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Making Smallness an Advantage

by Marcia Yudkin

Suppose you're launching a business in which you serve as president, marketing director, customer service specialist, chief financial officer and everything else. To foster the impression of a large organization, you can give your company an impersonal corporate name, spend your retirement fund on "Here we are, world"-type advertising, and install a voice mail system with a lot of extensions. Or you can proudly let people know that the whole business is you. Which option is preferable?

This question came up when a career counselor who mostly worked on her own, with a referral network as a backup, asked my opinion of her new marketing piece. The spiffy, professionally designed purple and beige folded-over postcard brought to mind a firm with branches in high-rent office districts, oversized plants and original art as decoration. It did not make me think about personal attention, customized services or value for the money I would spend - all qualities that I, at least, would expect in hiring a career counselor.

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If I wasn't going to get all the trappings of a corporate- style company in becoming this woman's client, and I would receive personal, customized services that represented good value for her fee, then her marketing materials had to be changed to attract clientele who'd best appreciate her, I said. "Add a photo. Use your name. Include a warm and friendly message from you that inspires trust - along with quotes praising you from people you've helped. Explain how you tailor your program to what each individual client needs."

She didn't feel comfortable with a photo, but went home and created a warm and friendly message signed by her, convinced by my argument that if the personal relationship she developed with each client counted as an advantage corporate entities couldn't match, she should feature that in her marketing rather than mask it.

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Suppose that in contrast to a service business, you sell products by mail order. Chances are, you can't compete with the glossy catalogs, 24-hour customer service, brand-name recognition and enormous selection of a nationally famous firm. I would suggest that rather than claiming those characteristics, you stress advantages like these:

  • merchandise personally tested and selected by you

  • purchases personally packed and shipped

  • purchases personally guaranteed by you

  • simple, reliable ordering procedure

  • no voice mail jungle or long holds when you call

  • knowledgeable recommendations about specific products

Or let's say that you own a family business. I've seen "family owned and operated" emblazoned on panel trucks, in Yellow Pages ads and on brochures from smart companies who know that that implies competitive strengths like these:

  • the family honor is on the line with each transaction

  • hard workers who care

  • hands-on management

  • deep community roots

  • build long-term relationships with customer base

  • routinely go the extra mile for customer satisfaction

Instead of apologizing for or hiding your smallness, make it an attraction that helps bring you business!

Copyright 2006 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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