As a brand strategist, I mostly work with new businesses on establishing themselves as brands – as quickly and as honestly as possible. With Small Business Saturday coming our way (Nov. 26 — make sure to show your support), now is the time to analyze how small businesses brand themselves in an organic grassroots manner – and how startups can learn from these businesses that are rooted in localism and fueled by brand advocates.
Our view of what a small business is has changed over the past decade. The financial crisis of 2008 led to uncertainty and unemployment, which led to people crafting and cooking again and, not so coincidentally, preferring local eateries and buying artisanal products. Many of these products were passionately created by people who had just one product and little to no business background. The best (and often only) way for them to market was by talking to their neighbors. At the same time, a new generation was becoming fed up by corporate America.
To gain insight on all matters local, I sought the opinion of a fellow local entrepreneur who is an expert on the subject, DW Ferrell. I met Ferrell locally when we shared the stage as panelists at the California Women’s Conference a few years ago, and his name popped in my head automatically when I started thinking about this topic. Ferrell was a retail strategist for major brands and shopping centers before veering in the complete opposite direction. He is co-founder of a social enterprise startup, a campaign community and platform marketplace for local makers and merchants that works to accelerate the local marketplace. Needless to say, he lives and breathes this subject matter.
I translated our lengthy and insightful conversation into three key lessons on how a local mindset can propel your startup into a meaningful and dynamic brand that remains true to itself:
Having the right mindset is key. Most brands have a community manager who, more often than not, turns into a social media PR machine who spends half their…