Streetfighter marketing

Small business owners sometimes fail in reaching customers as effectively as big corporations. But Kirk Phillips of Conrad, Phillips & Vutech, a Columbus-based marketing and advertising firm that specializes in establishing and building the brands of its clients, offers tips for marketing products and services no matter the size of the business.

Don't try to copy large businesses

Inexplicably, most small businesses seem to strive for sameness, perhaps because they are attempting to duplicate the success of others. Yet, consumers seek a unique experience. Phillips says, "They distinguish between choices based upon how they are different, not how they are the same."

Don't try to cater to everyone

Many small businesses make the mistake of trying to be all things to all customers, thinking incorrectly that this will help their growth. They end up spreading their resources thin, achieving blandness or worse. For most businesses, trying to appeal to the masses is not the formula for success.

Specialize and find a niche

A niche evolves as customers seek or discover a desirable unique experience. Narrowing your appeal to a specifically targeted customer base will actually bring in more customers, who will be able to distinguish you from your competitors.

Develop a brand

Simply stated, you should make a promise to your customers that experiences with your brand will be consistently and uniquely rewarding. Your brand is the expression of this promise. Branding builds customer preference for your product or service, and any business can benefit from it.

Know the essence of your product or service and to whom it appeals

The branding process involves discovering what specifically is unique and meaningful about the consumer's experience of your business from the perspective of your ideal customer. Phillips pointed out that you can brand this experience by establishing an emotional connection between the product or service and the intended customers. Although having an emotional relationship with a product or service may seem irrational (and even silly), it speaks to the significance of the product or service experience in our lives.

Once you know your brand essence, own it

Emphasize it. Reinforce it. Be consistent with it. Protect it. Due to their size and agility, small businesses are best suited to know themselves, understand their brand and own a niche.

Consistently and uniquely rewarding experiences build long-term brand loyalty for businesses of all sizes. Phillips says, "although a small business may lack the resources to invest heavily in brand promotion, it can benefit from having the flexibility to discover a niche." He pointed out that approaching branding from this angle requires little more than knowledge, strategy and good business acumen.