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2019

In marketing and business, we get quite caught up in all that’s come before, where we are, all our history.  Yet there’s no greater enemy to small business than “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

 

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Sometimes, it’s important to reset, to tear it all down. If we were starting today, then what? If we lost everything, what would this look like? How did we get here in the first place?

 

Start at Zero

 

I’m a big fan of comic books. I started reading them when I was five and my grandfather bought them for me on his candy sales route. They helped me learn to read, and they gave me a bigger perspective on the world than I otherwise would’ve had. In that comics industry, there’s a kind of necessary cliché that’s said when a new team takes over a title, especially something like Spider-Man or Batman.

 

“We’re going back to the basics.”

 

And that means they strip away all the weird stories currently running in the comics, like Spider-Man having clones or Batman with a team of other people pretending to be him, and so on.

 

This is something we can do with our businesses, only without capes and tights.

 

What Does Zero Look Like?

 

If you launched your company today, what would be the cleanest, simplest representation of it? What is the bare bones version of what you sell? How do you talk about it? How do you sell? Who is your best customer?

 

Volkswagen recently showed off its “new” logo. It pretty much looks like the old one, only now it’s “flat” so that it can be used in lots more ways, like on applications or charging units, and so on. If you’re not a designer, you’ll look at it and say, “Looks pretty much the same.” But it’s new. And that “new” is a zero from where they can race towards an intentional path forward.

 

But anything can be a zero point for your business.

 

    1. Logo. Pricing. Offering. Customer base. Locations. Hours. Any aspect of the business can and should be reconsidered.

 

Dunkin Donuts rebranded as Dunkin. Why? Because people like the coffee and there’s a mixed feeling about their donuts when it comes to health. Ditto KFC instead of Kentucky FriedChicken. Both restaurants still have bloated menus and could really get even closer to zero, but there’s a caution.

 

Less Than Zero

 

There’s one catch, one warning. You canaccidentally throw away the wrong part.

 

    • Kodak had digital camera technology patents and prototypes long before that market came and crushed the company.
    • Coca-Cola fumbled by launching New Coke in the 80s.
    • When the Internet came around, many print media companies gave away content online  and it took them years to reclaim even a fraction of the revenue lost.

 

You can throw away the wrong part of your business. Will Dunkin be wrong for dialing back donuts? I can’t see it, but we’ll all know if that happens.

 

Can It Fit on an Index Card?

 

One easy way to know if you’ve brought your company back to zero in one way or another is by answering the question, “Can it fit on an index card?” If you can explain the entire concept with one 3” x 5” card, chances are, it’s a really simple business.

 

This is one area where small businesses have a chance to thrive. Something big like Disney can’t ever do the index card test. They might be able to sum up various divisions that way, but not the entire enterprise.

 

Your company, however? The answer had best be yes.

 

Try It

 

You don’t have to take my word for it. Try it. Start with an index card and write/draw out what your business looks like at zero. What’s the smallest “menu” of offerings you could make? What’s the simplest way to describe your business? What’s the easiest way to handle the customer experience journey? And so on.

 

It’s okay if you need a few cards to get started. Crumple up all you want until you find the right zero for your business.

 

It’s an exciting exercise every time

 

About Chris Brogan

 

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Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

As I wrote this, the “chicken sandwich wars” were raging. Let me quickly catch you up:

 

Fast food restaurant Popeyes released a chicken sandwich (they didn’t have one already?) and rival Chick-Fil-A got a bit lippy about it on social media (and then Wendy’s chimed in because that’s what they do) and it all kind of backfired. Everyone (and this is nuts) suddenly wanted to try this chicken sandwich at Popeyes, a place few folks ate at before this all started. Long lines. Traffic jams. Employees quitting because overtime has become insane.

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This is about a chicken sandwich. And while I’ve not yet put one in my belly, everyone seems to say the same thing: it’s okay. Not “it’s amazing.” But just “okay.”

 

McDonalds sells one or two different types of chicken sandwiches. KFC has one. Wendys. Chick-Fil-A. Sonic. I haven’t checked with too many more fast food chains, but they probably sell chicken sandwiches.

 

What Happens When We Can Buy from Everybody

 

My point: What you sell isn’t all that unique. Very few businesses sell anything unique. I write articles like this but so do several thousand other people. Everyone really wants to point out what makes them different, but they all say the same things: we treat you like a person, or we value you, or we take your business seriously. Yada, yada, yada.

 

In a world where people can buy from anyone, why should they buy from you?

 

I’ve posed this question several times to many corporations over the years. It’s my go-to starter for companies that feel threatened by a competitor. A large auto parts company brought me in because they were feeling the pressure of their customers suddenly being able to Google something, go on Amazon, and buy it themselves.

 

My advice was: get amazing at in-store service. Make people feel well tended and cared about in your stores. Treat everyone who walks in as if they own the business and you want nothing more than to please them.

 

Let me ask you three questions:

 

      • What can you do at your business that would separate you from the competition?
      • What value can you bring to your customer differently than anyone else?
      • How can you deliver something that goes beyond the borders of a buyer’s expectations?

 

These questions apply to any kind of business. No matter if you run a chiropractic practice, a pizza shop, a bridal store, or an accounting group, you can craft a better experience for your customers.

 

True story: my plumber is the best in town because he calls you back within a few hours of you leaving him a message. This beats out the five other competitors (in my small town) because they don’t get back to me in a timely fashion. That’s it. Returning calls. That’s his massive advantage.

 

Make that Advantage Clear

 

The worst kind of marketing small business owners do is generic or vague. “Our difference is that we care.” That’s the worst possible thing to say. Everyone cares, and most customers don’t believe it when they see something like that.

 

But if you say, “We work on your schedule, not ours,” now that’s something very specific.

 

Sometimes, you don’t even have to sayanything. Maybe it’s clear from your very simple menu that you sell two types of burgers, fries, shakes, and that’s about it. Maybe you run the most pet-friendly tax preparation business in town. Or maybe it’s that you prompt your customers when it’s time to repurchase so that they don’t have to remember. That idea alone could really separate you from the competition.

 

We Can Buy from Anyone. Now What?

 

I used to work part-time at a little bookstore in northern Massachusetts. The place was very small, independent, and in a quaint little tourist town. When Carolyn ran the store, her big advantage over buying from Amazon or driving another 20 minutes to Barnes and Noble wasn’t that she had every book you could ever want on the shelves. It was that she always had great recommendations for what to read next. That and the ability to remember everyone’s name – so that she greeted you personally when you walked into the shop – was what kept her business alive.

 

There are so many ways to stay important to your customers, if you want to sustain a strong business relationship. It’s up to you to treat that part of your business as if it matters, and to align your efforts accordingly. So, how do you answer this? 

 

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Josiah Wedgwood started the ball rolling. Back in the 1760s he added royal endorsements to his pottery to show customers they could trust his tea sets. In the early 1900s, Mark Twain put his name to pens. Later, Ty Cobb would beat Michael Jordan to athletic endorsements by marketing tobacco.

 

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From Doris Day pitching Harvester road rollers to George Clooney selling coffee pods, we’re accustomed to seeing celebrities offering products they think their audiences will enjoy—and earning money from it.

 

What’s changed in the last few years is the nature of celebrity. People no longer need to write classic books, hit home runs, star in movies or wear a crown to build an audience whose buying decisions they can influence. They can publish their content on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, and build those audiences themselves.

 

For businesses, the result has been a huge expansion in both the range of possible endorsements and depth of those endorsements. Companies don’t need to approach movie stars with requests to use their names. They can just contact someone with a big Instagram account, and ask them to influence their followers to buy the products they make. This year the value of the influencer marketing industry is expected to reach $6.5 billion.

 

Much of that money has flowed from consumer-facing businesses, and in particular cosmetics firms, food companies, and the hospitality industry. These are businesses with photogenic products whose images are easily shared on Instagram or shown on YouTube. They also have the kind of young markets found on those social media platforms. It’s a good match.

 

But other industries are also looking to benefit from influencer marketing, and at the same time businesses that have used influencer marketing are showing concern. They’re worried that they might be paying for fake followers and inflated figures. In one recent study, nearly two-thirds of respondents who had used influencers said that they had direct experience of influencer marketing fraud.

 

Together, those pressures have created a new opportunity for non-traditional influencers. These are people who may have small followings or who have built an audience in a particular niche market. Instead of aiming to attract millions of young people who love pranks or new lipstick ideas, they may have audiences of just a few thousand who like making cushions or who need carpentry advice. Those audiences might not be a direct match for a product but they do overlap.

 

Chief Marketer, a marketing publication, recently described how drinks company Sparkling Ice turned to Margaret Scrinkl, a papercraft artist, to market their new product.

“Having seen her work we knew she would be a good brand fit given the fun and color,” Sarah Gustat, vice president of  marketing at the brand’s parent company, told the website. “It felt like a reflection of the Sparkling Ice brand and really brought the campaign to life.”

 

The content didn’t match on its face. Scrinkl creates videos about art; Sparkling Ice makes cocktails. But Scrinkl did bring a number of features to the brand that made buying her influence worthwhile: the demographics overlapped; the style of the brands were in sync; and Scrinkl’s engagement levels were high, a sign that her audience is genuine and that she has the ability to move them. Sparkling Ice was very happy with the result, and didn’t have to turn to an expensive drinks influencer to achieve them.

 

Finding non-traditional influencers who can help your business takes a little time—but it can also be fun.

 

Skip Google and head straight to a social media platform, especially Instagram. Search for the keywords or hashtags related to your product then do a deep dive. Instead of stopping at the biggest influencers, look through their followers and see who else they follow. Those additional accounts represent a new entryway into your market. Identify a handful of influencers with interesting content and high levels of engagement, then approach them with an offer.

 

Because they’re still small, that offer won’t need to be huge. Some influencers have been known to take free samples as payment for promoting a product. (If you’re trying to create a long-term relationship, you might want to go bigger than that though!)

 

And make sure that you know what your call to action will be, whether it’s clicking a link, following your own account, or taking up a special offer. You want to be able to measure the effectiveness of the influencers you use.

 

You might not be able to land a royal endorsement, but you should find that you’re able to move an audience and influence sales.

 

READ NEXT:

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Just when you think you have a grip on demographic marketing along comes Generation C.

 

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Actually Gen C is not new—Brian Solis first introduced businesses to the “Connected Customer” in 2012, but many small businesses haven’t yet embraced Gen C, which says Solis, “is not limited to one group or demographic. Demographic marketing is based on age, income, etc.” But Solis’s research on the rise of social media and mobile found that psychographics mattered more. Gen C is more defined by interests, behaviors, and the resources they demand. “It’s not an age group; it’s a lifestyle,” explains Solis, adding “Generation C is anyone relying on tech.”

 

Solis is a principal analyst at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet. He’s an award-winning author, writer, and keynote speaker.  His latest book Lifescale talks about how our devices distract us. I talked to Solis about Generation C and why small business owners need to reach out to them

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What changes have you seen in Generation C since you first defined it?

 

Brian Solis: Mobile and social media have become even more profound—and consumers are much more connected. But many [businesses] haven’t embraced the concept yet.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: You say businesses aren’t in control of the touchpoints anymore—that consumers are “more empowered and creative and resourceful.” How do you get business es to recognize this?

 

Solis: [Businesses] need to think differently about catering to this group. Open-minded ones understand they’re dealing with a different, more connected type of customer.

 

And there’s a new generation of businesses—the innovators and disrupters coming into play. Companies like Uber, Postmates and DoorDash. They operate with speed and sophistication and have introduced new dynamics built around providing convenience, speed, value and personalization. Those are the pillars of experience for Gen C.

 

These innovators are disrupting all industries. They broke the mold, raised the bar and set new standards. Once customers experience these standards, they don’t want to go back. The new experience becomes the new standard.

 

And that’s the hardest part [for businesses]. Consumers base their next moves on their past experiences. Take Amazon and two-day shipping. Once customers experience it, they’re not going back. Their expectations have changed. Now, they consider two-day shipping the new standard.

 

Lesonsky: What are the common characteristics of Generation C?

 

Solis: Generation C is demanding, impatient and accidentally narcissistic. The world revolves around them and their devices. It’s all about speed. They consider impatience a virtue. [These] are their touchpoints, and we need to meet their expectations.

 

Lesonsky: Yet many businesses haven’t embraced the concept?

 

Solis: Most small businesses still operate from that traditional mindset. They’re trying to be the best chai latte place. That’s not good enough. They need to be the best chia latte place consumers find and love.

 

When Yelp first started there was a natural resistance to it among local business owners—they didn’t want people talking [negatively] about their businesses. They saw Yelp as a threat, not an opportunity to see what people think about their businesses.

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When companies like DoorDash came along many restaurants wanted to pull away. They didn’t see the growth [possibilities]. They thought their job was to put butts in seats. They didn’t realize their job was also to put food in the bellies of people not sitting in their restaurants. They need to reset and ask ‘Do we need a bigger kitchen. Should we open another kitchen to serve these new customers?’

 

Lesonsky: How can a small business reach Generation C?

 

Solis: Mobile has made consumers even more self-centered. They’re searching for the ‘best…for me’. Many go on Facebook and Twitter and ask, ‘what’s the best…’ and let the lazy web solve it for them. Businesses need to cater to customers who have different needs. Small business owners need to find Generation C. Go where they go.

 

The internet has changed how consumers buy. This online decision-making is what Google calls the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). [This is “the moment in the buying process when the consumer researches a product prior to purchase.”]

For Generation C it’s about the ultimate moment of truth, about sharing their experiences. Consumers will make different [buying] decisions based on others’ connecting the dots back to their [ZMOT].

 

Lesonsky: How can small businesses adapt?

 

Solis: It can be a challenge to [change their] mindset. But they need to be part of the discovery process. They have to become a new type of business owner. Become an innovator. And many aren’t ready for that.

 

We live in a time when it’s not good enough to have just a good business; you need to have an exceptional business where people connect and share their experiences, whether good or bad. It’s not about offering great service. You need to offer exceptional service people want to talk about.

 

Experiences are going to be shared whether good or bad. That share is the ultimate moment of truth, which becomes the next person’s zero moment of truth.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

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