Big data, Marketing Intelligence, and Customer Analytics have dominated the marketing conversation in recent years and show no sign of slowing down.  The Wall Street Journal crowned “digital marketing” and “big data” this year’s dominating topics at Ad Week, and IDC projects big data to continue to grow at a rate of over 31% ayear.  With Big Data, marketers now have visibility into everything from customer demographics to purchasing patterns.  All of this visibility comes with a hefty price tag both in terms of financial investment and human capital.  Large corporations may have the funds and staff to make the investment, but what about the small businesses? With all of this new (very expensive) insight, how can small business keep up?

Before the days of Big Data, debit cards, and (I’m really dating myself) email, my friends and I would often walk up to the local icecream shop.  The Dairy King is a landmark in my hometown, the kind of institution that weaves itself into the fabric of a community.  For over 40 years it has managed not just to stay in business (no small feat in Detroit, Michigan) but also to thrive in a way that every small business owner dreams.  Other ice creams shops, both national chains and locally owned, have opened within miles of the Dairy King only to close their doors a few years later.  Even today, competitors armed with the best marketing intelligence money can buy can’t steal away local Dairy King patrons.  Sure, the soft serve is good and they make amazing dilly bars, but in the end, they all serve ice cream.  What really drives their success? The Dairy King enjoys the competitive edge by following thse threegolden rules of small business marketing.

1. Leverage your workforce:  Walk up to the window at the Dairy King and the smiling face of a local high school cheerleader or the soccer coach’s son will greet you.  Every kid lucky enough to score a summer job at the Dairy King is hired not just to make milk shakes, but also to bring in hundreds of customers.  The atmosphere of the business depends on the employees, so hiring workers that can attract customers and create pleasant environment is essential to the culture of the business.

2. Create some buzz:  Each year near the end of the winter, the Dairy King begins making preparations for their grand re-opening.   For close to 40 years the interior has remained unchanged, but the exterior is given new life each spring.   The exact date of opening day is always a tightly held secret and one that causes a lot of speculation; it’s just the kind of buzz the owners are hoping to create.  The exterior revival kicks off a flurry of discussions that keeps Dairy King on everyone’s mind and more importantly brings everyone to the store on opening day.  Creating buzz surrounding your business will keep you in the forefront of your customers’ minds and continue bringing them back to your store.

3. Strategic Advertising:  A piece of marketing intelligence that the Diary King enjoys and no amount of Big Data will everreveal is Rotary Club Chicken Dinner Night.  Every year thousands of locals partake in this tradition by lining up for their box dinner.  What’s printed on the outside of each of those thousands of boxes? Yup, the Dairy King logo of course. Residents enjoying a chicken dinner in the park are conveniently reminded of the ice cream shop located only 2 blocks away.  These types of advertising opportunities are available in every community.  Participating in these low cost highly targeted opportunities give your small business a competitive edge over large corporations every time.


Small businesses aren’t completely boxed out of the Big Data space.  To find tips how on you can leverage Big Data click here.