“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”– Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
The study of advanced military tactics should be part of the standard curriculum for any business student.
Because when you think about it, the art of warfare and the skills necessary to thwart your business competition from moving in on your turf are very similar.
Business competitors can be ruthless and will often go to extraordinary measures to gain even the slightest advantage over our business. Shouldn't you do the same to protect your livelihood?
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It's no secret that large corporations have entire marketing departments devoted to making their products look like the most amazing thing since sliced bread. And part of a company's marketing efforts often involves making the competitors' products look bad. A good example of this is when companies do product comparisons between their products and the competition. It should come as no surprise that the company that arranges the “scientific” product comparison typically has its own product come out as the winner.
Another tactic companies use to position their products as the superior consumer choice is to pretend to care about social issues. Some companies make a big public display about how they care about the environment, for example. Others attempt to draw attention to themselves by giving away free products or services to those in need.
Corporations are business entities, not people. Yes, they may be comprised of people, but the primary goal of any business is to make money for its shareholders. Don't believe me? Just ask any first year MBA student. Considering this, most large corporations really don't care about their customers. It's all about the bottom line. It's all about maximizing shareholder value.
Most people don't realize these “We Care” sentiments and gestures is nothing more than a well-crafted plan to create a business identity that garners a trusting, loyal consumer following. It's about finding out what people care about and tapping into that sentiment to increase brand awareness and sell more products.
Is this the right way to do business? The most ethical way to conduct business? Hardly. But it is a reality of the marketing world. Large corporations employ some of the brightest and most creative minds and they know a thing or two about how to create a lasting business image.
Since these marketing tactics work so well for large corporations, is there any reason why small business owners shouldn't use the same tactics? They can and they should.
Social Marketing for Small Businesses
When someone thinks of “social marketing,” they probably think of marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or one of the other online social platforms. While marketing on these social platforms is certainly important for any business, that's not the type of social marketing I'm referring to.
I'm referring to another type of social marketing, the type that positions your business as a business that cares about problems, concerns, and yes, even the local high school sports teams. The social marketing I'm referring to means positioning your business as a business that is active and cares in the things happening in your community. If you do this, people will take notice and remember your business when it they need the particular product or service you sell.
Be Involved in Local Issues
People tend to be very passionate about local causes. Is there a controversial new dam planned for your local river? Or maybe a new landfill is scheduled to go in near a community and people are concerned about the potential smells. Or perhaps a large shopping plaza is being planned near a tranquil park.
If you notice that a particular cause is either popular or unpopular with the members of your community, you can align your business to be on the side of the majority. Put a sign in your window showing your support. Go to town hall meetings on behalf of your business and voice your concerns.
Support Local School Sports and Academic Functions
People tend to be very passionate about their local school sports teams, especially if they have a child in school who plays a sport. It's not just local sports teams that people are passionate about. People also care very much about their local high school band, cheer-leading squad, debate team, and so forth.
You can show your support for your local teams and other school functions in several different ways. One of the best ways to do this is to make a donation to a local team to help purchase new equipment. It doesn't have to be a large donation. Sports teams commonly thank their contributors in the bulletins they hand out at events.
Support Local Charities
One of the best ways to tug at people's hearts is to support one or more local charities. And be sure people know it. Make a big deal out of it. Flaunt it. Don't be bashful. If people know that your business helps those who are less fortunate, they will be more likely to give you their business when they have to choose between you and a competitor. Oh, and the charities benefit, too.