We’re lucky to work in a place with countless thriving small businesses. And you probably are too. No matter where you live or work, there are small businesses making the area brighter. We should support them, of course, but, as marketers, we should learn from them too.
The big brands make a splash in the marketing world every day. And there’s a lot we can learn from them – nobody can build an iconic brand like Nike or inspire loyalty like Patagonia. But there’s a lot we can’t learn from Nike and Patagonia: how to drive people to a single, physical location; how to bring the same local customers back over and over; how to bring positive messaging to a specific community; or how to advertise on a shoestring. To learn those things, we have to look closer to home, at the infinitely creative and inspiring small businesses right next door.
Here are three beloved businesses near us (it was hard to pick just three!), and some things we can learn from them. But don’t stop here. Look at your community – who are the small businesses doing big things with their marketing?
Silantra is just down the street from our office, and their asian street kitchen is one of the best restaurants in Lancaster. Their food alone is enough to get a word-of-mouth machine running, but they’re also great marketers. Their website is sleek and usable, and their social is personable and fun.
But what they’ve been great at since they opened is getting the right people to talk about their business, and their unique mission. That’s what good PR is.
Giving back has always been part of Silantra’s DNA. They donate a percent of their total sales to the Power Packs Project, which gives weekend meals to school children going hungry, and educational materials to families without access. Combining that with a dedication to healthy local produce makes Silantra more than just a tasty restaurant. They knew it was the kind of mission people would connect with if they heard about it, and they told their story well. Visiting their Press page shows the kind of publicity they get.
Silantra shows that the first step is caring about something important. The second step is sharing that care clearly and simply. That’s the kind of PR people want to tell their friends about.
It doesn’t hurt if it comes wrapped in a scallion pancake.
Curio. is nestled down a flight of stairs on the edge of Lancaster’s Gallery Row. When you walk in, the space takes you by surprise – it’s clean white and minimal, with tables of neatly arranged art supplies. It looks like the kind of shop Apple Stores are attempting to imitate. But they’re not just good at creating an atmosphere – they’re a great example of a business sustaining itself by creating a community.
Curio. isn’t just the place you go to buy sketchbooks and pencils. It’s a gallery, featuring artists from the region. It’s a workspace, with a rotation of workshops and events – from sketch groups to artist features to writing sessions. It’s a community hub for artists and anyone interested in art.
Curio.’s owners are clearly, above all else, artists and art enthusiasts. So making their business a haven for people who care about art comes naturally. It’s also a great way to build loyalty to their store, because it’s a place people want to be.
It’s a great demonstration of the old tip: “Find your people.” You don’t have to market to everyone on the planet. You just have to find the people that care about what your business can do, and then serve those people extremely well. You have to find them, connect with them, and hopefully inspire them to bring friends.
Cake & Cup
Cake & Cup is a bake and coffee shop in Lititz PA. Their marketing is always fantastic – tasteful and beautiful branding, perfectly styled social media pictures of gorgeous cakes – but one campaign in particular earned them a lot of attention early this year.
And it wasn’t even really a campaign.
When Covid first upended the hospitality industry, Cake & Cup was one of countless companies wondering what to do, how to keep their staff busy, how to weather the storm.
The idea came from the owner’s daughter, who asked where all the kids would get their birthday cakes when the store closed. So Cake & Cup began giving away birthday cakes to anyone having a birthday during quarantine. As you can imagine, it got a lot of traction.
You can learn the whole story about how they gave cakes away and how it worked out for them on our show: Marketing Conversations with Lamphouse Films.
Their story illustrates something we talk about a lot: to get something (attention, sales, word of mouth), you have to give something away. This can be interesting content, entertaining advertising, street cred, samples, or almost anything you can think of.
In this case it was cake. It’s hard to beat cake.
These are just three of the resourceful small businesses in our area. We’re constantly learning about the core principles of marketing by looking around us.
We encourage you to do the same. Don’t just shop local. Learn local. There’s a lot of good marketing going on wherever you are – we’re sure of it.