Why small businesses need marketing

Did you know, that before he was famous, young David Bowie had to flog his guts out on the marketing front? He and his first wife Angie would get to gigs early and give out pictures of himself to the audience so they had a way of remembering what he looked like.

Which seems like a clunky marketing tactic by today’s super slick standards.

Me and a friend impersonate the great man

Of course, by the time Bowie was at the end of his career he’d become so big he was the ‘master of non-publicity‘. His final album’s release was shrouded in secrecy and barely promoted.

What a turnaround.

But proof, I think, that we all have to start somewhere.

Small businesses, understandably, often think that marketing isn’t for them. Some still worry about turning audiences off if they appear to be ‘selling’ themselves. Isn’t it a bit tawdry? Shouldn’t the product/service sell itself?

No. Customers are busy and don’t wake up thinking ‘I must buy so-and-so’ unless you tell them (and keep telling them). Without this they’d be overwhelmed by the sea of choices available and unable to make a decision.

We need points of reference and context before we make a purchase

In 2000, I worked with someone whose wife was a Bafta judge. As such she had copies at home of DVDs that hadn’t been released yet, and so my colleague had no idea what they were. He just had these big titles on his bookshelf with plain covers: Billy Elliot, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, but no inclination to watch them because they hadn’t been marketed to him yet.

Once they’d been released, and he had some context for them, he realised what an entertainment goldmine he’d been sitting on!

People don’t know what they want until you show it to them

Steve Jobs said: “I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

The great news for small businesses is that you don’t need the hard sell or a big marketing budget to get started.

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram offer a cost-effective way of promoting yourself subtly.

It just takes a bit of planning.

Tweeting once a year about your January sale or special offer isn’t going to work. But building a picture, frame by frame, of your story, who you are, and how people can benefit from your product or service, will help people to get to know you, what you’re about, and how you can help them.

The other great thing is the instant feedback these platforms provide. Once you start using them more often, you’ll start to get a feel for what resonates with people and what doesn’t, which will help you to hone your message further.

Turn and face the strange

These days you don’t need orange hair and a one-legged cat suit to get your audience’s attention. Just a smartphone and a killer proposition — and you’ve all got that…

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