A few months ago Dave, his wife Hailey (who blogs at HereNorThere.ca), and I headed to Halifax to the Facebook for Small Business conference. The purpose of the day was to learn more about the benefits of Facebook for small business. The event was to showcase three outstanding businesses that have succeeded locally using the power of Facebook.
I use Facebook every day as a tool that I coach my clients with. I teach them how to infuse the platform into their everyday lives by creating custom content, strengthening their brands, and building relationships with customers and other businesses.
But I was struggling at that day. I was frustrated that we were learning about the success of undeniably easy-to-like businesses.
A trendy hipster barber shop, a place to buy everything baby related, and a blogger that was saving the lives of pets through nutritional information. Who doesn’t like babies, puppies, and lumbersexuals?
Now, I don’t want to detract from these businesses and their success, because they’ve worked really hard at making Facebook work for their brand… but what about the businesses that people won’t automatically like? What about the people who pump your septic tanks, who trim your trees after a storm, who mediate your divorces, do your taxes, or put in your dentures? We don't get excited to have to use these businesses, we only use them because we need to.
So, my challenge as a small business strategist is to figure out how these types of businesses can use Facebook to expand and grow their brand. We know conventional advertising is expensive, so are these types of businesses at a disadvantage? Do they still need to go down the traditional routes of costly service magazine ads and listings? What tools can we use to create engaging content to ensure these types of businesses thrive?
The answer is not cut and dry and is different for each business. I do have to admit I like the challenge of helping my clients figure it all out.
In my 12+ years as a creative designer I've always had a thing for business cards. For some, having their own business card means "I actually have a real job" and for others "Look at my new title!". For me, it has always meant "I matter", "I have a place and a purpose".
Designing business cards for my clients is a joy for me. Clients often begin the process thinking it will be just another piece of paper to carry around, but when the box arrives and they peek inside a smile always spreads over their face. The pride they feel is immense… sometimes greater than a new website. A business card says: "This is me, this is
the brand I've created, and this is what I stand for".
It’s hard to explain that sense of ownership and pride. It has to be felt to be understood. It signals the culmination of all the work you've done to create a brand that you love — there's no greater sense of worth and ownership than meeting someone new and handing them your card. “This is who I am.”
Some “experts” keep trying to tell us that the business card is a dying piece of collateral and not to bother. I say a business card is no less than a paper handshake — and people always remember a firm, confident handshake.
After years of working for big companies who service big brands, I find it refreshing to be able to take what I have learned from those experiences and arm my small-business clients with as much knowledge as possible — so they can have the best chance of success.
The number one misconception of my small-business clients is their belief that they can't play on the same field as the big guys, and that they could never be as successful. That is just not true. Twenty years ago it might have been the case, when conventional advertising was incredibly pricey — you would never see large and small brands facing each other across the page. But now, in a marketing world fueled by online content strategy via social media, we're all showing up in the same newsfeeds together.
When a viewer sees a small brand appear alongside a more established brand, the smaller brand is quickly perceived to have as much importance as the big guy. They now occupy the same size space and have the same chance to educate, entertain, and engage. The playing field is automatically leveled, and the viewer gives equal time (depending on content) to both.
Today’s small brands have much more to learn, leverage, and gain by finding ways to play with the big guys. You don't have a million dollar marketing budget, and that's OK. Use what you have to learn what you can. Watch who's above or below you… take note of what they're up to, how they're speaking to their audience, and how they’re using their voice to gain trust and get results.
As a small-business owner you must make your own decisions, but be smart about who influences them. The big guys know a lot but they don't know everything, and sometimes size can slow you down.
Any way you look at it, it's an exciting time to be a small business.