Small Company Marketing


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Most of the economy is made up of small companies. Yet most of the discussion and literature about marketing focus on large corporations; and those that do speak to smaller companies spend their time assuming no knowledge of marketing at all (and very little common sense).

Smaller companies have, basically, the same marketing needs as larger ones: They need to build identity, brand recognition, customer engagement, and – most important, of course – sales and revenue. And most entrepreneurs and smaller company executives understand these needs down to their toes, even if they don’t use the right jargon.

The real problem for small companies is how to do what the larger companies do with limited time and resources. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and there isn’t enough money to hire people to do it all for them.

But let’s look at it from another angle:

? Small company managers cannot afford to be “executives.” They are hands-on and harried. But they know that for their businesses to succeed, they must be extremely sensitive to market needs and customer demands. They don’t need a “Customer Engagement” manager; it is everyone’s responsibility – including theirs – to be talking to customers.

? This makes smaller companies much more responsive to changes in the marketplace. Theirs is an adapt or die environment. Product development is not the responsibility of a group or an officer with that title. Everyone with an idea gets involved. Further, successful smaller and entrepreneurial enterprises tend to be run by visionaries, people who look beyond this year’s revenue to next year’s product.

? Smaller and entrepreneurial companies generally can’t afford the luxury of bureaucracies. So branding, corporate identity, product positioning, and messaging are easier to keep integrated and unified. There is less likely to be differences and diffusion among the ways these companies interact with their customers and prospects. They are more likely to speak to them with one voice.

Certainly, small companies have challenges that large corporations do not. There is just so much anyone can do in the course of one day. Social media, for example, offer marketing opportunities, but they are time-consuming to exploit, when time is an all-important commodity. So time spent on social media is time not spent on something else. Small companies face decisions that large companies don’t have to.

Small companies cannot afford to exist in a steady-stage universe. If they are not growing, their future becomes more problematic. Yet with continued growth, a whole new set of issues arise. To continue as before, despite the fact that it generated success, is to limit the prospects for future growth. So how to change without losing the best of what they have?

It is at this point, when a company is poised to move to the next level, that it needs to formalize its best practices and to formalize its marketing. It needs to systematize its approach to the marketplace, to make less time-driven and more future-focused decisions on how to brand, how to craft its message and how to deliver it, to make different kinds of choices about which mechanisms to use to reach its potential clientele. And to not lose the cohesion and unity with which it speaks.

So let’s agree that small company marketing offers a variety of very serious challenges. And let’s agree that many of these companies don’t understand or practice many of the methodologies that marketing people like to talk about.

But let’s also notice that our economy has been shaped by small companies growing and hiring. And let’s agree that their marketing challenges also offer them some very real advantages as well, advantages these successful small companies have clearly grasped.

Practical Marketing Rule # 10: Every company, of every size, has assets and liabilities. It is up to you to find and capitalize on the assets.

Emily R. Coleman
Dr. Emily R. Coleman is President of Competitive Advantage Marketing, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping companies expand their reach and revenues through strategy and implementation. Dr. Coleman has more than 30 years of hands-on executive management experience working with companies, from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial enterprises. Dr. Coleman's expertise extends from the integration of corporate-wide marketing operations and communications to the development and implementation of strategy into product development and branding.


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