Friday, October 17, 2008
All That Is Great Is Not Necessarily Big
By Max Kalehoff The majority of my career has been dedicated to marketing small and midsized interactive businesses. This has been the result of my passion for working with promising, early-stage startups and seeing them through their first years of rapid growth. Yet, while I've been tactically focused on marketing smaller companies, I've always been precisely tuned to the marketing challenges of large companies. That's because all of my past startups were dedicated to serving or solving marketing problems of mega brands. Moreover, the companies I worked at had aspirations of becoming significant players -- and, luckily, a few of them achieved that goal.
But my perspective changed over the past year after joining my latest startup. I moved out of my comfort zone because I wanted to grow, and I saw a great opportunity. Yes, I'm still tactically focused on marketing another small, early-stage company. But my strategic and intellectual focus now is centered squarely on the issues of smaller advertisers. Specifically, my company has a Web solution to make online advertising simple and profitable for small to midsized advertisers.
What have I learned? "Small to medium" is actually huge.
For example, I became acutely aware that half of the online advertising market is comprised of small and midsized businesses. The advertising trade press tends to cover the mega brands most -- the head of the tail, not the torso nor the long tail. However, digital innovations are having just as profound an impact on the lower to mid foundation. It's exciting and there's incredible disruption and innovation going on.
I am now more aware of the diversity of savvy businesses that make our economy go round, and support half of all online advertising. I've seen Santa Claus training schools, blood-warming device manufacturers, retailers of exotic strollers, and hunting-license-examination prep courses. I learn of new types of businesses every day.
I also became more conscious of how much advertising is taking place not only electronically, but via personal credit cards. I always knew it was huge, but I never really embraced how a majority of revenues at one of the world's most valuable media companies (Google) are processed: via hundreds of thousands of credit card transactions each month, and growing. But now I'm keenly aware of how that trend is enabling many small, nimble businesses to turn the dial up or down at lightning speed, depending on performance. As a result, the little guys are really the ones pioneering the way most advertising will eventually be managed.
I've also become more aware of the great significance of local online advertising. It's complex, but a sizable and growing opportunity. When you work in the big-brand world of national advertising, it's easy to forget that a lot of business-customer interaction happens in person, in your own neighborhood. Digital is steadily transforming the way businesses think about local.
Finally, and perhaps initially counterintuitive, I learned that small and midsized businesses have some of the best marketing and advertising professionals in the world. The brightest minds are certainly not all working in large advertisers or agencies. Far from it! In fact, I'm beginning to believe there is more marketing and advertising accountability inside small and midsized businesses versus the average mega advertiser.
Why? There are several probable reasons: First, the people doing the marketing in smaller businesses often are sharp, agile entrepreneurs with high stakes. Second, by definition, smaller businesses have less bureaucracy and more defined line accountability. Smaller businesses often are leaner and feel a direct connection between a dollar of revenue and a dollar to keep the lights on. Managers at small businesses often have to get their hands dirty, and that creates greater visibility and intuition over what's working and what's not. Not surprisingly, these factors prompt smaller and midsized businesses to lean toward performance-based marketing programs.
What I've learned more than anything else: All that is great is not necessarily big.
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Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a search-marketing solution for small and mid-size businesses. He also writes AttentionMax.com
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