3 useful small business marketing strategies from the Summer Olympics

runner coachThe incredible achievements of 10,500 athletes from 204 nations competing in the XXX Olympiad Summer Games is any marketer’s dream. Billions of people paying attention, day after day and night after night. The games unfolding in London right now offer a primer on good marketing techniques.

Create urgency

With just a few exceptions, each Olympic race or contest is a do-or-die event. Lose and go home. That urgency is what draws our attention and focus for two incredible weeks. Miss it and you ace to wait another four years, which is easier for spectators than the athletes.

Small business that can create urgency with sales or the value their product or service provides can benefit from people’s inherent need to respond to urgency. We have all seen this approach on informercials, where the offer expires in a short time or only the first 100 can receive the deal.

What creates urgency that will make your buyers choose what you are offering? Make it matter and people will pay attention.

Tell great stories

The names of great athletes become part of our culture every time the Olympics are held. Swimmers Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Katie Ladecky are but three household names this week. What makes them the talk of the town? It isn’t just their achievements, but the story that unfolds around that achievement. Great, Phelps is now the greatest Olympic athlete of all time. No one can take that away from him, but more interesting is that he’s made his life the Olympics, for the most part, for most of his life, his mother Debbie’s incredible support and his rise after a momentary fall from grace a few years ago. Missy Franklin’s wide-eyed wonderment after a victory shows just how fragile these young adults are and how important these competitions can be to them as they represent their nations. Ladecky is only 15; she shouldn’t have won, but she did. And she could win again and again over the next 12 years.

Everyone loves a good story, a success that emerges from an ordinary person. It gives us hope that we too can rise above whatever holds us back. We all can pump out our chests a bit more because of what those athletes are able to accomplish.

The story about a business is often more important to people than the product or service being sold. How many people do what you do? What story can you tell that makes your dedication to doing what’s right, to truly helping people’s lives with what you sell? I work with many clients on the story. As I learned while being a newspaper reporter, everyone has a story, somewhere deep down. Bringing that story to the forefront can make a huge difference.

Change with the times

The Olympics constantly reinvents itself. Every opening ceremony and closing ceremony has its own unique qualities. They stand on their own, even though they are part of something historic. But it doesn’t end there. The Olympics changes its offerings every four years. In the early days, the Olympics had a poetry competition. (I know this because NPR has been holding its own poetry competition in recognition of this lost “sport”.) Beach volleyball is a newer entrant, owing much of its success to how it portrays women. It’s a sign of the times. The Olympics isn’t afraid to change things up.

As a small business marketing consultant, I see a lot of small business owners who fear change. The result is that the business become stagnant – to the owner, his employees and, most importantly, customers. Change for change sake is often bad. But change that shows a deeper understanding of clients or customers is always good.

What can your business do to show it gets customers of today? For instance, a barbershop I go to and one I have helped with some marketing posts updates on changes to its schedule on Facebook. I find it helpful to know that I can scan my Facebook page rather than call to see if Bill the Barber will be there. Simple, easy, no extra cost.

But the payoff can be huge as people learn to “Like” the Facebook page for the barbershop. That connection opens the door to putting other messages in front of that audience. Often, moving in the direction that better supports the audience we are trying to serve ends up paying off in other ways.

As the Summer Olympics fade into the past, the lessons they teach about good small business can last until the Winter Games in two years and longer.


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