In two of my previous blog entries, I have alluded to the subject I am addressing today. In October’s blog, “Are you going halfway in meeting client needs,” I discussed the importance of working with clients on their CRM/retention marketing efforts.

In June 2012, I addressed organisational evolution and referenced client expenditures in their proprietary media platforms in my post entitled “Healthy organisations, like organisms, need to evolve.

Well, on November 16, I was addressing a small business audience at Rutgers Business School, and we were having a lively exchange. And this topic emerged again.

I told them that they were competing in an era of unprecedented empowerment for small businesses. Technology has enabled them to compete and communicate in ways that were unimaginable two decades ago and perhaps only vaguely understood one decade ago.

First, some (if not many) small businesses not limited to local geography by their product or service can market their business anywhere they choose. Any business able to develop the communications, transaction, and delivery platforms can be a global marketer.  

Second, today’s small business can also be a media entrepreneur. In fact, some of them have developed into media maestros! Managing their own Web sites, social media identities, mobile platforms/apps, newsletters, and other CRM communications tools put them in control of their customer communications.

These same tools, combined with SEO/SEM, directory listings, referral strategies, and other tools serve them quite well in the area of acquiring new customers.

In fact, I know one enterprising young woman who rose from weeknight bartender to restaurant promotions manager and ultimately corporate marketing director for a chain of restaurants without ever buying an ad in traditional media. In fact she never paid for an ad at all, digital search or otherwise.

She demonstrated to top management how to harness the power of their Web presence and social media in the same way that she communicated with her friends and family.


Fortunately for those of us in the media world, most small businesses are not masters of media strategy. They are restaurateurs, jewelers, financial planners, retailers of many kinds, medical professionals ... and they are absolutely bewildered by all the options. They have none of the expertise to cope with it.

For now.   

So there is a window of time (closing as we speak) in which we can “rush to the rescue” and establish an entirely new and much richer relationship than ever before with local advertisers. But is a relationship in which we need to secure their investment in services and expertise as much if not more than advertising.

We need to build their Web audiences, recruit their friends and followers, edit and post their tweets and posts, blogs, etc. We need to understand and recommend the messaging strategies they will need, not just where to deliver their message.

We need to embrace the agency model of client services, where we are billing for graphic design, copywriting, Web hosting, social media and brand management, and justifying these expenditures with measurable ROI outcomes.

And we have the capacity to do so in a magnificent way.

No other traditional or digital medium, even today in the midst of our troubles, has the capacity to offer the local business the resources to compete with the national marketers — to put the local Italian restaurant on a competitive footing with the national chain (e.g. Olive Garden) in their community.

I see many newspaper/multi-media companies already shifting their sales focus in this direction. What is disappointing and frustrating is that most of them see the addition of these products, tools, and services as merely additions to the product line that their staff need to sell.

There is a huge shift in culture necessary, and re-titling sales people as consultants doesn’t make it so.  

Here is the paradox we need to understand and embrace:

If we focus on maximising our clients’ success rather than our own, we will become more successful ourselves.

I’d love to hear from those of you who “get it” and even more interested in those who “do it. Please comment, criticise, analyse, but above all, respond. Let me know what you think.