Jim Huebner
21 September, 2021

A while back, I informally asked our blog readers to give us some feedback on the articles we write. The marketing researcher in me naturally wants to know what people like, don’t like, and what they’d like to see more of. After all, we want to make sure we’re posting discussions that are helpful and will be forwarded to friends… and not to digital trash cans.

The survey results were fascinating. We are a small company but tend to work with larger manufacturers and their sales channels. That’s why I gravitate to discussing branding and positioning situations common to these bigger organizations. However, a number of readers asked that I try making some application to the littler guys, too. Particularly, the dealers of our clients.

So here we go…

Where does great marketing start for a small business like an RV dealer, a construction equipment retailer, or a local franchisee? Well, believe it or not, it starts in the same place it does for big companies with a great product or service.

Think about it. If the local mechanic didn’t fix your problem, would you go back? If your haircut made you look ridiculous (or at least more ridiculous than you already look, if you’re like me), would the same person be cutting your hair next time? If the muffin was stale, the craft beer was nothing to write home about, or the ROI promised wasn’t realized, would you continue to buy from them? You might give them a second chance. But a third, fourth, or fifth chance? Probably not. Product is first and foremost. It MUST meet or exceed expectations. So if you’re not selling the best products on the market or at least a brand challenging the best on the market the first place to start is to find another manufacturer to supply your products. Otherwise… your days may likely be numbered.

Second, you need to decide how you’re going to differentiate your service or product from your competition. Maybe it will be your location, or you’ll do it faster, cheaper, with a longer guarantee or free delivery. Whatever that differentiation strategy is going to be, remember this: The more dramatically unique and relevantly useful or appealing it is to your customers, the more powerful your story is going to be. And a powerful story is key to the all-important MEMORABLE story.

Finally, you need a plan for consistently communicating your difference to your target audience over a long period of time. The biggest challenge is deciding how and where you’re going to do this. But no matter what tactics and which media you decide to use: print ads, Internet advertising, signage, radio or TV ads, publicity, social media, or ValPak inserts, here’s something to keep in mind… Impact first. Then frequency. And then reach. Always in that order.


Make sure your differentiating message is clear and the creativity behind it causes it to stand out. It’s money wasted if people aren’t drawn to your ad right out of the chute (that’s why the use of strong, relevant images or startling headlines is so important.)


Before you start running that high-impact ad all over the place, ensure your initial medium of choice sees good saturation first. For example, it’s better to run 30 radio commercials on one station in a week than 3 spots on ten different stations. (By the way, that’s the beauty of retargeting with web ads. WHEREVER your prospects go, you can stay in front of them once they’ve been to your website… AND you can target your geographic area so you’re only advertising where you do business!)


Once you’ve maxed out your frequency, then and only then, should you consider expanding the broadcast of that message into additional media.

There it is. Marketing for the little guy. And if you noticed, it’s not so different from big guy marketing…

  • Great product or service
  • Well differentiated story
  • Consistent delivery of your message over a long period of time.

Do that, and you just might be on your way to marketing like the “big guys”.