What a Certain Celebrity Can Teach Small Businesses About Marketing

Sure, I could easily newsjack to reach a young demographic, get a lot more readers for our blog and drive up likes for my post by referencing a name in the news right now. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Yet I continue to follow the daily updates on this country star because it is such a great lesson for small business marketers on how to operate in today’s media climate (and don’t even try pretending you don’t know who I’m talking about!).

This is what we small business marketers can learn from this recent (and seemingly unending) wave of publicity.

1. Promote your company. If you are invisible, you might as well give up your business. But you don’t need a multimillion dollar advertising budget or an expensive publicist. Small businesses just need to be creative when funds are limited.

One good example is Foiled Cupcakes. Mari Luangrath started the online cupcake business in 2009 but got no orders because her website didn’t work. So she went to Twitter and started chatting. In less than six weeks, she had 2,200 follower, attracted national press and beat sales targets by 600 percent.

Yummy Cupcakes2. Consider publicity stunts. You don’t have to be featured in a documentary about your business and have cameras follow you around all day because there are many other events and options to make people aware of your products and services.

Did you know that the Hollywood sign was originally built as a billboard for a housing development called Hollywoodland in 1923? Rather than advertise in print, radio or motion pictures, the developer created the 50-foot sign on the hills behind his homes. Today, it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world but it was established because the movies didn’t do a good job of generating publicity!

Check out these outrageous publicity stunts by small businesses.

3. Ride the social media wave. Our star tweets and posts on YouTube because that’s where her target audience connects. And her infamous performance on an awards show was tweeted, Googled, hashtagged, and viewed millions of times over the internet.

CorePower was a small business that launched HelpfulYogi, an online conversation where users submit questions via Facebook and Twitter and are answered by instructors. Today, CorePower is the nation’s largest yoga chain. Their company marketing is entirely digital. CorePower even puts videos online to let customers experience yoga anytime and anywhere. By 2007, sales were $6.5. By 2010, they were $23 million. By 2011, there were 55 locations and a plan to open 100 more by 2016.

4. Take chances. If I were providing advice on this person’s career, I would not have recommended teddy bear imagery or the donning of nude Lycra. But I do know that you cannot learn, grow as a marketer or capitalize on new tactics if you are not willing to experiment and sometimes push the envelope. Just do so cautiously so you don’t go viral for the wrong reason!

Here are the most viral campaigns of 2013 (so far):

5. Be humorous. This star is not afraid to laugh at and even parody herself on “Saturday Night Live”. While we don’t necessarily want to make fun of our businesses, we should employ humor when it’s appropriate. Laughter is an excellent way to bond with our prospects and customers, as well as to increase the likelihood they will have positive associations with our brands.

Kmart had a campaign this year called “Ship my pants”. The retailer will send items directly to shoppers’ homes for free if they can’t find them in stores. According to the commercials, customers can ship their pants, ship their drawers or even ship their beds. In just days, the video racked up millions of views on YouTube and thousands of likes and shares on Facebook. Though it seems to be getting plenty of positive reactions for its funny, lighthearted approach, the spot has also faced some disapproval since it’s a bit juvenile. So proceed with caution for your business and stay on topic.

6. Revisit your brand. You are probably not a child star looking to reinvent your image as an adult performer, but there is value in taking a good look at how clients and prospects perceive your company to understand if you need to invest the time and money to refresh. Not everyone can get away with doing this every couple of years like singers or actors, but we should be measuring frequently.

7. Capitalize on a trend. The woman in question did not invent the move for which she is known but she uploaded a video of herself dancing months ago. Fast forward to the performance seen around the world. You can also take advantage of trends to boost your visibility. You might leverage trends in marketing channels such as mobile or video, or take advantage of behavioral trends among your target audience, in the local market or on social media.

You’ve probably noticed the dramatic increase in gluten-free products in recent years. Good Greens was founded in 2011 when Keith Pabley was helping a physician improve his practice. He discovered the healthy snack bars the doctor was recommending didn’t taste good, so he decided to create his own gluten-free products. Instead of traditional advertising, he reached out to bloggers to increase the number of reviews, mentions and search engine results for Good Greens. The company grew 50% in 120 days to $50,000 per month. Now the bars are sold in 1,200 stores.

Do-One-Good-Thing8. Be smart about timing. It is logical that the singer’s new single was released amid the hype of her appearance on the award show. Similarly, you should consider all marketing opportunities when building your business calendar. For example, the winter holidays are just around the corner and you can tie in your products or services to take advantage of the season.

Fitness 19

9. Contribute to charitable causes. In the past, the star has been featured in public service announcements for hunger prevention, against bullying and skin cancer awareness. Research shows that giving back is not only important to small businesses but it is also important to their customers, as 85 percent have more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about and 90 percent want to know how companies are supporting causes. That means more than 278 million people in the U.S. want to know what companies are doing to support causes.

Here are some tips on how you can contribute to charity effectively.

  • Set a budget. Some businesses with giving programs set aside up to 5 percent of their pre-tax income for contributions. Decide how much money and time you want to devote to charity.
  • Make a plan. However you choose to allocate your donations, you can’t afford to do it randomly. Make a plan, and stick to it.
  • Look for the right charity. Think strategically when you select a charity to contribute to and align with your business goals so you get meaningful exposure to a large number of people.
  • Perform due diligence. Make sure that the time, energy, and financial support you are giving truly makes a difference and check out charities thoroughly before you send a penny.
  • Question everything. To make sure that your dollars go where you want them to, request written material that describes precisely how donations are spent.
  • Partner with your chosen charity. The best way to do this is to market to specific niches that are inclined to develop an affinity with your charity of choice.
  • Network. This can turn into a great new source of business for you.
  • Get the tax benefits. Consult with your tax and financial experts to ensure that you get the maximum benefit from your donations.

Spring Fashion

10. Know your target market. Although parents may not approve of the star’s public antics and attire choices, the people who will buy her music and attend her concerts “get it”. Plus, it is likely she gained thousands more fans. She did this by knowing who her target market is and catering to them and no one else. This is the most important principle to guide your decisions—build deep expertise in your ideal customers and market to them.

11. Deliver. Although you may hate to admit it, this young woman has true talent for singing and comedy (not to mention marketing). The important point is that, if we capture the desired attention for our companies and don’t ultimately live up to brand promises, our fame and revenues will be short-lived.

On his blog, Jim Connolly commented: “Either make smaller promises that you know you can deliver or make bold promises, which you will find a way to deliver. The smartest small business owners focus on the latter. It’s what sets them apart and makes them so valuable.”

What examples of great marketing have you applied to your business?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

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