A small business typically doesn’t have a large marketing budget, if it has one at all. Most mom-and-pops rely on word-of-mouth referrals to generate new customers. It’s effective because people tend to trust the opinions of their friends, colleagues and family.
But word-of-mouth marketing is largely out of a business’s control; a company can create an experience that warrants a positive word-of-mouth recommendation, but they can’t force people to do it (although they could motivate customers through a referral-rewards program).
However, as the Internet has evolved into the social Web of today, so has the nature of word-of-mouth marketing. Through the technological tools available at little to no cost, small business owners can harness the power of word-of-mouth into an active, sustained source of new business. Thanks to the Internet, search engines and social media, word-of-mouth marketing has evolved into an efficient and effective tool with which small businesses can usurp market share from larger corporations.
It’s all about leverage.
Let me digress a bit here and explain two core concepts of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, one of the most effective self-defense systems in the history of the world.
The first concept is the dominance of technique and leverage over force and strength. I think BJJ is ubiquitous enough in our society thanks to the UFC’s colonization of American living rooms through their “Ultimate Fighter” reality series, so I won’t go into detail about it.
But basically the idea is that, through proper technique, a smaller fighter can defeat a larger, stronger opponent. One of the most common attacks in jiu-jitsu is the armbar, which is a technique that uses one’s hips to isolate the elbow and create a fulcrum at the joint to dislocate or damage it.
If a 300 lb. man attacks a 110 lb. woman, and the woman is able to apply an armbar to the man, then the battle is no longer ’110 lbs. vs. 300 lbs.’, it’s ’110 lbs. of leverage vs. isolated elbow joint.’
Watch an armbar in action as a 233 lb. fighter uses the technique to defeat a 390 lb. fighter by clicking here.
Another thing about fighting is that most people are uncomfortable once the fight hits the ground. The next important axiom of jiu-jitsu is that the majority of fights end up on the ground, whether by accident or intention.
Thus, jiu-jitsu boasts a design optimized for groundfighting. Because of the dynamics groundfighting, many physical advantages a bigger, stronger person has will disappear, and the outcome will be determined by technique.
If you watched the video above from the beginning, you’ll see the smaller fighter (Rodrigo ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira) eliminates his opponent’s size and strength advantage by taking the fight to the ground, where his superior technique reigns supreme.
So if a small business can learn anything from of jiu-jitsu, it would be:
1. Leverage and technique can effectively defeat strength and size
2. Mastering battle on unconventional terrain can eliminate physical disadvantages
Social media, which is word-of-mouth on steroids, can be the fulcrum with which small businesses lift their brand into the marketplace. Of course, it should be used in conjunction with a blog, SEO website and other inbound marketing tools, just as an armbar is used in conjunction with myriad other techniques and positions.
Small businesses also tend to offer customers personalized service and attention while bigger corporations tend to see service levels drop as a result of their growth. This is the ground fight — it doesn’t take a big budget to offer a great service, it takes great service, period.
Getting on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Yelp, etc., companies can extend their brand experience to a larger audience at a cost exponentially lower than traditional advertising. They can also engage customers to solidify relationships and enhance their company’s experiential halo. Because at the end of the day, aren’t businesses selling an experience rather than a product of service? Let me explain through an anecdote.
I have a friend who recently that he was tired of living in a cluttered apartment. In order to organize his life, career and artistic goals, he felt the need to organize his living space. But he’s also lazy and a former procrastinator of the year award winner, and every effort he made to clean was easily shut down by distractions. So he researched professional cleaning companies to do it for him.
The first thing he did was search Google for “House cleaning South Bay” and then picked three random websites from the top results.
Of the three, one followed up with a phone call and quote, another offered a quote based solely on my friend’s apartment’s square footage (along with a link to her Yelp profile), and the last offered to visit the apartment to consult with my friend before giving him a quote.
The third cleaning guy visited my friend, gave his professional opinion on the situation (i.e. my team can clean the whole thing for you, but you really just need this, this, and this done, and the rest is easy to do by yourself, if that’s what you want to do), explained to my friend the different ways he would clean the different areas of the apartment and what chemicals and materials he would use to handle certain areas, and then quoted him a price nearly double of both the other two cleaners. After some negotiating, my friend was able to get a lower price by opting out of getting his oven, stove and windows cleaned, but the cost was still more expensive than the other two.
But because of the experience of the consultation, my friend was put at ease, felt like he was dealing with a knowledgeable professional, and trusted him enough to invest in the service. Afterwards, I asked him how it went, and he said he was pretty damn happy. The cleaning team did more than he bargained for, cleaning the stove and oven anyway, and he didn’t think twice about the money he spent.
This story has many lessons in it, but the one I want you to think about is how the overall experience created value that outweighed the cost concerns.
This experience is best created in person, of course, but social media can serve as an effective proxy to companies who can’t afford a large sales and marketing team.
Inbound marketing techniques use the Internet to replicate all the elements of the consultation mentioned above, such as educating clients and communicating on a casual, personal level. And one of the most effective tools in an inbound marketing arsenal is social media. In my opinion, it ranks just behind blogging, which most agree is the single most important inbound marketing tool today.
Creating a consumer-based conversation around one’s company through social media is like adding a hyperdrive to your marketing engine, and all it costs is a little education and effort, both of which only require time on behalf of business owners and employees.
Thanks for reading! Please comment with your feedback because I’d love to hear from people who agree and disagree. Every conversation is an opportunity to learn!
— Michael Campos, @themikesteez