Local Advertising’s Evolution and Why You Should Work With a Boutique Agency

Back in the day, the YellowPages was where it was at. If you could get noticed in the book, you were sure to get customers calling. When I was doing consulting, I spent a lot of time with the sales team at directory companies. I heard stories about how small business owners would line-up outside the YP office, waiting to get their ad in the book. Picture black Friday at a Walmart and that is what they claim it was like. I believe them too, a lot of these guys are driving BMW and Lexus’ around town as a result of the commissions they’ve made in that era. They’ve paid off houses and student loans from the run they had. From what I understand, working for a directory service like the YellowPages felt similar to what working at Facebook or Google feels like today. The business came to you and you were basically an order taker; and a well compensated one at that.

But then everything changed. It was gradual too, so it snuck-up on people and caught them off-guard. The Internet started to gain traction and small business marketing budgets starting to diversify and allocate a portion for online advertising opportunities. They still spent a good deal with “the book”, mostly because the web was still a nascent marketing channel and the opportunities were limited. So YP sales people kept taking orders and continued to make money; granted a little less but still a good income. So, although everyone knew the web was gaining a little, they remained calm. Directories rolled out a few new features to help YP ads stand out. They released a website to increase advertising opportunities and tried to evolve. They just did it so slowly.

Eventually, small business owners started getting calls from SEO companies and PPC experts. They learned about new technology and advertising platforms. They learned how to optimize a website. Long story short, they learned new techniques for marketing online and started to invest more into it. Unfortunately, many of these so-called SEO and PPC experts were simply wannabe entrepreneurs that wanted to capitalize on the opportunity. They all had a great pitch but very few of them could back it up. So they took the SMB’s money and did their best. Sometimes with less than spectacular results.

Despite all of the noise and fakes that were popping up there were some legit companies that knew what they were doing. Many of them were local agencies that had morphed into digital marketing firms, leveraging real advertising and brand capabilities to deliver digital marketing solutions. This was a great era for the local small business because they had access to a real agency and the talent and big picture thinking that comes with that; and since most agencies were just getting their own feet with digital, they were pricing themselves in an affordable way and giving the SMB a great value for the money spent. But again things transitioned and bigger brands came knocking. The traditional clients that the agencies worked with starting needing more and more digital work done. The demand made it difficult for agencies to manage both small and large projects and a decision was made to focus on the big billers. So a lot of agencies abandoned main street and went back to focusing on larger clients and projects.

The next era of evolution was the era where smaller agencies start popping everywhere. Entrepreneurs who worked at the large agencies recognized an opportunity to start a boutique agency that would serve the SMB market. They priced themselves a little lower, applied the same agency thinking and process and started to get to work. This was also the era when web services went big-box and companies like GoDaddy, and SitePoint started to grow. They got into the web design business, SEO game and provided marketing solutions of all kinds to small business owners. These options continued to grow and grow. Soon, we had too many and that is kind of where we are today. With all of the choices, a lot of small business owners feel paralyzed.

I completely understand too. It seems like everyone wants the SMB dollar but few are providing any real value. You’ve got your freelancers, boutique agencies, big-box web companies, YP sales rep and a bunch of local experts that all claim to increase your bottom line. But who do you trust? I can’t say I have the answer either. I’ve seen situations where a big-box is the right choice; then I’ve seen situations where the freelancer works great. For some, working with a smaller, boutique agency is the way to go. At the end of the day though I still think it comes down to a gut-check.

Because the tactics and techniques that all of these companies will use to market an SMB are fairly universal, we can assume that they won’t change much. What will change is the approach to getting them done. Most companies will provide all the essential tactics to get a campaign going, linkbuilding, web design, SEO, social etc… all fairly ubiquitous in terms of use. But the way they go about servicing and reporting results is where the rubber meets the road.

Service is the differentiator in a digital world. It’s also where a lot of big-box companies drop the ball. Unfortunately, freelancers seem to struggle with this too. In my experience it is the boutique local agency that does the best job. The team of 5-10 smart minds that left the big corporate marketing world to start a small business for themselves. These are the people that know what you are going through as an SMB. These are the people with real skin in the game. They have a reputation to maintain and a business to grow and that can’t happen without them growing yours. So, my advice is to steer clear of the freelancers, big-box service companies and inflated agencies. Find a local firm that you can meet in person and get to know.

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Identify Market For Opening Boutique

Once you engage in a bright thought as to what clothes to retail in your boutique store, your subsequent step is to determine if there is a marketplace for your merchandise. Crucial to your start-up time is the information in this area would-be customers and your target marketplace.

By now you must have identified a niche, and how to fill it. Perhaps you must ask yourself more questions as you are planning further:

Describe your ideal customer. Are there enough of these group in your area to keep you in business? Are there sufficient public in the nearby area who would be willing to purchase the items you would promote, at the prices you would need to charge?

There are several ways to grow in this area which includes: (a) check with suppliers on market demands or trends; (b) have a discussion with would-be customers or so called market surveys who will ultimately wear your clothes; and (c) competitor analysis in the same area your boutique located. These groups of public (suppliers, owners of boutiques and buyers) can provide you with first-hand information in boutique business with the intention of checking if there are already other boutique stores nearby which are producing and promoting the same kind of apparel.

In your specialty niche, discover out everything you can, approaching your competition. Check out how other small businesses, and even the enormous ones, fare in terms of craftsmanship, quality of fabric and styling. Can you figure out better, or at least approximate of their levels? If not, you should reorganize your business strategy. They can be able to present you insights and actuality ideas on the subject of consumers buying patterns and more importantly, the valuable ideas of what kinds of clothes consumers are demanding which retail preeminent in today’s trends. When I mentioned, check out your competition means to compare it healthily with the meaning to match your quality to market demands, and not with a primary motive to outbid others as you can by no means be pleased. It can be a win-win circumstances and I like to tell you again that marketplace is enormous.

You can be very well-planned to start-up your boutique business, however as would-be boutique owners need to know with the intention of there are a amount of unique factors in this area the clothing business. Small businesses mug an increasing competition from lofty firms known their marketing muscles and economies of extent. There are furthermore a growing number of boutique stores that significantly tightens the competition. More small and home-based entrepreneurs are interested in opening a boutique business. The motive can be partly due to the prominent margins of this business.

This on top of detail must excite you and must not be a show stopper for you to opening a boutique. Small business needs to come up with the resources to survive with the rapid changes in apparel trends and styles, so focus on tackling these areas than wasting your energy and effort in competing with the boutique next door. There are many boutique businesses are able to overcome these challenges successfully primarily since of having appropriately strategy and mindset, they even grow to be converted into powerhouses in their segments.

These can sound easy but trust me, many boutique businesses disastrous a short time ago because of overlooking the basic strategy and simple execution.

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