Small Business, both brick-and-mortar and online, can create ecosystems to expand their marketing borders.
Establishing an ecosystem had been among the initial branding strategies for Apple, Disney and Mattel (maker of Barbie).
In Big Business, an ecosystem might include:
- Add-ons, such as Barbie's clothing, accessories, furniture and boyfriend
- Special events, such as conferences or, as with Apple, megawatt marketing announcements
- Fan clubs, that go back to agents in old Hollywood who were rolling out new studio stars
- Social media, ranging from Instagram to long-form articles on blogs
- Newsletters containing "insider" information about the services or products
- Fan accessories, such as baseball caps
- Sponsoring programming as Disney had done in early days of television
- Delivering high-profile presentations such as TED talks
- Creating foundations for related causes
- Nurturing relationships with establishment media and social media influencers
- Performing pro bono work
- Merging, as Facebook has done with Instagram
- Licensing the brand.
Small business could do mini versions of those and increase revenues and profits significantly.
For example, the five-person public relations firm, based in Eastern Ohio, can:
- Introduce add-on services through organic growth, mergers, or partnerships. Those could range from web setups to lobbying on the state level.
- Special events with a narrowly defined how-to instructional purpose. One event could be focused on creating presence in all mediums - in-person, voice, photos, video, digital, and print.
- Niche outreach. This can be through newsletters, blogs, the website, email, ebooks, relationships with influencers, and/or media relations. Essentially this is what public affairs firm kglobal does on the website, tweeting, posting on LinkedIn Updates, influencer outreach, and third-party press relations. Among kglobal's niches is "thought leadership." Here is partner Gene Grabowski's analysis of how convenient, good-enough service at an affordable price - such as Uber's - can neutralize an almost infinite number of negatives.
- Partnering with both large and small organizations, private sector and non-profit, to extend branding through supporting good causes, lobbying for an issue, providing trial purchases, and entertaining. In Austintown, OH, a car dealership has partnered to have the sports stadium carry its brandname. High school football is big.
Of course, this list represents just the tip of the iceberg. Imaginative small business players can activate their inner hustler to come up with other tactics.
How to get started? When Inc., the publication for small business, arrived on the scene, its meme was: Just Ask.
Owners and managers of small business can ask both internally and externally about their ideas for creating an ecosystem. Then, they listen. The next step is to implement what might work. Eventually, reward those who provided initial input.
In the early 21st century, I asked Jack O'Dwyer, who started Odwyerpr.com from scratch, how I could break out beyond the borders of traditional ghostwriting/scriptwriting. Essentially he sketched for me the dynamics of an ecosystem. I was all ears. I put several recommendations in-place. The reward piece took the form of supporting Jack in his dispute with a trade association.
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