Not Least, You Must Have A Plan

Ready? Fire! Aim! is not a plan. It's mostly trial and error. This may be your only option if you are a new business with little or no track record.

An established business has the information for success. You just need to know where to look for it. That's what this plan is designed to do.

Set your goals. What do you want your self-marketing plan to accomplish? Increase sales 10%? If so, what is your plan to make that happen? How long will it take? Who is the target market? How are you going to reach them? What will your message be? See, how easy it is?

The Last Word On Small Town Self-Marketing

I'm not trying to be sarcastic, well, maybe a little, but as you can see, business success starts with you and knowledge about your company. It's your target market, your message and your position.

Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do. Successful people make things happen.

"Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two - and only two - basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation creates results; all the rest are costs." (Peter Drucker, Management Expert)

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