Small Business – 5 Marketing Lessons…

…from the Big Boys

Big Business

Recently, we’ve had some simply stunning marketing blunders.  Blunders from Big Business that can also impact small business.  It began with a continuing series of marketing missteps from Netflix back in August of this year.  Most of you probably are well aware of the pricing increase, the introduction of a new company, Qwikster and the sudden demise of the yet-to-be created new company.

Like a blubbering pods of confused whales, comes more marketing blunders from the banking industry…particularly from the we’re too big to fail clan.  Bank of America (BOA) decides it will just introduce a $5 debit card usage fee.  Wells Fargo, Chase and others in the clan decide that’s a pretty good idea so they decide they will introduce debit card usage fees as well.  Why?  They wanted to make more money, of course.  Apparently making loans these days is far too risky.  Why not just ding people for using their own money?

So what can a small business learn from the marketing blunders of the Big Boys?  Plenty.

Marketing Lesson 1 – Don’t take a major action until you’ve taken the temperature of your audience

What do I mean by ‘taking the temperature of your audience’?  Well, marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  It occurs in a dynamic marketplace.  If that marketplace (your audience) is worried about hanging onto their jobs, their homes, their futures, then chances are they are not going to want more to worry about.  Had BOA introduced their $5 senseless fee in sunnier times, when people felt more confident, more prosperous about their world, chances are few would have noticed and fewer still would have taken any action.  Introduced in a climate of uncertainty and worry, people noticed and many took action.

Marketing Lesson 2 – Don’t let moss grow between you and your customers

Both of the blunders by Netflix and BOA center around the fact that management lost touch with their customers and what really mattered to them.  Management thought the only thing the customers cared about were the product offerings when what customers really care about is being treated fairly and as if they are valued.  There are lots of ways to reprice one’s products and have customer buy-in.  Unfortunately, neither Netflix nor BOA bothered to explore those options and they both paid the price with a major customer exodus.

Marketing Lesson 3 – Don’t forget customers hold the power

This has always been the case as customers always have a choice between your business and your competitors.  But this fact is magnified by ten fold today.  Before social media, a disgruntled customer could share a bad experience with a few choice friends and that would be the end of it.  Today, they can share that same experience with the world and they can motivate hundreds if not tens of thousands to take retribution.  Judging by the actions of Netflix and BOA management, they must have felt they held all the power.  That calculation proved to be full of holes.

Marketing Lesson 4 – Do not underestimate the fury of an angry customer with friends and followers

The Genie has left the bottle never to return.  Social media has demonstrated its power in this last year by toppling several dictators and mobilizing millions around the world.  This power will not shrink or be controlled.  It can only grow.

Big business isn’t all that keen about social media and the underlying power it represents.  Yes, they have a Facebook or Linkedin presence, but for the most part the Big Boys are stifled and stiff in any level of online engagement.  It uses social media as a preventative tool for a PR crises than as a way to engage and become buddies with its customers.

Social media is were small businesses can shine and shine big.   Small business owners can be more engaging because they don’t have to worry shareholders, stock analysts, pessimistic attorneys and a corporate silo mentality.  The small business owner IS the business and what they say and do online really does matter.

Marketing Lesson 5 – Remember, it requires two

Every business transaction that has ever taken placed required at least two parties to agree.  If customers are telling you they don’t like what you’ve said, they don’t appreciate new policies, they’re not crazy about your hours, they think the quality of your products has gone down,  then the smart business person is going to listen and adjust.  Because without a customer, there is NO business.

In today’s climate, small business has a unique advantage over Big Business, one that hasn’t been seen in a very long time.  Learn these lessons from the Big Boy marketing blunders and make your small business a place customers love to support.


Related Posts:  I wrote several posts about Netflix  during their saga this past summer you may find of interest.   Netflix Folly, Netflix got it wrong and 3 Lessons from Netflix


Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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