By Consumer Dummies

All marketing programs follow the same set of steps in the marketing process, but the similarities between big business marketing and small business marketing stop there. Budgets, staffing, creative approaches, and communication techniques vary hugely between an international mega-marketer and a comparatively micro-budget marketer like, well, you.

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The marketing wheel of fortune.

Dollar differences

As a small business marketer, you already know one difference between your marketing program and those of the corporate behemoths that loom over you in all directions: The big guys have the big budgets. They talk about a couple hundred thousand dollars as a discretionary line-item issue. You talk about a couple hundred dollars as an amount worthy of careful consideration.

Staffing differences

Look at the organization chart of any major corporation. Nearly always, you find a marketing vice president. Under that position you see a bunch of other professionals, including advertising directors, sales managers, online and social-media marketing managers, research directors, customer service specialists, and so on. In contrast, strong small businesses blend marketing with the leadership function. The small business organization chart often puts responsibility for marketing in the very top box, the one with the owner’s name, which likely puts you in the essential role of overseeing marketing as a hands-on task.

Creative differences

The top-name marketers routinely spend six figures to create ads with the sole purpose of building name recognition and market preference for their brands, often without a single word about a specific product or price.

Small businesses take a dramatically different approach. They want to develop name recognition just like the biggest advertisers, but their ads have to do double duty. You know firsthand that each and every small business marketing investment has to deliver immediate and measurable market action. Each effort has to stir enough purchasing activity to offset the marketing cost involved. The balancing act is to create marketing communications that build a clear brand identity while also inspiring the necessary consumer action to deliver inquiries, generate leads, and prompt sales — now.

Strategic differences

In big businesses, bound copies of business plans are considered part of the furnishings, whereas in many small businesses, the very term marketing plan provokes a pang of guilt.

Truth is, creating a marketing plan is pretty straightforward and reasonably manageable. It’s one of those pay-a-little-now-or-pay-a-lot-more-later propositions. If you invest a bit of time up-front to plan your annual marketing program, implementation of the plan becomes the easy part. But without a plan, you’ll spend the year racing around in response to competitive actions, market conditions, and media opportunities that may or may not fit your business needs.

The small business marketing advantage

As a small business owner, you may envy the dollars, people, and organizations of your big business counterparts, but you have some advantages they envy as well.

The heads of Fortune 500 firms allocate budgets equal to the gross national products of small countries to fund the research required to get to know and understand their customers. Meanwhile, you can talk with your customers face to face, day after day, at virtually no additional cost.

Because the whole point of marketing is to build and maintain customer relationships, no business is better configured to excel at the marketing task than the small business.

What’s more, today’s customers don’t just crave interactive communication with the businesses they buy from — they demand it. In the biggest of big businesses, shifting from one-way communication to two-way, interactive communication involves monumental shifts in how the business markets. Meanwhile, for your small business, shifting toward interactive marketing is simply a matter of making the choice to get online, get social, get talking, and get involved in two-way communications that give your business a marketing edge.