The internet and its wealth of information have a curious effect on modern consumers: they are actually well-equipped, for the first time in advertising history, to make somewhat well-informed choices about what is happening in the business world. This means that while traditional advertising and marketing still have some influence over consumers' decisions, the most active members of the buying public are ultimately those who spend time researching and learning. Indeed, tools like Wikipedia, Yelp! and even Google make it impossible for the curious consumer not to find out more about any company he chooses to.
Large companies usually have a long and storied history, or at least an interesting tale about how they came to be. Additionally, they typically command a wealth of information about their products and services, and that's before they spend any of their marketing budget on self-promotion. This presents a difficulty for small businesses, especially those that haven't been around very long and don't have very much of a public profile. Even if small businesses have raised the awareness of their services in the public's eye using promotional products, inbound marketing techniques and some traditional advertising, there might be nothing of substance for the consumer to research.
For this reason and more, history is important for small businesses. Companies like Coca-Cola and Ford can imbue their logos, brands and marketing ventures with the rich history of their own companies and of America itself. Such businesses have tied themselves to events, emotions and places in history, and small businesses can do the exact same thing. Here are some specific strategies that businesses can use to accomplish similar results.
Telling a story
No matter how small a company is and no matter how mundane the events surrounding its creation are, a story does exist. All that's missing is a detail or anecdote that makes the tale appealing and presents the company in a more interesting light. Perhaps the owner feels very strongly about financial reform and used this powerful emotion as motivation to open an accounting firm. It could be the case that the site of an auto dealership was once a colonial trading post, and it inspires the manager every day. Either way, small business websites should have a story to tell. A heartfelt tale on a website gives a company an identity that is sorely needed to differentiate it from other organizations.
Henry Ford is a famous American, a larger than life man who supposedly revolutionized manufacturing. That doesn't mean that every small business owner needs to portray themselves as a visionary. However, it does indicate that having a cast of characters is useful when trying to create the image and character of a company. Perhaps company biographies of the important workers at a small parts manufacturing warehouse could appear on the company blog. Another idea is to collect stories from the work day, complete with information about the players in the tale. These humanizing elements help transform the abstract art of creating a narrative through marketing.