Very few small businesses have big business branding but it’s almost the same thing when you think about say, feel and think. It’s the experience that your customer has throughout dealing with your business. From the way your ads are written to the way that you educate and teach them to the way that you even sell to them and anything that goes in after that as well.
Part of it too is you always set an expectation for the customer. If your ad is promising that you have the greatest service ever and that you have the most skilled technicians and that you have the world’s greatest accreditations and all of those things, people tend to set an expectation. Your customers as they start interacting with your business have an expectation that may not be exactly that “hey this guy is going to be the smartest so I hope that he knows everything I need to know about this thing”, it’s also that “hey this guy claims to be the smartest therefore he’s probably going to be very customer-centric, he’s going to take the time to educate me” and all of those things have to transcend throughout the entire experience, from the moment they pick up the phone to call you to the moment they check out your website. Every single time they interact with your business, even when you’re not looking, that’s the time that experience is going to stand out.
Charles Darwin was quoted once saying that “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive nor the most intelligent but the one most responsive to change”. I find that’s probably not only true about his theory of evolution but really what we understand in today’s business to be in the requirements that you really need in order for business to survive.
The world around us is changing and all you need to do is look at all the different social media that’s popping up, all the different technologies. We have tablets today where I don’t think anyone really even imagined them 5 years ago, 10 years ago. It seems like it’s continually accelerating. As a result, our economy becomes more and more affected by these things. The competition is taking advantage of a lot of these different changes in technology so we’re forced to try to keep up. And in many cases, there’s substitution. Who would’ve thought that today most people don’t even have a phone in their house? We have our cellphones and that’s it. The way we thought life was is quickly changing and sometimes gets unrooted and I can imagine that for a lot of businesses that’s really hard to take because you want to fall into a rhythm but I don’t think you can do that anymore. People have to realize that they have to be flexible. Be flexible to the world around you, flexible to the business environment, but also flexible to how culture modifies what it is that becomes important to the consumer because ultimately whether it’s the consumer or you’re selling business to business, there are specific decision drivers that continuously have to be adapted given the culture in place.
Normally, we the small business owners don’t really feel we have much that we have to protect. That’s left for the big corporations to do their trademarking and maybe copywriting. It turns out there’s a lot specially in the days of social media where we’re out publishing content. There’s a good argument to be made that you should be aware of some of the copyright laws, whether it’s from you and how you interact with other people’s content but also the potential of other people interacting with your content.
I think it’s important for business owners to realize what type of content, what type of product, what type of things about their business are actually intellectual property and what types of things are just common place and can be the source of litigation or dispute. Or to be honest, competitive advantage.
We think of your assets. Again, big corporations have buildings and they have assets but they also have trademarks that are non-physical assets. As we think about small business, they’ll say “I work out of my house. I rent some place. I barely have a computer and a laptop. Those are my assets but they’re not that huge. Any accountant will tell you that the balance sheet of small business is not something that’s very robust. And yet if you think about it, small businesses’ biggest asset is their customer base. And if you think about it, we don’t really understand the implications. How do we protect those types of assets?
Words do matter. There’s tens of thousands of messages that people get every single day and so we have to have a way in which we really stand out. Usually that focuses on good images, great headlines, are you being creative or sometimes you could use all sorts of behavioral tactics that you can get people’s attentions with and really help stand above it. But today it’s really about using the words whether it’s on your website; whether it’s in the ad copy that you have, making sure that those things make you stand out. Really at the end of the day, if you have good or great content, I believe it’s going to make it stand out anyway but add really good copy to it, you have something that’s absolutely fabulous. However, you take stuff that’s sort of on average – and let’s be honest, most of us, 80% of what we put out tends to be good enough or pretty good – getting good copy and writing it well really can make it stand out way beyond that.
What does copy mean? It’s really the elements that are in the words that you are trying to communicate. You can say the same sentence in 4 different ways and 1 way would be totally boring and 1 way would be engaging and make someone say “Tell me more”. Those skills are often overlooked. We constantly talk about business owners should have those skills, should have these skills, accounting, bookkeeping, be savvy of this, and yes, as a business owner, you have a critical set of skills that you need to have and I personally believe that good copywriting is absolutely a must-have on any business owners list. It’s such a critical part of every marketing message.
There’s a big difference between quality content and that which passes as content in a lot of social media sites. If you do it the right way, you could be talking about your employees or your past success without it sounding self-promoting. The trick is to make sure that you are producing content that people really care about. Publish something interesting, something that’s useful to the customer that will lead them to ask you for the sale.
Joe Pulizzi is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and Content Marketing World which is the largest event for content marketers. Author of “Get Content, Get Customers”.
Small business should ask the question “Why?”. They don’t necessarily have to have something on their Facebook or Twitter page. They don’t even have to have a blog. The question “Why?” needs to be asked because there has to be a business reason behind it. That’s probably the most important thing, Make sure that your online content has a reason behind it. Small businesses should know their “content marketing mission” or “editorial vision” as it relates to their customers. For example, if you want to be the leading trade magazine in your niche, the first thing you do is come up with your “editorial mission statement”. Your customers need more valuable and compelling, helpful stuff.
Some small business owners just declare that social media doesn’t work for them when they don’t realize that some of the experimentation and testing is really critical. If it’s not working, go try something else.