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Small-Business Marketing: The Game Has Changed

new-marketing-ballgameOnce upon a time in the world of marketing, companies strove to make products that would appeal to the broadest possible number of potential clients, and then advertised those products across every possible channel (print, television, radio, billboards), “pushing” the images and benefits of their offerings into the public consciousness. This type of marketing, known as “push” marketing, worked really well for a while, and some very successful companies have been built using it. And of course, many other hopefuls followed suit.

But over time, people got tired of being “pushed.” Hearing and seeing the same messages over and over again gets unbelievably tedious. Does having your favorite series interrupted by someone shouting about the newest thing you just have to have really make you want to go out an purchase it? Not likely.

Plus, the messages used in most traditional push marketing campaigns are not very personalized; they could be addressed to just about anyone. Of course, that was the idea, but the eventual result was that most of us just tuned out all of that impersonal, attention-grabbing marketing.

We avoid commercials whenever possible, streaming video and music. We even avoid looking at the upper right-hand corners of our web browsers where flashing banner ads are usually found. They might use a new-school media, but their vibe is decidedly old-school. So now that the old ways of marketing no longer work, what can small businesses do to create effective marketing?

Use Technology to Your Advantage

The types of media that tend to work best for creating an effective small-business marketing campaign are the ones that are highly targetable. Social media and blogging are two relatively low-cost, but somewhat labor-intensive ways to get your message to those who are actually interested in hearing it.

Zero In

The days of casting a wide net to catch a few prospects are over. Today’s consumers expect messages that seem targeted almost specifically to them. Defining your target market as men aged 21-30, or college-educated women is not enough. Our culture is more fragmented now than it ever has been, and target markets like those contain a myriad of distinct demographics. Your business cannot be all things to all of them. It is better to concentrate on simply being one great thing to a few of them, creating loyal clients, and brand evangelists in the process.

Be a Sparkling Conversationalist

Old-school marketing did not let potential clients get a word in edgewise, so to speak, because the nature of the media prohibited it. But technology allows marketers to create a dialog between their brand and its customers. Think of it as a conversation you might have at a social gathering. An acquaintance might ask about your company, and you’d be happy to tell them about it. You might share some interesting or humorous anecdotes, or give them some valuable tips, and you’d probably give them a business card if they seemed interested, but you certainly would not give them the hard-sell. It would not be polite.

Well, the same rules apply in modern marketing, via social media. Give them something useful, funny, or interesting, and strike up a conversation. Pull them in and get them engaged with your brand in a social way. When they or someone in their social network needs something you offer, your business will be the one they contact.


John R. Klaras is a serial entrepreneur and small business professional, a writer, and an educator by trade. With nearly a decade of experience in the telecommunications industry, he is currently in the process of building a burgeoning new microbusiness. He has written for leading companies in a wide variety of verticals, including travel, finance, motorsports, and real estate.