To succeed in today's crowded marketplace where most of the products and advertising look exactly the same, a small business owner must stand out, shouting above the din with a message so clear and compelling that prospects stop and take notice. It's a matter of business survival. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs quickly retreat to the supposed security of sameness, soon to be lost in a sea of anonymity and a tidal wave of frustration. In effect, albeit at a subconscious level, they are saying , "I don't want to be different".
In back room offices and store fronts everywhere, salespeople are telling business owners they should do this or that kind of ad because it worked so great for their competitor. The owners nod and sign on. It's already proven to be a winner, right? WRONG! Change the name, background color and a font style and you've got sameness. Put those ads in the yellow pages, a coupon magazine or a TV commercial cluster and you've got advertising death. Want proof? Get the latest statistics on small business failures.
To make your advertising work, follow the principle if your competition is doing it, don't. Go where they aren't and win the battle without a fight. Resist the urge to get a listing in the phone book because that's where everyone else is. A coupon direct mailer that features 6 or 7 of your competitors is a poor choice too. Look for new opportunities in direct mail and email campaigns. Look at direct response ideas. In short, try to find the biggest number of clients you can find in one spot. Fish in a barrel, not the ocean.
When you've chosen different channels to attract your customers, make sure you overcome the "so-what" factor in your copywriting. An ad for a heating and air conditioning company that says it has certified technicians that will fix your problem quickly is a so-what line. No one is looking for uncertified slackers that will get around to the problem whenever. A moving company that mentions superior insurance coverage makes you think they'll probably break something. Be creative and write copy that will compel prospects to take action.
Consumers are bombarded by thousands of ad messages every day. There is so much overload they tune everything out. To get their attention, look within your business and find all that you do differently and decide which of those elements your customers most want. Decide how to word it best. and where to position it. Decide you really do want to be different. You have to. Your business depends on it.
Brian Grinonneau is the general manager of McMann and Tate advertising, an agency that works with small business owners helping them stand out from the crowd.