It’s early November, we’ve recently come off of Halloween, and we’re bracing ourselves for the barrage of marketing during the noise of November. Have you ever stopped to count the number of advertisements you see during November and December? You’ll probably lose count by the time your Thanksgiving Day nap hits while I’m still waiting on my Lexus with an oversized bow.
Do you remember the days when Black Friday was only on Friday? Take me back.
Big brands like Amazon and Apple have expanded Black Friday and its accoutrements into a nearly week-long assault on your attention and credit cards.
The spending spree has seeped back into Thanksgiving Day and spilled over into the weekend and the following week with Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. These are followed by Giving Tuesday as if to ameliorate our consciences for spending too much money over the weekend; we can now give some away.
Let’s be honest.
You’re tired. We are tired. Everyone is tired of being sold to or being the product (if something is free, you are the product).
This isn’t some anti-Black Friday, anti-consumerism rant, though it easily could be. If you’re a small business you might share similar sentiments and can see the writing on the wall: when marketing during the noise of November, you can’t compete with the advertisement likes of Subway, Nike, or State Farm.
But, you’re not supposed to.
For a word that gets overused and misused, being unique means you’re one of a kind. However, being different means you’re not the same as others. While this might seem like arbitrary semantics, it’s an important distinction.
A perfect example of this is the local coffee shop. There is no such thing as a one-of-a-kind coffee shop, but there are certainly differences between each shop.
I consider myself a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur. I’ve been to hundreds of coffee shops and had countless coffee beverages across the spectrum, from a single origin that cost $95 for a bag to a pumpkin cream cold brew from Starbucks (don’t tell anyone).
I certainly have favorite coffee shops, and there are spots I’d recommend people to go to, but the secret is they’re all essentially the same.
An expert in the coffee industry could notice the nuances and differences between these shops, like how they roast their beans or how precisely they measure out the coffee before they pull a shot of espresso, but the average consumer won’t be able to notice or articulate those differences.
I suspect your small business is similar. You’re not a one-of-a-kind shop, and that’s okay, but there are ways you are different. Marketing is effective during the noise of November when you can recognize and highlight what makes you different.
For example, being a small business has many benefits compared to a company like Amazon or Apple. You’re not going to have a better advertisement than John Lewis (get the tissues ready), but you do have advantages over big business because you’re different.
For example, you can share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your business and workplace and highlight personal anecdotes or customer success stories that might resonate with your audience.
I’m not going to trawl the internet, but I’m guessing there aren’t many videos of Jeff Bezos trying to get to know Amazon customers.
Can you identify what makes you different and expand on those characteristics?
People are looking for connection. This might sound reductionistic, but that is how humans are wired.
Everyone is selling a version of connection, belonging, or validation.
Social media apps like Instagram or Facebook are ways for people to stay connected to one another. Have you ever seen a beer commercial where people are sad? Probably not. They’re marketing connection and belonging by drinking their product. Your smartwatch exercise or Peloton group is a way to feel validated (and belong) when exercising and working out.
Still don’t believe me that everyone is selling connection? Think of any product and ask, “How is this being marketed? What underlying emotion is this advertisement trying to tap into?”
Let’s revisit the coffee shop. While there is a coffee shop on every corner in most cities now, there are still ways for a small, local café to stand out against Starbucks. Personally, the shops I enjoy the most are more about the people I know there than the quality of their magical bean juice. The coffee might be bitter but the connection is sweet.
As a small business owner, you have the corner on the market when it comes to connecting with your customers. You can know their names, preferences, and tastes and maybe a few details about their personal lives. You’re uniquely positioned to connect with every person that walks through your door, literally and figuratively.
This will sound cheesy, but bear with me—the best thing about your small business is you.
Marketing during the noise of November is about how you can identify and hone the parts of who you are that are different from other businesses and business owners. You’re not Jeff Bezos (thankfully), and that works to your advantage.
How can you offer your customers a connection with you?
If this sounds too abstract or self-indulgent, this is the kind of thing we think we’re pretty good at. We believe championing the small business and small business owner is where we thrive, and we can figure this out together.