Small Business Marketing – The Commodity Trap

CityStir Small Business Marketing Are you marketing your small business like a commodity?

All too often small businesses, CityStir Marketing included, in an effort to get business compromise on price.  We offer a huge discount to get business in the hopes that it will give us future business.  Guess what it doesn’t work.

Competing on price is a losing proposition.  It creates a commodity mentality for your client.  For the most part almost everything we sell is a commodity.  The one exception to this rule is Service.  Service is the differentiator.  If you are still trying to compete on price you are doomed to fail.  The race for the bottom has no winners.  There will always be some company or individual that is willing to do what you do cheaper.  It might be the guy down the street or someone half way across the world, but there is always someone willing to do more for less.

What separates you from the competition?

It has to be service.  In today’s market place most products can be easily substituted.  Rarely is a product so superior that it has no equals.  A customer centric approach to marketing is the best way to set your company apart from the competition.  The first way to avoid the trap is to rethink what your product or services does.  Products and services that solve problems or provide positive feeling rarely get sucked into the commodity trap.  If you sell appliances it is tough to compete against the big box stores.  However if you position your store as a place where mothers can come to learn about healthy cooking for the entire family – You’ve just taken the stove from an appliance to something more than that, it is an extension of a caring mother giving the best to her family.

Don’t let what others are doing define your business.  People will buy solutions to problems at any price.  Always position your products and services to be that solution.

Lucy And The Football

Small Business Marketing Solutions from CityStirThe iconic animation of Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute is an indelible visual.  Does the kicking and missing sound familiar?  We all have those suppliers in our working lives whose pitch sounds mighty good.  The ultimate delivery and efficacy of goods, not so much.  We are a faith-based citizenry.  We want to believe the sales pitch.

Big Business“Is there anything else we can help you with?”  (this is the response when they can’t resolve your problem)

Us-“You can help me with the problem I called you in the first place!” 

CityStir Marketing is solely focused on small business solutions.  Big business considers shareholder value a success, consumer experience ephemeral.  Yet we continue to run to the football expecting a clean strike through the goal posts.   There is an imbalance in expectation versus return.

I keep getting the bill in the mail and dutifully returning the payment.  Like most of you, these checks are getting harder to write.

Do we expect too much or are we used to whiffing?

Small Business Marketing – CityStir Now Offering SMS to Small Business Owners

Small Business marketing is changing fast.  Mobile marketing is quickly becoming omnipresent in every small business marketing strategy.

Consider the following:

  • 55% of Americans between ages 18-24 have used their mobile device for shopping.
  • 72% of Americans have used text messaging.
  • 82% of Americans with a mobile device don’t leave home with out the device.
  • 97% of Text messages are opened.

SMS Marketing (Short Message Service) is the most immediate form of marketing available to small business owners.  Within five seconds of sending a message. 97% of the recipients will open the message.  The speed of SMS Marketing allows you to send a “call to action” to your clients and prospects in real time.  SMS Marketing doesn’t need lead time–you can send a message to your clients in a matter of seconds.  CityStir Marketing SMS messages are tracked and you can quickly adjust your campaigns to ensure maximum benefits and ROI.

Mobile marketing business in the 21st century–you can send coupons, run specific sales, and remind clients of appointments.

In addition to SMS Marketing, our mobile marketing solutions include QR Codes and mobile websites.  As your customers become more mobile, this is your perfect opportunity to be in front of the curve and ahead of the competition.

We invite you to learn more about CityStir Marketing’s Mobile solutions.

So You Say You Are A Visionary?

Real Estate Industry GuruDo you see the future?  Do your visions stir you from a deep sleep?  Have they propelled you to scribble fluff or pontificate about what will be?  Your faithful author thinks we have outgrown you.  You are a divining rod, a tarot card, a palm scratcher, a crazy person on the street selling pencils from a cup.  We have evolved in spite of you and away from you.

I used to be a hopeful agnostic.  I wanted to believe in premonitory skill.  I wanted to believe that those with Ivy League diplomas and enough real-world experience could rationally extrapolate likely outcomes.  Atheism has taken hold.  I have a prediction—your psychic irrelevance.

In the days following September 11, 2001 the nut jobs began warbling that Nostradamus had predicted the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York—this little gem of a quatrain:

In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress endures,
The great leader will succumb,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.

Did the “oracle” predict the fall of the World Trade Center or the break-up of Simon and Garfunkel?

The brightest minds on Wall Street failed to predict the economic collapse of 2008.  Given the choice of risking nest-egg money with Lehman Brothers or Blackjack at the Bellagio, which seems the better bet in hindsight?  Consumers put their trust (and life savings) in the largest financial institutions because they claimed to know how markets behaved thus reducing risk.  The outcome of these forecasts would not have been a surprise if transparency existed and  investors knew the financial institutions were shorting the products they sold.  Their only focus was then as it is now–self-interest and financial celebrity.

Real estate gurus have been predicting the return of a blazing housing market for the last five years—with no data or evidence to support their soothsaying.  Promulgating false information served self-interest.  ”You should buy now, we have reached a market bottom and things are heating up again!”–2009-2011.

So you say you are a visionary?  Before you stencil that on your office door, bring me some winning lottery numbers.

Until then…..keep your visions to yourself.


Marketing Like Mikey

CityStirMarketing - Market Like MikeyFor some reason the old Life Ceral commercial was in my head this morning.  You know the one, let Mikey try it he won’t like it, he hates everything.  I started to think Mikey can give us some very valuable business lessons.

Marketing isn’t a try it once kind of thing.  All successes require trying a number of things and doing those things consistently.  You can’t say this won’t work, or we tried that once and it didn’t work.  Think out side of the box and be willing to try something new, or try something more than once. So next time you start to think it won’t work…..give Mikey a chance, you might be surprised with the results.

Marketing Your Small Business, Locally Owned and Operated!


CityStir Shop Local Small BusinessIn today’s world of Big Box Stores and Online Retailers, Locally Owned and Operated has a special meaning with most of us.  Locally Owned and Operated gives us that feeling that we can trust you and your business.  Unfortunately a special feeling isn’t enough to ensure success.

When many of us think of marketing, we often associate marketing with expensive TV, Radio and God forbid Newspaper campaigns.  Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, and with the internet it has certainly taken on many different forms.  If you are running your own business, no matter what you are selling, it is important that your customers know that you exist.

One of the best ways to go about marketing your locally owned and operated small business is by using the power of Video.  Not an expensive Television Campaign.  Just some simple videos with you telling the community what you do and why they should do business with you.  Websites with video content are view much more than websites without video content.  It is no secret that many individuals enjoy watching videos, just look at the popularity of sites like YouTube.  Speaking of YouTube you should also create your own YouTube Channel.

If you run a locally owned and operated small business, you should have your business listed in the numerous online directories.  Online directories are often free.  These directories are critical to helping you be found online.  Yelp, CityStir, and Merchant’s Circle are just a few of the directories.  Many of these directories allow the public to post reviews of you business.  You should encourage your satisfied customers to do so, and you should monitor these reviews so you can respond to any negative or false reviews.

Blogging is another great way to advertise your business.  If you maintain a business blog, you can use it as a great way to keep the public informed about what is going on in your business.  If you’re having a special sale this week let the community know by writing a blog about.  Opening a new store or location, that makes a great blog entry.  Many business owners are scared by the thought of blogging or writing about their business, it may be a little out of the comfort zone at first but after a few attempts you will get the hang of it.  Blogging is also a great way to help your business be found on the internet.  Fresh content is a key component to letting the search engines know you have great content.

Nothing says locally owned and operated more than participating with the local community.  One of the easy ways to stay up to date with your community is through social media.  Get involved and offer great advice and great services to your local community through social media.  Create or be involved in community facebook pages, community websites, and other social media outlets.  Use these vehicles to promote your business and find sponsorship opportunities.  Technology has created an environment where there are no limits to what you can do.  Be creative, and be fun.  Social Media is still in its infancy, so use your imagination.

For additional marketing ideas, feel free to reach out to your local CityStir Ambassador.  If you can’t find CityStir in your area click here and let’s see if we can change that.  Send me an email or follow me @MorganCityStir

Top Copywriter Rick Duris Reveals How to Get Free SMS Text Messaging for Small Business Owners

CityStir Gets Rick Duris to review his Twitter Secrets

Copyright: Annette Shaff

(Jeff) Hey Rick, thanks for taking some time to speak with me today.   Recently you published a great tip about how businesses can get an SMS Broadcast service for Free, will you tell us about that?

(Rick) Over the last month or two, I’ve perfected a marketing strategy using Free SMS texting messaging.

That’s right, I said you NEVER pay for text messages!  Why should you pay 5 cents to 14 cents per text message to send special offers and deals to your customers?  It adds up fast!

Even costs a penny a piece which doesn’t sound like much at first, but those penny’s can really add up!

I’ve shared this with three dozen businesses so far and it’s a true breakthrough for them.  They can’t wait to try it.

So, how can any business owner send unlimited text messages for absolutely no charge?

To do it, we’re going to route our messages through our friend, Twitter.


1. Go to Twitter and create an account for your business but with the word “deal”, “coupon” or “offers” in the Twitter name.

(The idea is to make the name easy to remember.)

Let’s say your business is a restaurant called “Kim’s Koffee”, your Twitter name could be KoffeeDeals.

2. Then the business owner advertises her text message service”

The call-to-action can be something like:

Text “Follow KoffeeDeals” to 40404 for VIP specials, offers and discounts.

Then each time you tweet a deal under the KoffeeDeals Twitter account, your customers will receive it via a text message.

Pretty cool, uh? Try it!

3. BONUS: When customers text “Follow KoffeeDeals ” to 40404, they will not only receive future deals, they also receive the LAST TWEET that was previously sent.

4. Get this: Customers do not have to have a Twitter account in order to receive these text messages, they just have to text “follow (username)” to 40404 and they will be subscribed.

5. The particular Twitter account you set-up is JUST for text message offers. It does not replace your regular Twitter account. And with this special account, you shouldn’t send out more than 1-2 offers per week.


(Jeff) Rick that’s a really creative way to use Twitter for anyone’s business.  As a recognized copywriting expert, what do you think is the most effective way to get your message across in 140 characters or less?

(Rick) It’s a bit of a secret, but it’s letting your personality shine through.  It’s easy to do.  Just be yourself.

Yeah, you can have curiousity and benefit and such, but including your personality allows people to trust and connect with you more.

(Jeff) Hey Rick tell our readers a little about yourself?

Sure.  With being boastful, I’m considered one of the top copywriters in the US.  I got my start writing copy for my own software business using direct mail.  Fell in love with it.  There’s no more important skill in business.

Since I transferred my skills online and learned traffic generation and conversion from partners.  They’re some of the best SEO, PPC, organic and paid traffic folks in the country.  I’ve learned a lot from and they from me.

So between copywriting and conversion optimization, as well as marketing strategy and targeted traffic generation, I can pretty much help any ambitious online entrepreneur or business owner.

What makes me unique, is I am extremely creative when it comes to business building and writing copy.  In short, my stuff converts.  :)   If folks want to find out more about me, they can go to

Uninformed vs. Wrong

If you do all the research, read all the studies and listen to all the customer feedback, you are well informed.  Then why do you continue to make bad branding or marketing decisions?  Your budget doesn’t permit a change?  Your brand is built on fallacies which cannot be changed?  It’s too late to change your recipe?

My Southern mother used to recite (in jest) a common saying among the uneducated–”I may be ignorant, but I ain’t stupid.”  If you continue to knowingly make business decisions that hijack the future of your brand because of short-term set backs, you are delaying the inevitable decline.  And that decline always comes sooner than you think.

You know better.

The Back Seat Driver

My mother-in-law is the heavyweight champion of backseat drivers.  When my wife and I travel to her moneyed enclave in Florida, all driving duties are ceded to me.  She starts with strained sighs and muffled critiques when brakes are applied or acceleration surprises her.  Criticism eventually builds to one of her favorite exclamations, “Oh no!” or “Oh dear god!”

How many of us have a backseat driver in our business life?  Do you have a colleague who is always first with criticisms of “slow down” or “speed up” or “watch out”?  You can read the street signs, obey the traffic signals and follow suggestions of the GPS.  But how many great new ideas and products have a GPS attached?  How many disruptive innovations obey speed limits?  How many products are introduced to the market while in reverse?

Suggest that your colleague take the wheel for a few miles.  This should give her some perspective.



Imagine the Unitied States without the Free Exchange of Ideas

One of the most basic rights we enjoy in The United States of America is Freedom of Speech.

SOPA and PIPA, The Stop Online Priracy Act (HB 3261) and The Protect IP Act (S 268) are two pieces of legislation currently making their way through the United States Congress.  Although both pieces of legislation have honorable purposes they are drafted in a manner that makes the enforcement of these laws scarey to say the least.

The intent is to stop online piracy and copywrite infridgment.  However the laws effectively hold the internet service providers responsible for the actions of their clients.

Without much thought this may seem reasonable.  But when you read through the bill it seems more like something we would see in North Korea than the United States.

Not being expert in law, I am not going to try and explain the legislation, however here are a couple of good links.

The free exchange of knowledge and ideas is the foundation that has made our country great.  Anything to slow down that exchange is certainly Un-American to say the least.