Borrowing from the Big Boys

Let me begin by saying that I am not a big boy. In reality, I’m a rail-thin, 5’5″ blonde with blue eyes and a 105-pound woman. I hold an MBA from Duke and am one of the few people who have worked for some of the biggest companies, including Coke, General Mills, P&G, and Whole Foods Market (a young Big Boy).

Big Boy Businesses are able to reach millions of customers. While there are many areas in which the Big Boys fail – like ethics, speed to the market, and fostering 1:1 relationships with customers – there are other things they do well that are responsible for their growth and marketing mastery.

The Big Boys are a great example for small business owners who want to succeed. Here are eight Big Boy principles small businesses should take into consideration as they strive to achieve long-term survival.

Big Boy’s Nail brand positioning first.

The most important step in developing a brand is defining a positioning strategy. Before you can achieve your goals, you must know who you are. Coke, Betty Crocker, and Tide all have well-defined, authentic brand positioning.

Brand positioning is the image that a company wants to project to its audience. It claims rational and emotional territory in a consumer’s mind map for a particular category. Your brand will be unique, defendable, and credible. A good brand positioning strategy starts with a message that highlights your strengths and tells customers why your product or service is the best of its kind in your industry.

The following are the elements of a good brand positioning statement:

  • Your target audience: a definition
  • What you can offer as a unique value proposition to your audience
  • What makes you different from the competition?
  • Why you should believe that you are unique

The Big Boys Know that Strategic Planning is the Heart of Marketing

Strategic planning is a serious matter at companies such as Coke, General Mills, and P&G. Brand teams plan for weeks to prepare strategic presentations for senior management. Brand teams are provided with a model of the planning process and work late into the night to prepare for strategic presentations to senior management.

They rework and work on the numbers in order to be prepared for questions regarding program impact or forecast hurdles. Program plans may be modified or canceled throughout the year based on how brands are tracking toward their objectives. How would your strategic planning look?

Strategic planning is essential to the success of any marketing plan. Strategic planning is a guidebook that helps to control marketing risks.

Big Boys Trust Market Research.

Market research is incredibly valuable. It was probably involved in the development of Fruit Rollups, tablet PCs, and Listerine BreathStrips. However, market research does not have to be expensive or complicated. Most of us associate market research with expensive surveys, focus groups, and piles of statistics.

This is usually overkill. Market research only needs to answer a handful of key questions, and the simpler the questions, the better.

Here are a few inexpensive ideas for small businesses:

  • Surveys Distribute simple survey cards at your business or in customer mailings. You can ask your customers to answer a few questions via your website or a short 2-question telephone survey.
  • Focus groups: Create your own at a low cost! Interactivity is the key to a successful focus group. Use fun interactive techniques to answer your questions.
  • Customer advisory committee: Invite six interested customers to lunch with you once a month. Ask them for their ideas on what to buy, the best way to start your business, and why certain products are successful or not. They can give you a “real-world” assessment of ideas.
  • Trend Analysis & Competitive Analysis: Read the local paper and trade journals every day. You will be surprised at what you can find out about your competition by reading press releases puffery.

Big Boys Know everything you do. Communicate and be Consistent.

The collective interactions that a person has with your company will determine their perception of you and your brand. This includes your product or service, as well as what they hear, read, and see about your brand and company. Your message must remain consistent and persuasive at all customer contact points.

Look at the packaging, the website, or any printed or television advertisement. The ad, packaging, or website for Cheerios. Observe the similarities. Each message is marked with a vibrant yellow color, an “o”-shaped cereal, a tagline that is singular, a uniform font in the headlines, and a friendly, conversational tone. Could you achieve the same consistency in your business communications as well? Is your website consistent with your business cards, marketing materials, and corporate communications?

Your image also reflects your business. From your appearance and personality to your words, you are a walking advert. It doesn’t have to be high-end – your image can be quirky, intelligent, cheeky, or conservative – but it must reflect the brand and its mission. Companies such as Coke, General Mills, and P&G invest millions in recruiting, selecting, and training “like-minded employees” to create a uniform image. Start small. Be “Very Models of a Modern General” in your brand.

Big Boys Scoff Cheap Promotions – Unless they Get Good Press.

Each company strives to make a lasting impact on its customers. Companies like Coke, General Mills, and P&G are aware that cheap gimmicks usually fail and do not drive sales. A good promotion stands out from the crowd. Good promotions require creativity and guts, not big budgets. This explains the “seemingly accidental” New Coke fiascos, Abercrombie & Fitch catalog controversies, and Microsoft’s Where’s Bob campaign. Finding the right angle or hook to capture attention, speak to values, and appeal to emotions is the most important aspect of creating publicity. If it’s positioned correctly, almost anything can become newsworthy.

Make sure that your promotional campaigns have legs if you want to increase the momentum of a small business.

Big Boys, Watch Your Wallets. Every Project Starts with Mroi.

MROI is the term used to describe maximizing your return on marketing investments. Brand teams are forced to compete with the Big Boys for budget allocation, even though they have deep pockets. Brand teams evaluate ROI as part of every project proposal. Brand teams fund projects that offer the greatest profit potential.

It is more important than ever to measure, optimize, and refine your marketing mix, especially when you have a small budget. All programs should increase sales and have a financial benefit. Spend wisely and understand your cost per lead.

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