How To Compete and Win Against Today's #1 Brands

This week we hear fromDanny Iny, someone I highly respect in the area of Internet marketing and smallbusiness communication.  He has been anentrepreneur for most of his life, quitting school when he was fifteen to starthis first successful business, and has been doing it ever since.  Danny has worked with companies of all sizes,from the very huge (Nokia, Google) to small businesses and entrepreneurs whoare just getting started.

These days, he is aprolific blogger and educator in the Firepole Marketing training program, andworks one-on-one with client businesses to improve their marketing and helpthem make more money.  He’s also a fellowauthor;  Danny’s book about effectivecommunication in writing is a must have, and he’s co-authoring two othertitles that are about to bereleased with co-authors that you may have heard of, like Guy Kawasaki,Brian Clark, Mitch Joel, and many others! Danny, thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us on The MarketingBlog.

1.   HiDanny.  You’ve been working with smallbusinesses for many years.  What are someof the unique challenges small business owners are facing today?
I think the core challenges that small businesses face today are thesame challenges that they’ve faced in the past; too much to do, too little timein which to do it, and not enough expertise to drive it all, because they can’tbe experts in everything, and have too much on their plates. I see thisparticularly in the areas of marketing, and it is even worse because marketingis one of those fields where anyone who’s read a book or taken a course thinksthey really get it, even though in many cases they really don’t.

2.   How has social media impacted the smallbusiness owner?
Social media has impacted the small business owner by opening a newchannel through which they can connect with their audience. It’s not justanother channel, either, because it is qualitatively different from what waspreviously available, both in terms of the cost structures (it’s a lot cheaper,and is often free), and in terms of the bi-directionality (prospects andcustomers can talk to you and about you as easily as you can talk to them –more easily, in fact).

3.   What type of online marketing are yourecommending to the businesses you consult for?
That really depends on the client, and you’ve actually hit on one ofthe biggest mistakes that I see most small businesses making, which is assumingthat there is one “best” way to do online marketing, whether that be SEO, orPPC, or Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever. The truth is that the only waytactics will work for you (unless you just happen to get lucky) is byunderstanding who your customer is, where they hang out, and what drives theirbehavior. In other words, even if you can get very cheap clicks on a certainmedium, it doesn’t mean anything if those clicks aren’t the people you’retrying to reach, or they’re not in the right head-space to receive yourmessage.

4.   How can business owners grow their referralnetworks online and offline?
There are two parts to this; the first is having something that peoplewant to talk about – that includes just having a great offering, of course, butalso making it “buzz-worthy”. There are things that people like to tell theirfriends, and things that they don’t. You need to be great at what you do, butyou also need to find some remarkable way to shine through the clutter (likeBlendTec’s Will It BlendYouTube videos). Then the next step is to make it easy for people to tell theirfriends about you – for example, with easily embedded buttons that let peopleshare with a single click.

5.   How can small businesses use the web tocompete against larger, more prominent brands in their niche?
Well, first of all, don’t try to beat big companies at their own game;if David tries to beat Goliath by fighting like Gnliath, then David gets hisbutt kicked. Instead, focus on what value you can bring to the table that yourbig competitors can’t – for example, since you’re smaller and more agile, you canprobably offer more personalized service to your customers, or service a marketsegment that desperately needs your offering, but is too small for the bigcompetitor to justify investing the resources. Don’t focus on the competitor,but rather on what can make your relationship with your customer as special aspossible.

6.   Is there any other advice you can giveregarding effective online marketing and communications for the small businessowners reading this post? 
      What makes online marketing effective is thesame thing that makes offline marketing effective – understand your audience aswell as you possibly can, because that’s the information that you need in orderto differentiate yourself and really stand out in their minds. The “online”part of online marketing is mostly tactical, and not that complicated orimportant. Focus on knowing your customer, and serving them as well as youpossibly can – the rest can almost take care of itself.

      Special thanks to Danny Iny for his contributions to The Marketing Blog.  I encourage all of my readers to follow Danny and visit Firepole Marketing for GREAT marketing insights and information.  Once you start reading his blog you'll be hooked!