Talking small business marketing with a business owner caught up in the idea of transparency, we got into a discussion about cues he regularly communicates which signal he has a very small business. While his point about absolute transparency is noble, my take was his small business marketing messages wind up over-communicating. They provide context that’s neither necessary nor relevant for his potential or current clients to make informed decisions about using his company.

His small business marketing effort represents a relatively common situation: inadvertently or deliberately marketing the parts and pieces of a business instead of the benefits and results a brand provides.

In this type of situation, sharing too much detail in small business marketing messages can provide information on the inner workings of business customers may not even care about knowing. It’s far better to focus on and secure agreement to the results a brand will deliver for a customer.

My advice for small business people marketing against larger competitors is to change the nature of your marketing messages to help de-emphasize size by:

  • Describing situations potential customers can easily relate to rather than naming specific clients – This allows a single client’s situation to potentially yield multiple case studies which demonstrate benefits you provide.
  • Talking percentages, not absolute numbers – Say “75% of our clients” vs. “3 of our clients.”
  • Not being overly precise about the company’s size – For example, share “there are two primary point people” vs. “there are two of us.” The latter says there are only two people involved; the former, which is just as accurate, discloses two “primary” people, but leaves room for the possibility others might be involved.
  • Talking about specific experiences only when absolutely necessary for clarity – Covering your capabilities with actual, generalized examples (vs. saying, “for client X, we did Y”) allows one client experience to be shared in multiple ways. Detailing particulars tied to an individual client gives you much less to talk about when it comes to your experience.

Using this strategy for your small business marketing messages allows much greater flexibility in how to best organize and deploy resources to create very satisfied customers.

Knowing there are many solopreneurs and small business owners reading the blog, I’d love to hear how you deal with the issue of appearing bigger than you are and marketing the benefits you provide. Is this a transparency-related issue for you? What strategies do you use for creating your small business marketing messages?Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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13 Responses to “Small Business Marketing – 4 Ways to Appear Bigger than You Are”

  1. Alex says:

    100% of my team thinks this is a great post!

  2. Karen says:

    I like your point about using percentages and not being precise about the company’s size. Filed away in my mental filing cabinet for use later. One thing I do is use “we” and “our” vs. “me”, “I” and “my”. I also use the first tool you mentioned, providing situations people can relate to rather than using specific clients. This does usually spark a lot more discussion and topics for blog posts too.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s critical to not misrepresent factual information. If a client needs it to make an accurate decision, you need to provide it. There’s nothing wrong with using a little “royal we” though!

  3. Marianne says:

    I think what struck me most about this post was using % instead of numbers when talking about your business. This is a great piece of advice and I know my employees will be encouraged to do this 100% of the time!

    • Anonymous says:

      Often, the percentage provides more helpful information than the absolute number. Just have to make sure using the percentage isn’t misleading.

  4. Dan says:

    I used to work for a voucher code site and basically, if there was a saving of over £100, no matter how much percent of something it was we always used £100 in promotion.

    If it was less, we used a percentage.

    Although it’s not misleading, it’s better if the number seems bigger.

    • Anonymous says:

      Strong addition Dan – look at what numbers you have and determine the largest ones which are truthful and have more impact. A former boss always cautioned us though to be careful of using numbers we thought were big that someone with no (or a different) context might think were in fact small.

  5. Jim Joseph says:

    Great, solid advice Mike. It’s so important to think about how you want to position yourself to customers, before you start talking to them. A little homework on yourself ahead of time can help you to more competitively brand your work. Big or small. Jim Joseph

    • Anonymous says:

      Planning ahead is definitely preferred Jim. I’ve found though with The Brainzooming Group, what I thought for the positioning initially changes slightly as we talk about it. It’s nice at the start to be able to select a position but be able to learn your way into it.

  6. johnmartin says:

    I think brand name is one of the major part in each business forget it its a small business or large scale business….. all business statergies are same and i accept your article for providing such a wonderful ideas and thoughts… Thanks.

  7. AlexanderG says:

    Great post. Very helpful as usual!

  8. Ryan Scofield says:

    Great ideas here! I’d also add that I’ve seen job titles cleverly used in order to create the perception of larger company size. This can be especially effective if you’re a one person operation.