October 03, 2016

Making the Most of ‘Made in Kansas City’: Why small businesses need to invest in marketing

While the “Made in KC” mark is becoming ubiquitous on T-shirts and tote bags around the region, the slogan is more than just the name of a popular local brand––it’s actually quite a powerful movement. In fact, we’re a city full of creators, makers and innovators––and it’s time to spread the word!

Of course, Kansas City is no stranger to large, global corporations – we’re quite proud of them, actually ­– but one of this region’s biggest strengths is our wealth of small- and medium-sized businesses. They’re not only building our local economy but giving all of us a sense of hometown pride. Local entrepreneurs risk it all to develop a new idea or build a company from the ground up, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I count myself lucky to be one of them!

Unfortunately, many of these business owners have so much on their plate that telling their amazing stories gets pushed to the back burner. And many believe they’re too small to benefit from a marketing investment. It’s time to change that mindset.

‘Magic ingredient’

I’m no stranger to a bottle of Pale Ale, and Boulevard’s growth to become one of the most successful craft brewers in the country is well-known around these parts. But great-tasting beer isn’t worth much if no one knows about it––something I’m betting John McDonald knew as he hoisted that first keg into the back of his pickup.

Of course, B2B businesses face different challenges than retail, but the principle is the same. Yes, you have a large laundry list of daily tasks you must accomplish as a business owner, but make sure marketing is at the top. Steve Strauss, a lawyer and writer for USAToday.com, had this to say about marketing for small businesses:

“Marketing is the magic ingredient to small-business success. It can make an unknown business known and a small business big. Marketing gets the word out. It allows you to not only locate and create new customers, but it also helps you stay top-of-mind with current customers. It is a megaphone, a friendly introduction, and a gentle reminder all rolled into one.”

Yet, many business leaders are reluctant to pull the trigger. A Capital One Spark Business poll in 2015 showed that 39 percent of U.S. small-business owners had made no marketing investment at all, even though the top challenge listed by these owners was reaching new prospects. This is one of the primary reasons Crux was formed––to provide executive-level marketing and strategy with business expertise that results in a simple, smart and affordable marketing solution for our clients.

3 Steps to Small-Business Marketing Strategy

If you’re like many of your peers, you know deep down you need to invest in marketing, but you probably don’t know where to start. Like most things in life, you just need a map to know where you’re going, along with a starting point:

  1. Decide where you want to go – If you don’t know the destination, how will you know when you arrive? Write out a description of your target audience as well as the specific outcomes you want to achieve. Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CMO at Kodak, wrote this recently for Fortune: “Whether you are working on creating a marketing plan, on-boarding a new client or starting a new project, start by defining the conditions of satisfaction and have all parties approve them. This helps keep projects on track, ensures that you’re meeting expectations, and mitigates politics.”
  2. Make a personal connection – Gone are the days when the best marketing tool at your disposal was a shotgun blast of direct mail to every “Postal Customer” in a 10-zip-code region. Effective marketing is all about hitting your target in the most effective (and cost-effective) manner. Once you get to know your client, define tactics that seek to make a personal connection. Online marketing can be especially useful because you’re able to not only target your audience more accurately but also respond to questions and concerns in real time. People now expect that kind of service, and you’ll be at a disadvantage if you’re not delivering it.
  3. Create content with value – “Content marketing” is no longer just a buzzword; it’s proven to be quite effective at building brands. Because it provides a value to your clients, it’s received much more positively than a simple advertising message, which most people have learned to ignore. While it can be time-consuming to produce, it nevertheless reinforces the relationship you’re building.

Are you KC’s next big success story?

It’s time for Kansas City businesses to start tooting their own horns! The strength of our local entrepreneurs is one of the reasons this city is recognized time and again for what it offers to its residents, but we need to be more proactive in spreading the good word.

While it may seem like spending more money and time is an extra step you can’t afford, a solid marketing strategy will enable you to grow your client base and spread your message––and show the rest of Kansas City why your name is the next one they need to know.

Melea McRae is a big fan of many local brands and products, including Charlie Hustle, Zum Bar Soaps, and Eli’s Strongarm Vodka at Tom’s Town. As founder and CEO of Crux, she’s taking her own advice and spreading the word about how she’s helping many other Kansas City companies tell their own stories. Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @findyourcrux.

About the author: Melea McRae is a marketing strategist with 25+ years of B2B and B2C experience leading client-facing marketing departments, where she earned the reputation as an insightful brand strategist. As SVP and CMO at the Greater KC Chamber of Commerce, she led the organization’s marketing and business development efforts. In July 2016, Melea launched Crux KC, providing an in-house marketing team, outsourced – the “un-agency” – for her small-to-mid-sized clients. As founder and CEO, she builds marketing, communication and business development strategies for her clients, while positioning them for sustainable growth.

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