What 3 TED talks teach about small business marketing

In her recent post on the importance of continuous learning for small business owners , Jeanne mentioned TED Talks.  I couldn’t agree more that this is a great source for learning and for gaining new perspectives that help us think about managing and marketing small businesses in new ways. Accordingly, today I’m highlighting three talks that provide insights and underscore important ideas to keep in mind when thinking about marketing for your small business.  The original presentations are each available on the TED Web site:

Seth Godin, entrepreneur, marketer and author, on standing out

Google marketing executive Dan Cobley on what physics teach us about marketing

Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on what nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola

Some of you may be asking what these three speakers could possibly have to say that could be relevant to your business; Gates and Cobley speak from experience at big global organizations and Godin likely has no experience in your industry. So here are three takeaways that are particularly important to every small business…

• Data and information: Both Gates and Cobley discuss data and how to use it. To make the most of this resource, do your best to get timely data that allows you to take action when it can make a difference. Whether you are on the alert for a killer disease or the response to a new marketing message, good data let’s you evaluate and improve.

Distinguish between what people say and what they do; knowing both is valuable but only ‘doing’ results in sales. Apply this to your business by looking for opportunities and critical points in your processes at which data collection and analysis would help you to improve or give you early insight into what is working well and what isn’t. You may find you already have such data and can easily use it in new ways.

• Needs, wants and self-image: It’s important to distinguish between these and understand how they interact or don’t interact in the context of your marketing and sales efforts. To paraphrase Gates, ‘it’s a mistake to assume that if people need something they don’t have to also want it.’  This applies equally to her ‘no loo; no I do’ example and Godin’s point about sliced bread. It is also at the heart of Cobley’s observation that consumers’ self-reported habits and actual behavior are frequently quite different from one another.

Apply this to your business by making a list of the needs, wants and self-image of various customers and prospects. Are you doing enough to address all three for every person involved in the decision to buy your product or service?

• Sources of inspiration and insight: Don’t restrict yourself to your own industry or even business in general when looking for ideas. Godin makes the point that differentiating yourself and your ideas – making them remarkable – is increasingly important to success in the marketplace. He does a good job of illustrating this with examples of everything from farm animals to cold medicine to museum design. In their presentations, Gates and Cobley are actually demonstrating how they use ideas from domains beyond their own. Apply this to your business by proactively looking for opportunities to import approaches and practices that you want to try as new initiatives or exploratory projects.

While those are my top three takeaways from these TED Talks, I’m sure there are others. So, I urge you to watch the videos for yourself and share your thoughts in the comments sections of this blog.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover