We are well into the holiday shopping season — how’s it going? Did you take full advantage of Small Business Saturday? Are you gathering information about your customers so you can stay in touch over the year? Is your presentation, brick-and-mortar or online, decorated and inviting for holiday shopping? Make certain you’re tracking the numbers so you have information for planning next year.

In the almost three years I have been writing this column, I have never used it for a rant. I know, I checked. I’ve always tried to bring you information to help you and your business grow. Right now I feel the need to get something off my chest.

I consider myself a Marketing Specialist. While advertising is a part of marketing, it is not my primary focus. There is, however, an advertisement running on television that has gotten under my skin and I need to vent.

The ad begins on a snowy main street lined with shops. Colors are dull, shoppers are mulling around looking lost. Suddenly a gentleman in a bright red coat begins to walk up the street singing about the lack of choices and high prices these shoppers are faced with on this street. He urges the shoppers to follow him to a discount box store with a wide selection of gift ideas and low prices. Suddenly there are bright colored lights on the front of the store and the shoppers are dressed in bright clothes as they enter the store. Yes, I see the indication of the herd mentality. I’m certain you have seen it; they play it to the max. I just had to marshal up the courage to speak out.

Here’s my problem. Those shops that line the street are small businesses. It has never been a secret I support small businesses. Why show these businesses as dull, uninteresting and label them expensive? Can’t the advertiser stand on its own merits? Must it downgrade the largest sector of the U.S. economy to try to make itself look good? I understand the big box stores have a right to promote themselves, but why at the expense of small businesses? It’s just wrong.

OK, off my soapbox. I’ve heard everything should be viewed as a teachable moment; I believe that applies here. While the advertisement I spoke of above focuses on the advertiser, let’s look at what it tells us as small business owners. Any promotion you do for your business needs to have stopping power. It must cause folks to stop turning the pages of the magazine or newspaper or stop scrolling through the internet listings or stop their stroll down the street to view your offering. Make it memorable, if you can, make it personal. This applies not only during this time of the year but throughout the rest of the year as well.

The other lesson I would draw from this example is; don’t try to compete on price. Speak to the added value you offer in personalized service, your ability to act and react quickly, how you recognize your customers, call them by name and understand their needs. Promote yourself by being yourself, by being part of the community. I saw a picture of a sign on Facebook that said “Shop here because “an online business” won’t sponsor your kid’s little league team.”

Let me know your thoughts at eddavis@scorevolunteer.org.

For more information and assistance with your business or to request a mentor visit Port Charlotte SCORE at www.portcharlotte.score.org. Volunteers provide confidential business advice to meet the needs of both start-up and existing entrepreneurs at no cost. To learn how you can become a SCORE volunteer contact Nils.Weibull@scorevolunteer.org. Follow us on Twitter; @charlottecscore.

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