Every day we're inundated with millions of dollars' worth of advertisements from major corporations. The best ones build brand awareness and help drive sales, but they're lacking a powerful personal touch that turns customers into advocates, says Gail Goodman, CEO of the marketing firm Constant Contact. Because of this, she says, small businesses that have just a fraction of the budgets of their larger competitors actually have a marketing advantage.
Goodman spoke on this topic at a National Small Business Week event in Boston. We followed up with her to find out how small businesses can grow through powerful-yet-inexpensive marketing.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-Small businesses can give an exceptional 'wow' experience to each and every customer.%"Small businesses can give an exceptional 'wow' experience to each and every customer," Goodman tells Business Insider. "They build meaningful relationships and cultivate a unique personality as a small business -- important steps for retaining loyal customers as they continue to grow."
Big companies have a harder time establishing this level of trust and dependability with customers, Goodman says. Even if a giant like Dunkin' Donuts uses social media to share updates and address questions, it's "almost impossible" to replicate the feel of a small business.
Additionally, small-business owners can do market research without needing a team of experts to investigate the customer experience. They can simply ask customers how they can better serve them.
Personal Relationships Key
As a small business grows, Goodman says, it is vital that they allocate staff to maintaining these personal relationships. "That makes hiring, training, and reinforcing the unique customer experience extremely important to maintaining the advantage."
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Most small-business owners don't realize the advertising power they have because they're not marketing professionals and "they don't have the time, or the inclination, to try to do it all," Goodman says. There are services, such as HubSpot and her company Constant Contact, that streamline outreach across social media and email, but she says owners can take control of their marketing by going online and talking with customers.
"The advice I give? Stay focused," she says. "Build a permission-based email list if you don't already have one and hone in on one social media destination [like Twitter]. Start small and build from there."
In her Boston speech, Goodman reiterated that customers will always appreciate the authenticity that can go into a small business' customer outreach program. "It just needs to be real. It's all about bringing a smile to the face of your customer."
8 Old Wives' Tales That Keep You Poor
Why Small Businesses Have a Marketing Edge Over Giants
On one level, this is absolutely true. Real wealth, when not inherited, typically comes from starting your own business, but that is difficult when you have nothing. But too many people assume that they can't make things happen unless they're well-financed. "Most of the millionaires or billionaires I've interviewed over the years have bootstrapped it," Siebold said. "Most start with close to nothing. Of the self-made rich, most started off poor or middle class. They've put it on credit cards or borrowed it from family. It takes ambition, and it takes belief that it can be done. It really starts with the self-belief that it's possible. Most people are taught that it's not really possible for them unless they're blue blood or they went to Harvard or Yale. The mythology doesn't match the facts."
"The implication is that money is not made easily and it doesn't come for nothing, which is true technically," Siebold said. "This belief sets people up to believe money is scarce and difficult to earn, instead of seeing money as abundant and earning it is as easy as solving a problem through persistent, creative thought. Figuratively speaking, money does grow on trees; and the trees are ideas." Put those ideas into practice, and you might be surprised how much money the idea tree can grow.
Siebold called it the "It's the old 'trading time for money' [idea] that we're taught." "The average person believes the only way to make more money is to work more hours." But if you limit making money to selling your time, you're limited to what you can make, because there are only so many hours in a day, week, month or year. "I consult with big corporations," he said. "These are some of the big companies in the world. When I ask audiences, 'What's the best way you can think of in your role to make more money,' they'll say, get an MBA. Even at that level, they're trained to trade time for money. College professors don't have money. Even the ones that teach finance don't have any money. This creates the belief that making money is a linear process directly connected to time. Big money requires thinking about it in non-linear terms."
"The real saying is actually 'the love' of money is the root of all evil, but has been misquoted for centuries that most people believe money itself is the root of all evil," Siebold said. "That's where the church comes in to disempower people to make money. It creates a disempowerment cycle that makes people more reliant ... on institutions. Decide to be proud of your ambition and ignore people who tell you that wanting to be rich is wrong."
"Get your piggy bank out and save your pennies," said Siebold. "This is a very dangerous belief as it put a major emphasis on saving. Saving in itself is not bad, but the masses are so focused on clipping coupons and living frugally that they miss major opportunities. People must reject this nickel and dime thinking and focus their mental energy where it belongs: on the big money." In other words, why save pennies when you could be making dollars?
This is another saying that is true in one sense but misleading in a more important way, according to Siebold. "You don't get rich to get happier; you get rich for the freedom in brings." If you're unhappy with money, being rich won't of itself change that. But you could have "more freedom, more options, more choices." And, as he pointed out, most people have no idea what it's like to live without financial worry. Being less unhappy is certainly a step in the right direction.
"This is usually a harmless phrase when people just want to know what's on your mind, but be careful," Siebold warned. "If overused and it penetrates the subconscious, you'll start giving away your intellectual property for practically nothing. Your IP and unique perspective can potentially be worth millions if packaged properly." Look at the number of famous 20th century musicians who sold their music rights for a figurative song and were left destitute even as music publishers made millions. Compare that to Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who kept their rights and built multi-million-dollar fortunes.
"[There's an] idea that there's some kind of nobleness is being poor," Siebold said. A rich man isn't going to go to heaven. I'm not a good person because I'm not ambitious. I don't want to make money so I can be good. It sets [people] up to fail. The masses are programmed from an early age to put the needs of others before their own. There's a reason on a plane to say put your oxygen mask on first. In order to make a lot of money, there is a period of time in the beginning of the wealth building process where you must focus on yourself and your business in order to make it at an uncommon level. Once you acquire wealth, then you can volunteer or give back to charity."