“Never in the last 100 years of business has there been such an even playing field for moms and pops and corporations as there is on the Internet right now. Knowledge can outdo cash – for a little while longer. Get educated and get in the game while you still can.” – Rae Hoffman, Sugarrae.com
When it comes to marketing, mom and pop businesses are often at a disadvantage on the web due to their limited budgets and lack of knowledge. In fact, bigger companies with deeper pockets can easily crush the little guy by investing in slick online marketing campaigns carried out by professionals. This is because big brands usually have one important thing that mom and pops do not; Capital.
Without enough capital, not only are mom and pops faced with the challenge of how to compete with the larger companies but they must also figure out how to do it while spending as little as possible. This is not an easy task when trying to outshine companies that have seemingly unlimited budgets.
In today’s Internet though, small businesses have the opportunity to get in the game by capitalizing on what sets them apart from their larger, richer counterparts. Instead of letting big challenges stand in their way, mom and pops can turn challenges into golden opportunities.
1. Mom and pops have more time to personally devote to their own marketing strategies.
If you want to hire a professional web marketer who will eat, live and breath your website, then be prepared to pay a small fortune for it. As a micro business owner, you have an advantage in that you have the time to (learn to) be that marketer, especially if your business is brand new.
Spend time each day reading about SEO and different marketing tactics but (most importantly) put them into action and keep only what works. Examine your competition to determine what they’re doing and improve on it. Make friends with other site owners via forums and blogs and ask them questions about what methods have worked/not worked for them. Look for free ways to learn such as, webinars, tutorials and SEM videos on sites such as imbroadcast.com and youtube. Join some social media networks (be careful though – they can be timewasters!) and connect with people who are in your boat as well as people who have been in your boat and are now successful at what they do. Until your business grows, you have ample time… use it by learning some marketing expertise and constantly looking for opportunities to gain more expose.
2. Mom and pops have the ability to create REAL relationships within their market.
With the explosion of social media as a marketing tool, it’s easy for a corporation to have a blog or even a twitter account. But how many companies will take the time/effort to actually connect with their audience on a personal level? As a small business owner you have the perfect opportunity to get to know the market you’re serving via social media communities. Connecting to your audience on a personal level not only gives you a marked advantage where market research is concerned (i.e. straight from the horse’s mouth) but it also makes your company more approachable to it’s potential customers. What do they like/not like? What kind of content are they interested in? What do they really want? Find out what they like/want/need and then give it to them. Just remember to be open, available and most importantly genuine.
3. Mom and pops know their product/service better than any outside marketer ever could.
In the beginning, with my automotive related e-commerce store, I sought out the services of a professional marketer. He recommended all sorts of things including which keywords I should target, how my navigation should be done/worded and what type of content I should be using. I quickly realized though, that this person didn’t know very much about my industry or my products and was trying to apply a “one size fits all” marketing campaign. For example, he didn’t realize that people most often searched for automotive parts by vehicle make, model and year and was recommending that I group my products by manufacturer. This made no sense to me as my experience had taught me that most consumers didn’t give a hoot about the manufacturer of the aftermarket products they were buying. It was then that I realized – no one could ever know my products or industry better than I do.
As a mom and pop operation, you are the expert when it comes to your products or services. You are familiar with the many industry terms, manufacturers, associations etc. Who then is better equipped to determine proper keywords? Category structure? Proper product naming and descriptions?
Always do the research, but as an industry insider, don’t forget to apply what you already know.
4. Smaller local terms are easier to compete for and are often more beneficial to the mom and pop then to the large corporation or brand.
Long tail or even local search terms are sometimes over looked by larger companies who instead focus on the big generic high traffic terms. There is sometimes greater benefit to ranking for the more obscure or less searched for terms though, as they can target users who may be closer to making a purchase decision. Granted, the higher traffic terms will garner your business more exposure (i.e. ranking for just “socks” as opposed to “long white tube socks medium”) but scooping the smaller terms may generate some capital while helping to get your foot in the door.
5. Corporations are held to stricter standards than mom and pops.
Take blogging for example. A mom and pop operation can surely blog about matters of business in relation to running their companies however they are also afforded more freedom to blog on a more personal level about things that naturally make them human (as opposed to corporations who blog just to seem more human). Since blogging is an excellent marketing strategy for any business why not take the time to personalize the experience for your users? Too much professionalism turns readers off. As a small business owner, you can loosen up a bit and have more fun with your blog than the stuffy corporate types can.
At the very least, if you’ve tried to beat em’ but are thinking you might as well join em’, do the research before you blindly hire a marketing company. There are some excellent and very reputable ones out there however there are always two sides to every coin and many a small business owner has been taken for their precious money by a smooth talking marketer.
However you decide to tackle your small business challenges, genuine marketing for long-term success while being actively involved in the process, is always best practice.