10 things Big Brands can learn from Small Business Marketing

I always believed it was difficult to manage complex online campaigns with national or global reach and relatively big budget. I’ve gained most of my digital marketing experience working with blue-chip, established companies with strong brand awareness.

I joined E-scape in Sept 2010 and since then I have been managing a number of successful online campaigns on Google, Facebook, Twitter for local businesses in Jersey. I have to admit that the journey from large brand to small business marketing has been much more difficult then I thought it would be. I’ve learned an awful lot in since I joined and still learn something new every day.

Some of the things I discovered small businesses do extremely well and have been doing them for ages! I’ve tried to group these findings under logical headings and share the ones that could benefit those who manage big marketing budgets or marketing for blue-chip clients brands.

1) Scrutiny
Every business owner I met loves to get involved in marketing planning. No surprise there as it is their business and their own cash. They understand their business better than anyone else. As such all elements of the plan are questioned and scrutinised. There is no sign-off or multi-layered approval process. But, believe me their due diligence is extremely effective and not a single penny is wasted.

2) Micro optimisation and targeting
When it comes to local marketing activity all campaigns are extremely well targeted. As such the lead/sale conversion rates are higher when compared to large, nationals campaigns. A conversion rate lower than 5% is just not good enough. Try convincing any business owner to invest in online marketing when less than 1 in 20 clicks generate sales.

3) Naturally social
The strength of small businesses come from relationships and a large proportion of new business can be attributed to word of mouth. It is very natural for small business owners to directly connect with their customers, suppliers and potential customers. As such small businesses didn’t take long to embrace social media marketing. A lot of these businesses have been effectively using Twitter or Facebook without any complex policies or expensive strategies. It isn’t that difficult! If you want to know how to do it just have a word with one of them!

4) Multi channel tracking and attribution
Whilst working for a large bank I was very proud when we implemented a sophisticated multi-channel click to sale tracking system. As it was very innovative and new it has taken quite a long time to get it right. A couple of months later I moved to E-scape and had to design and deliver a PPC campaign for a small insurance company in Jersey. We quickly created a tracking solution, which links Google Analytics with the client’s back office platform so then they can match campaign clicks with leads, sales and even work out life time customer value. The implementation cost was tiny and seemed to be the only way forward for our client. Now, think how many big brands can accurately track and attribute clicks to sales?

5) No buzz words
Big brands love big agencies. There must be a degree of business BS and buzz words whenever big agencies are involved. These type of large agencies prove to be costly, I was always surprised how much some of these people are paid. They have the gift of smoothly incorporating all important buzzwords into conversations. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the actual results. Small business owners can’t afford to employ schmoozers. Not suprisingly, they are better off employing hard-working people & agencies with actual skills and desire to work.

6) Improvise, adapt, overcome
Small companies have the ability to change and adapt to changing marketing conditions at an incredible pace. No lengthy sign offs, no process obstacles and very little or no legal barriers. In large companies the process from the moment when the problem is identified to the implementation phase could take months sometimes longer. As such, it’s sometimes easier not to do it! In the meantime small businesses benefit from the most recent technology, available tools, specialised niche agencies and more!

7) Creativity? Just do it
New ideas? Small businesses are not limited by the process, compliance or approvals. Many good ideas in a corporate environment end up in the drawer. This is mainly due to the necessity for the innovators to provide a business case, go through lengthy approval process or/and convince many clueless people that it’s a good idea. This isn’t the case when speaking to small business owners. They tend to have more common sense and generally have eyes wide open to new ideas and give you full ownership of driving these ideas forward.

8) Cost per click counts
When your budget is £15 per day NOT £15k then your Cost Per Click suddenly has a more tangible impact on the actual click volume and sales. Once again, micro targeting and micro optimisation leads to finely targeted campaigns and excellent results.

9) Feedback and pressure
The easiest way to improve the efficiency of your marketing spend is to get the marketing managers to chip in with their own money to the marketing budget or at least pay for their mistakes. Small businesses put an enormous amount of pressure on campaign managers and give constant feedback on the results. There isn’t much room for mistakes or wastage.

10) Power in simplicity
No schmoozing, no buzz words, pure skill and hard work generally leads to cost effective solutions. Small businesses have a lot of common sense and agencies don’t need to waste time trying to impress them. If you can’t put your idea in simple terms and present in less than 30 seconds it is unlikely to work and even less likely to get the client excited.

Not a great surprise that small companies are more efficient, nimble and innovative. Of course there are things they can learn from big brands too, particularly in relation to applying best practice and generally “doing things properly”.

I strongly believe that small and swift changes are the key to achieving high efficiency in any form of digital activity. This is how small businesses operate, add social media marketing to the mix and you will have a very successful marketing campaign. Big brands with their multi million marketing budgets can only dream of similar results.

What do you think? Agree/disagree? Any observations that I missed? Look forward to your comments.

2 thoughts on “10 things Big Brands can learn from Small Business Marketing

  1. Similar experences here. The move from the corporate to small business world is a big step, although infinitely more rewarding. I totally agree so time and money gets wasted in red tape, big egos and talking bull sh*t in big companies whereas SMEs just get down to it.

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