By definition, camouflage is designed to conceal.  It allows someone to hide in plain sight by giving the person the ability to take on the appearance of their respective surrounding. Often small businesses unintentionally find themselves cloaked in camo; they come across no differently than others found in their environment.  Irony can be found in the fact that most small businesses are trying to do quite the opposite; they are striving to stand out and be noticed.

Let me offer up an example that I’ve seen here in the Midwest.  There is no shortage of lube shops advertising oil change specials. I’ve seen tons of coupons in direct-mailers and have heard countless radio spots from these guys. The problem, as I see it, begins with the ubiquitous $19.95 price point.  Everyone presents this rate as though it were some sort of earth shattering deal. It’s not. I can find this price plastered on oil-change garage doors all over the city. So why would I anxiously await the mailman’s arrival for my coupon? What would prompt me to jump off my couch when hearing an oil change ad? The point is it’s very possible to go unnoticed despite advertising.

If you feel like you’re speaking but not being heard, it may be time to shed the camouflage and go for something a lot brighter and bolder.  Here are a few places to start:

Real Sale
The simplest and most easy way to garner attention is to have a really good sale. At minimum, drop your price right below the threshold of ordinary. If you want to push things to the limit, mark select items down to bargain-basement-prices. The point is, when your shop declares that there is a “sale” going on, people will take notice because they know the savings are real and substantial.

Free Stuff
If you happen to have overstock, products nearing the end of their shelf life or discontinued items, use them to draw people in – give them away as a part of promotion. Be sure giveaway items have perceived value (for example, don’t give away 8-track cleaning kits). If you happen to use the free stuff as an incentive to buy other goods, be sure you’re being sensible. For instance, don’t make the mistake of giving away a free pizza with the purchase of a new furnace (yes, a company actually did this).

Unparalleled Backing
All businesses may not be able to afford to give things away or offer deep discounts.  If you are one of them, create more visibility by supporting products/services offered in an extraordinary way. For instance, if others in your industry maintain a tight return policy, go the opposite direction with a lenient one and publicize it. Another example would be If other companies are closed a certain day or have limited hours, be the one that’s open during those key times.

Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker and proven creative professional. He’s the lead consultant and executive producer for Dailey Sound Vector Media, a creative services organization that specializes in commercial, jingle and marketing campaign development for small businesses throughout the US.  Ask Walter your questions at walter@dsvmedia.com