There are lessons to be learned about small business marketing from
unassuming sources. My dog, Jazmin, for instance, understands well the concept
of marketing aggressively — especially gaining market share.
Jazmin is 40 pounds of black furry sunshine and is my favorite little power
networker. No one I know works a room quite like she does. She sells a variety
of services that include companionship, happiness, and the ability to touch her
incredibly soft fur. In exchange for that service, she gets hugs, pets, or — the
Holy Grail of the canine world — belly rubs!
Here are the lessons we can learn from Jazmin.
Look for the part of the market that is un-served and go after it first
before you take on the competition.
When my husband and I adopted her in January 2003, she decided that she would sleep
with us at night. Consider the available area on the top of the bed as “the
market”. Before Jazmin, ideally my husband and I each had 50% of the market
Now there’s a new competitor in the marketplace. When we hear her toenails
clicking down the hall, we race to get our share of the space on the bed before
she gets there.
Jazmin jumps up on the bed and kisses us goodnight and settles into the
available space on the bed that is not occupied — the un-served share of the
market. Next she moves in to start snatching up market share, getting closer and
closer to our market share and edging us out. Pretty soon, Jazmin has reduced
our market share to the edges of the bed.
You don’t have to be the first one in the market to establish yourself
quickly and be successful. We have two other dogs that have been around much
longer than Jazmin. They are also twice her size. Jazmin understands the
disadvantage of being the smaller newcomer but she uses it to her advantage. At
the dinner table, she positions herself under my chair (a space too small for
the other competitors) to make sure she that she’s close to any morsels of
food (potential business) that drop on the floor. Another lesson to learn
here: location is important.
Be the first one to check out new developments in the market. As small
business people, the market in which we operate changes quickly and we have to
pay attention. This can range from the opening of the new bag of dog food or
treats to the arrival of a new dog toy. She’s always first in line to try new
things. That doesn’t mean that she will eat raw carrots twice but she always
gives new things a fair shake. Sometimes new developments are as insignificant
as waiting for one of the other dogs to drop the bone she’s been watching and
moving in quickly to snatch it.
Differentiate yourself from your competitors. Jazmin adores people. Our
other two dogs are very shy and scatter when visitors (Jazmin’s potential
customers) come to our home. Perhaps you have some competitors like that. The
other two will sometimes warm up to visitors after awhile. Guess which dog gets
the most attention (business) — the one who actively seeks out the visitors.
Aggressively search for new clients or ways to establish competitive
advantage. Jazmin, an astute self-promoter, is always the first one to the
door to greet newcomers to the market — her potential customers. She doesn’t
wait for them to discover there’s a dog waiting to serve them, she jumps on them
as they are walking in the door. As they settle into our home, she sits next to
them and reminds them often that she is there in case there is anything she can
do for them. Folks who visit my home rarely leave without giving Jazmin belly
rubs — Bingo! Jazmin scores another sale! Another satisfied customer: visitors
get to play with the happy little dog and Jazmin gets the sale she wants.
Stay out in front of your potential client. Once Jazmin has market share,
she hangs on to it. She constantly checks with her customers to make sure they
are satisfied. She understands that just because no one needs her services right
now doesn’t mean that they will remember she’s there later. Being in the right
place at the right time is important to the busy people in her life. She always
makes sure she’s available when it’s the right time.
It’s important to always be nice to your competitors. The nice
competitors get to stay in the market. As I mentioned previously, Jazmin shares
the Smith home with two larger older dogs who can whoop her at any time. She
understands how important it is to show respect for others and play fair.
Business doesn’t usually magically appear at your door. Our home is an
abundant place for our spoiled pets with plenty of love and food (business and
customers). Even though the food bowl is full, Jazmin still has to know where
the food bowl is and go after it. The food isn’t going to follow her around and
jump in her mouth. It’s a lot like business in abundant Northwest Arkansas. Even
though the potential clients are there, you have your chamber of commerce
membership, and your yellow pages ad is in the telephone book, you still have to
actively seek out the clients and be easy to do business with.