How Small Businesses Can Win in Western Montana

When a business owner gets a bug about increasing the number of qualified customers coming through the door, there are a few things they typically do. One of the most common is to get the staff together in a room and start ‘brainstorming’. These seem helpful on the surface, but the ones I’ve sat in on have been nothing but a few hours of random ideas being tossed out. Lots of assumptions. Lots of pipe dreams with no execution at the end of the day. And if things do reach execution stage, they tend to fall apart because the idea began on a loosely constructed idea of what might work.

So how do you do it? How do you breakthrough and deliver results when you have that customer-getting monster knocking at your door and keeping you awake in bed at night? is currently running a splash advertisement on a popular newspaper’s website. But is this type of advertising worth it?

Simple. Build on what you know and that involves starting with a framework which exists in all businesses. Let me explain.

Each business offers a product or service and there’s no business on earth which doesn’t. This might seem simple, but continuing on, there’s also a concept of what I’ll generally call ‘traffic’. Traffic is everything from people finding your business online and people walking up to the front of your brick and mortar storefront. Lastly, there’s conversion. This word brings with it lots of mystery and many consultants nowadays will use that to their advantage – asking for large sums of money for ‘scientific conversion testing’. But it’s a simple concept of how many people show up and how many convert into actual paying customers.

I’d like to share a few examples from Western Montana local businesses and how they are improving their businesses. Then I’ll explain things along this framework so it makes sense and you can see how to do it for yourself.

The first market I chose is Real Estate. This tends to be, surprisingly, a hodge podge niche where marketing is all over the place. This is common on the Internet and it’s because things change so quickly. What brought in the traffic last year, may not be working in the same exact form this year. And although real estate marketing is known to be one of the largest and deep pocketed places on earth, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the money is being spent wisely.

Now, this in and of itself doesn’t seem to interesting. However, just these two things, taking perhaps a few hours of the business’s time, dramatically increase their exposure. It also improves the advantage they have over competitors in the space and here’s why.

  1. WordPress is and has been a very efficient platform for developing websites for over a decade now. However, many businesses still build their sites using plain ole’ HTML. And some even go as far as hiring a design firm to create a brand new, custom CMS for their business. So while other businesses are diddling and playing around with old technology, you don’t have to. Think about it like this. These other competitors aren’t really even competing with you because they’re using something like an old analog telephone to make phone calls, while you’re using a smart phone. On the smart phone you’re faster. You can click and call at a touch of a button. While competitors are having to punch each and every button to get where they are going. Take my advice and switch to this platform if you want to create and keep a long-term advantage over your competition. Here is another example of a business running on this platform As you can see, this computer repair service can also setup a nicely structured set of pages for presenting all the sub-sets of their service.
  2. Facebook. Facebook is no doubt a significant source of traffic online. And now, what most people are unaware of as I write this, they have entered into the local business marketing space. Providing local business and service listings in practically every location in the United States. This means people can search for your service right inside of Facebook. What does this mean you should be doing at the very least? At least properly registering and setting up your business on Facebook of course.

What to avoid:

I thought I’d also share a list of obstacles anyone will face when they’re entering into this pursuit of growth. One of the biggest things to avoid is what I like to call old school or traditional advertising. While these methods may still produce some results, they are the worst places to start.

  • They include places like newspapers, both digital and print. Here’s a local newspaper which follows suit The Missoulian.
  • Billboards, although clearly un-targeted and expensive, still attract advertisers. Here’s a company who will happily take thousands of dollars of your money in exchange for a pretty ad everyone can see for a split second on their way to work.
  • Then, let’s not forget about radio. Radio advertising still has this allure of being effective. But you usually only have that impression if you’re sitting on the other side of the table from a sales person. In reality, radio is only effective for a very mature business. ‘Mature’ as in that business has covered all their other bases and they’re now adding it in. Definitely don’t start here.

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