Marketing for Ultra-Small Businesses

Travel to St Lucia. Make your way to Rodney Bay on the North-West corner of the island. Plop down on the warm, caramel colored sand, and watch.

And do you know what you’ll see?

Ultra-small business at work.

How small is ultra-small?

Try one guy with a green plastic laundry basket on his shoulder, which contains nine coconuts, one sleeve of white paper cups, and one large beat-up kitchen knife; walking up and down the beach selling fresh coconut water.

And if you were this fine purveyor of coconut water, how would you market your small business?

Would you create a character diamond for your brand’s personality? Would you write an origin story? Would you create a bonding campaign of ads? Would you buy a 52-week radio schedule, billboards, and tv spots?

Probably not.

It wouldn’t make sense, to say the least, for this small business to do those things. It would cost too much and not actually solve the problem. Because, in the realm of marketing, this business doesn’t have a differentiation problem, or a customer bonding problem, or a complex product problem.

It has a customer awareness problem and that’s pretty much it.

How do you solve a customer awareness problem?

Make the customer aware of what you sell in the fewest number of and most precise words possible.

In the case of our fine coconut water vendor, his marketing message consisted of shouting two words, “Coconut Water.” (Every now and again, when feeling fancy, he’d add a third word, “fresh” to the mix.)

Based on how often I saw him set his green laundry basket down, pull out the knife, crack open a coconut and serve it, I’d say his marketing strategy was working just fine.

Because when you’re an ultra-small business (and your product category and target audience warrant it) sometimes the most effective marketing strategy is to simply make your customers aware of what you sell.

 – Zac Smith, VC