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Does Your Small Business Marketing Suffer From The Bulldog Effect?

If you're an entrepreneur responsible for your own small business marketing, there's a marketing method you should avoid at all costs, which I've coined the bulldog effect for reasons you will understand shortly. Keep reading to find out if you're guilty of using this technique in your own marketing and learn how to fix it.

After a recent weekend jaunt to San Diego, my husband and I arrived back in Los Angeles tired and hungry, so we walked the small handful of blocks to a local all-night diner to grab a quick bite to eat. And it was there that we were smacked in the face with an example of unusual small business marketing, to say the least.

We live near a shopping district where small businesses cater to everyone from people like my husband and myself to the elderly from the retirement homes nearby. And it was one store catering to this population of older citizens that had us in hysterics when we should have been concentrating on finding some grub.

Your products sell themselves? Think again

You might think a shop selling wheelchairs would have it easy in such a neighborhood -- a huge target audience planted right there, a captive audience if you will. And you'd be right. During the day, you see almost as many disabled elderly individuals out shopping as you do younger/able-bodied people.

So from the sounds of things, maybe small business marketing tactics aren't as important for a shop like this because the products practically sell themselves. Right? Wrong.

Despite the fact that I am not the target audience, I am a marketer and take notice of new marketing approaches so that I can try them out myself and share them with subscribers to my small business marketing newsletter. But that night, my husband and I just wanted a bite to eat.

Some things you can't ignore

As we walked, however, there was no way to miss the latest marketing efforts of the shop in question. This shop, which features very little in the way of shopfront advertising, had put an oversized poster in the window to promote a new model of wheelchair ... complete with a grumpy, overweight bulldog planted right in the middle of it.

Sure, it's lovely that the dog's fanged underbite finally got the recognition it deserved. And of course the wheelchair came across loud and clear as the other "hero," the main focus of the image ... other than the dog sprawled across the seat, smiling that is. (I am also almost certain that a wheelchair wholesaler created this poster and not the store itself.)

And you bet the poster got our attention. However, displayed as prominently as it was, the poster overshadowed any credibility the store might otherwise have had in terms of their expertise in finding less-able people the right wheelchair for their needs. Why? Because apparently, they also help pedigreed pooches do the same.

Of course I say this in jest, but use this as a lesson for your own small business marketing materials. No, I'm not suggesting that you have an image of a bulldog on your homepage or in your catalog -- and if you do and it makes sense, by all means continue to do so.

Rather, take this bulldog story as an analogy to your own marketing and think of ways to make your small business marketing message clearer and more meaningful to your target audience.

Rid your own campaigns of the bulldog effect

Here are some questions to get you thinking about your own small business marketing:

1) Whether we're talking about a simple website, a brochure or even just your business card, are you marketing yourself the way you want to be perceived by your customers?

2) Some use of characters (comic book characters, superheroes, etc.) is effective when used appropriately. Are you using the right type of character to set the tone for your business? Think critically about how others might perceive your campaigns.

3) Trusting your own instincts is dangerous without a reality check. Ask some of your customers what they think of your current marketing. Bear in mind that if they are customers, they are, in fact, buying from you despite any protests they may have with your marketing approach, so take their feedback with a grain of salt.

4) Ask strangers to your business what they think of your current marketing. These should not be people you know or else they will not be as candid.

5) Test everything! Regardless of what approach you take, test one version against the next to see what sells more. Experiment. Mix and match. But measure your results so that you know that your bulldog should be removed. Or not.

In closing, first impressions count, and you need to ensure that the message you're broadcasting to your prospects is the right one. Use this tail -- I mean, tale -- to see if there's anything you can improve in your own small business marketing.

Copywriter/marketing strategist Jennifer McCay helps individuals and small businesses turn their expertise into marketing success stories. She is the publisher of the Avenues to Marketing Success Newsletter, which delivers tips to help you rev up your small business marketing. To subscribe and receive a FREE special report on 7 ways to improve your sales copy, head to http://AvenueEast.com

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