I’ve watched a lot of movies in my time. Like I mean, A LOT.
Testosterone-sapping chick flicks, side-splitting comedies, serious-as-cancer dramas and scary-as-fook horrors.
Out of all those horrors, there’s one particular scene from a seminal 70’s freak flick that still gives me the willies.
Which one is it?
Yet, despite all its spine-tingling, tension-ridden scenes of suspense, it’s one rather mundane scene I find to be the most terrifying of them all.
It’s the scene where “Quint”, a grizzled old seadog announces himself to the townsfolk he is the man to bag them some Jaws, by dragging his nails down a blackboard.
You see, I can watch all manner of murder, mayhem and madness without so much as flinching.
Call it a flaw in my DNA or a faulty autonomic nervous system, go and drag some nails down a blackboard and you’ll witness me wince in horror.
So every time I hear small businesses owners speak the marketing language of the “BDC” (aka the “Big Dumb Company”), I instantly get that nerve destroying “nails-on-a-blackboard” feeling.
I despair when I hear a small business owner telling me how important their brand is to them.
I die a little inside when I hear news of a startup’s new viral marketing campaign.
It makes me weep to hear a young ‘un’s nascent foray into entrepreneurship blighted by garbage like “engagement”, and other such codswallop.
Conventional wisdom suggests that because big companies are the biggest (and therefore the best), their type of marketing is where we, small business owners, need to be at too.
And while these big companies are most definitely big, are they the best at what they do?
Does big necessarily mean better?
More often than not, it doesn’t.
Doubt me? Give one of these “Big Dumb Companies” customer support lines a tinkle and see what you think of the experience. Odds are it’s about as pleasant as a rough and ready rectal exam.
And when it comes to marketing and small businesses, adopting a “BDC” style of marketing can make a rectal examination seem like a birthday present.
To understand just why they’re so bad, you have to examine where this toxic thinking is developed and nurtured, namely the third level dis-educational institutions, the big ad agencies and the corporate boardrooms.
Let’s take a look at the “Mad Men” first.
Creativity, originality and wining and dining the client are the order of the day for these people. Awards are damn important also. Image is obviously very high on their list of things they worry about too.
But creating advertising that actually sells anything?
Tracking and measuring what works and what doesn’t?
Split testing? Sales? Anyone? Anyone?
Pfft. Why would they worry about a little thing called sales when they’ve an ad jingle’s harmonica solo to worry about? A looping solo that could really round off an amazingly “creative” campaign, and really put the agency in the driving seat for a fourth consecutive Sharks award.
On the client side, surprisingly profits aren’t top of their agenda either. In reality, a cornucopia of other non-sales related concerns rule the roost. Company image, keeping shareholders happy, satisfying distribution partners, lack of individual responsibility and avoiding controversy all combine to ensure any serious attempt to ensure sales are usually something of an afterthought.
To round off this unholy mess we have the dis-educational system churning out graduates that clog up these agencies and corporate boardrooms with their “creativity” and their love of buzzword bingo.
These are institutions where the graduates are taught by individuals with little or no real world selling or marketing experience. People who’ve never so much as made as sales call, or had to write an advertisement that actually sold anything.
Examine your common or garden marketing degree. There is nothing about copywriting, or how to write a compelling advertisement. Little about marketing funnels, or about anything solid a small business owner can take and turn to his or her advantage. Fundamentals which are of critical importance to a small business owner if he is to actually make any sort of a living and survive.
You’ll spend hours, days even but your attempts to find their cold calling module will come up short. The actual meat and potatoes of what makes customers buy is given short shrift.
You will however hear plenty of the sort of guff that is spouted in corporate boardrooms, the need for a solid brand identity, the constant battle to create customer awareness and whatnot, but ultimately little of use in the realm of the small business entrepreneur.
A world where the phone needs to ring with orders, or else staff don’t get paid and the lights don’t stay on.
In this world, what people think of your brand means precious little.
What does matter is delivering great value, excellent service and a fantastic product.
Those things, and how you communicate them to the world in a compelling way even the most hard-nosed sceptic will have a hard job resisting, is what your marketing efforts should consist of.
Not what font your logo is in.
Or what shade of crimson red your website header is.
But communicating in precise, emotionally charged language to an interested audience what’s in it for them should they chose to use you.
It’s that simple.