Using Big Brand Ideas in Small Business

Jewelry Small Business OwnerFollow your dreams, they say.
Work for yourself, they say.
Dream big and it’ll happen, they say.

But running a small business is so much harder than that. Just getting your name out there is one of the hardest things to do, and the same is true online. To succeed online, it takes more than just building a website. I’ve been talking with a number of small businesses lately and the one thing I always hear is “What do I do? I don’t have the budget of the big guys!”

You can win on the internet without a big brand or budget. I am going to tell you how and then show you how to turn big brand ideas into ways you can build up your small business on a budget. 

Starting Point: Website

There are a few things I would recommend a small business owner pay attention to in regards to their website before even thinking about any marketing campaigns.
  1. How does your site look on a desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone? The site should be accessible in all formats. If not, talk with your web developer about modifications to make it work on all devices. Idea: Get a few of your favorite customers and ask them to take a look at your site and give feedback. 
  2. Own your site and access to all services. Most small business owners don’t know how to login to change their site or analytics.
    • The first thing you should do after reading this post is to find out how to log into your site’s hosting. Then find out who else has access and limit that to just the people that need access. Unsure who has access? Change your main account password. They’ll come out of the woodwork if they need access.
    • The second thing is to login to your analytics. If you don’t know how, or not sure if you have an analytics account, ask the person or company that built your site. Don’t have analytics? Time to get that set up.
  3. Get social. If you don’t already use them, set up your account on Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp (for local businesses). Use these and any other social media sites in your space to converse with customers (current, former, and future) and fans. Social is just word of mouth that we get to participate in. Use it to your advantage.
    Idea: Check out this guide on how to find time for social media.

Big Business Ideas for Small Budgets

While big businesses have the budget to do awesome things, small businesses have the agility and personality to do amazing things as well. I’m going to use a few small businesses as examples of how you can take big brand strategies and apply them to your small business.


Virgin Galatic

One of the main tactics used by Distilled and many major brands is a contest. Many small businesses see mega campaigns and think there is no way they can do that themselves. What small business has $50,000 or a flight to space to give away?

There are a number of small business that run successful giveaway campaigns to get exposure to new potential customers. The Unrefined Kitchen recently got together with a number of product providers and made one big giveaway. This contest not only got her blog new readers via social sharing entries, but each business got new followers on Facebook and Twitter via separate contest entries. Case and point: I heard about it through one of the participating companies and about 4 other companies got a new follower due to the contest. Win.


We hear time and again about how small businesses don’t have the money for good videos. Here is the simple truth: You don’t have to be Old Spice.

Some of the most shared videos are not major production pieces. In fact, some of our best performing videos were not high production videos. The video below from former Distiller, Tom Critchlow, was shot along with about 50 others. It took us a day to film them all and another for editing. Not bad, even if Tom talks fast.

For a small business like Ceilume, videos are not only a great marketing tool but also a way to show their expertise and help their customers and other consumers pick the right ceiling tile. One video has over 80,000 views!

If you are thinking about getting into videos, I recommend checking out the YouTube AdWords Keyword Tool to do some background investigation. Use this tool as inspiration, not as a tool to tell you what videos to make. Once you have identified some potential video topics, check to see what videos have been produced already. Ask yourself (as a consumer, not the owner of a competing business), do these videos meet my needs? If they do, look for some other ideas. Don’t remake videos that already exist.

If you are at a loss of what videos to make, ask your current customers/friends, look at your own analytics to see what queries people are using to get to your site and check question sites like Yahoo Answers. It’s amazing how much inspiration you can get from those three areas.

Content (Interviews and Articles)

Friskies Grumpy Cat SXSW

Recently Grumpy Cat visited Austin and the South by Southwest festival. Friskies sponsored a campaign called Will Kitty Play with It? Friskies is not the best cat food ever, by a long shot (personal opinion here). There are many different kinds of cat food brands that would love to have a photo shoot with Tardar Sauce (Grumpy Cat’s real name), but think they can’t.

Brands like Friskies might have the money to fly Grumpy Cat to Austin, but a small maker of organic cat food like YogiPet (found randomly via Etsy) could do something like it just as easily. For YogiPet, I would recommend they use social media channels like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest to start a series of YogaPet photos. The best or a random photo every month would receive free treats for their yoga pet (pending verification that the image was the account owner’s, etc.). This way you get exposure and lots of awesome photos to use (with permission!).

In Short: It’s all about the time. Larger companies have the money to put into hiring someone to do the work, but you can win by bootstrapping and making a splash.

My Business is Boring!

No, it’s not. We hear this all the time. Just because your business isn’t cat food or intergalactic travel doesn’t mean you can’t do amazing things on the web to target your market. The key is to ask your market, spend time getting to know them and thinking outside the “normal” realm of marketing ideas.

Still think you have a difficult business to market? Comment below and I will do my best to come up with some ideas for you. Ready? Go.