Small Town Rules: How Big Brands and Small Businesses Can Prosper in a Connected Economy


You now compete in one "global small town," where all your customers can talk directly to each other, wherever they are

Local community and individual human voices matter most

Your personal reputation counts for more than your marketing, size, or resources

Massive societal, technological, and economic changes have transformed the world into one huge small town. In this new "old" world, size, scale, and ...

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Small Town Rules: How Big Brands and Small Businesses Can Prosper in a Connected Economy

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You now compete in one "global small town," where all your customers can talk directly to each other, wherever they are

Local community and individual human voices matter most

Your personal reputation counts for more than your marketing, size, or resources

Massive societal, technological, and economic changes have transformed the world into one huge small town. In this new "old" world, size, scale, and resources are no guarantee of success. Your true competitive differentiators are personal relationships in local communities: the reputation you earn from real customers with real voices. For generations, the best small town businesses have competed this way. They haven't just survived; they've thrived. This book reveals what they've learned, showing you how to compete and win on a human scale with limited resources—no matter how huge, urban, or global you are.

You may not realize just how much like a small town the business world is today.

When every customer can talk directly to each other, it's like a small town

When people listen more to what your customers say about your company than your advertising, it's like a small town

When the individual human voice is valued over corporate mission statements, it's like a small town

When everyone online is trying to band together in small communities, it's like a small town

When everyone wants to buy their products locally, it's like a small town

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Why Learn From Small Towns? What Business People Are Saying…

“Only in a small town can you discover the true nature of what it means to be connected and, at the same time, living in a fish bowl.”

--Tim Sanders, NY Times Bestselling Author, Love Is the Killer App

“People say the world is getting smaller; I think the world is getting more connected. It’s all about the relationships--who you know and who knows you. Through the power of the Internet, mobile apps, and online social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, businesses now have unprecedented ways in which to nurture relationships with everyone in their marketplace. We’re going back to the small town way of doing business where everyone knows your name and genuinely cares about you.”

--Mari Smith, Author, The New Relationship Marketing

“For generations, small town businesses have been responsible for building the American economy, and all entrepreneurs can learn a thing or two from their success.”

--Scott Gerber, Founder, Young Entrepreneur Council; Cofounder, Gen Y Capital Partners; Author, Never Get a “Real” Job

“Small town businesses know their customers. They know their kids’ names, they know their favorite sports teams, and what they buy on a regular basis. This kind of intimate knowledge creates loyalty--the kind of loyalty that creates longevity and success in business.”

--Carol Roth, NY Times Bestselling Author, The Entrepreneur Equation

“Small is the new big, because you can reach everyone with the click of a mouse and anyone can review and critique you. Think you know how to play the game? Think again. The rules have changed. Read Small Town Rules. It’s the rule book for the connected economy. Highly recommended.”

--Michael Port, NY Times Bestselling Author, Book Yourself Solid

“Business should be personal. The ‘who you are’ can play a huge role in the ‘what you offer.’ That’s how small towns have conducted commerce since the get-go, and we’d all be well-served to inject that kind of approach to our businesses--no matter how big in scope or vision.”

--Rich Sloan, Author, StartUp Nation

“There are a lot of traits about small town business that offer insights and opportunities for people to leverage in all businesses. Community matters. Relationships matter. People matter. My observation about conversations in a small town is that people care. And businesses that are smart are learning to listen, connect, share, and engage their customers, too. Big business and businesses in general could learn a lot from how a small town works.”

--Jeff Pulver, Cofounder, Vonage; Founder, 140 Characters Conference, VON Conference

“In a small town, word of mouth is the most powerful force there is. Everyone in town knows about the business. If the quality and service are good--or bad--everyone soon knows. That’s why every business should operate like a small town business, no matter where you’re located or how far away your customers come from. When you and your team run your business as if every potential customer will eventually know everything about your business, you naturally will keep quality and service standards high.”

--Anita Campbell, CEO, Small Business Trends, LLC; Author, Visual Marketing

“It is no surprise that big businesses are coming around to the idea of small town style customer experience and service. As customers, we know we prefer the ‘small town’ way of doing things. We like to be treated as human beings, as individuals. We like our loyalty being rewarded, and we like having a person to talk to when things go wrong. When it comes across as natural, rather than forced in an awkwardly fake ‘PR’ way, then it works all the better. The future of business is one customer at a time, just like in small town businesses.”

--Chris Garrett, Coauthor, ProBlogger: The Book

“Small town businesses, by their nature, are genetically encoded to connect, share, and engage.”

--Alan Weinkrantz, Alan Weinkrantz and Company PR

“With a couple of basic tools, like DropBox, Skype, and Google Apps, a small town business can look like a big business with one killer app: You can stay in a small town with the associated lifestyle benefits and lower cost of doing business. Small town businesses are rewriting the rules on what it means to be competitive with their big company rivals for customers and talented employees.”

--John Warrillow, Author, Built to Sell

“Small town businesses understand this better than most any publicly traded company in the world: You must be cash flow positive or it’s your death. As long as you have positive cash flow, you can keep the doors open, expand as much as your cash flow will let you, and try new things. Big businesses are accustomed to running deficits and issuing stock, but these are stopgap measures that more often than not serve to enrich the shareholders as the ship sinks. If your business, big or small, is cash flow positive, then everyone from shareholders to shop floor sweepers will do well.”

--Christopher S. Penn, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Blue Sky Factory Email Marketing

“A key to success for any small business is to be actively involved in their community. That feeling of ‘community’ is what drives the web and social media. Now, it’s just about mandatory that businesses of all sizes be active in their respective communities--both online and off. It’s the interaction, the connection with those who support you, that helps make businesses successful today.”

--Leslie McLellan, All Things Social

“During the past four decades, big has gotten the attention in my industry sector. Economies of scale, resources for impressive events. But, what’s becoming clear is that the relationships, the personal attention, the value of doing life together is what matters. I know. I’m a pastor, not a business owner. But, the ideas that Becky and Barry are talking about for what small businesses can teach all business is true in our ‘business.’ While big churches get the press, the number of house churches, of communities of faith, is growing, too. Small, done well, can teach all of us how to live and work better.”

--Jon Swanson, Social Media Chaplain

“Small town business has to do with the basics. Those simpler times that city-dwellers dream about when they’re sitting in a 2-hour traffic jam, listening to their satellite radio, while pounding out meaningless emails and texts on heavily used Blackberrys. Small town businesses are a lot more about handshakes than they are about 14-page contracts that Harvard Law School graduates write…and that no one ever seems to understand. All business owners can learn a lot by watching how business gets done in America’s small towns.”

--Joel Libava, The Franchise King®; Author, Become a Franchise Owner!

“Although the competitiveness of large population areas (between individual businesses) might be tougher, it does not compare to the daily fight for survival in a small town or remote area. This fight for survival brings out the best of entrepreneurial spirit in many small town businesses with innovation, service, and quality. The real treasure of small town business is the heart! Small town businesses are not just serving strangers, but their neighbors, friends, family, or someone who knows these people who are important to them. This natural sincerity that comes from living in small communities can be duplicated in practice by all business, and I believe it is the most valuable asset small business has to share.”

--Laura Girty, NW Field Representative, Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, Inc.

“Small town business can teach all businesses about efficiency. Small businesses don’t have the luxury of compartmentalizing roles. It’s all hands on deck, working as quickly and seamlessly as possible, to ensure the greatest profit.”

--Alexandra Levit, Author, Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success

“Small town business teaches us that it’s easier to continue to sell to the customer we already know. It’s easy--just provide great value and consistent quality, and you’ll make customers for life.”

--Jim F. Kukral,; Author, Attention: This Book Will Make You Money

“There are more successful small town businesses than there are large corporations. They aren’t a fluke or an accident or an anomaly. They grow from need, vision, risk, and response. The information small town business owners offer is practical, tested, and shared generously. Small town business can be easily underestimated but should never be ignored.”

--Andrea Springer, Springer Coaching and Consulting

“Transparency is the over-used buzzword in the customer-service world of today, thanks to the communication onslaught brought on by the Internet and specifically social media. Due to the ‘everyone knows everyone’ effect of small towns, small town businesses were forced to become masters of transparency a hundred years earlier than the rest of the world.”

--Cody Heitschmidt, Small Town Business Owner

“Small town businesses are lean and mean, which means they have to be creative and innovative to compete and turn a profit. Businesses of all sizes can watch and learn in order to do the same.”

--Gini Dietrich, CEO, Arment-Dietrich;; Coauthor, Marketing in the Round: Multichannel Approaches in the Post-Social Media Era

“Small town business teaches us about community, trust, and relationship--all the current buzzwords that have been the backbone of small town business for more than 100 years.”

--Sarah Robinson, Escaping Mediocrity

“A small town business owner knows that every customer is important and that every customer, employee, vendor, partner, friend, and family member contributes to what makes the business grow. Small town businesses know that relationships and being part of the community are at the heart of every successful business and that a business without a heart won’t survive.”

--Liz Strauss, International Business Strategist; Author, The Secret to Writing a Successful Outstanding Blog;

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789749208
  • Publisher: Que
  • Publication date: 4/12/2012
  • Series: Que Biz-Tech Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 206
  • Sales rank: 1,320,845
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Barry J. Moltz grew up in a small town of 30,000 and moved to the third-biggest city in America. Becky McCray grew up in towns ranging from 1,500 to 350,000 and now lives in a tiny town of just 30 people. Both are small business owners.

Barry Moltz gets small business owners unstuck by unlocking their long-forgotten potential. With decades of entrepreneurial experience in his own business ventures, as well as consulting countless companies, Barry has discovered the formula to get stuck business owners going again.

Barry has founded and run small businesses with a great deal of success and failure for more than 15 years. After successfully selling his last business, Barry branched out into numerous entrepreneurship-related activities. He founded an angel investor group, an angel fund, and is a former advisory member on the board of the Angel Capital Education Foundation.

His first book, You Need to Be A Little Crazy: The Truth about Starting and Growing Your Business, describes the ups and downs and emotional trials of running a business. It is in its fifth reprint and has been translated into Chinese, Russian, Korean, and Thai. His second book, Bounce! Failure, Resiliency, and the Confidence to Achieve Your Next Great Success, shows what it takes to come back and develop true business confidence. It has been translated into Korean and German. His third book, BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World, shows how customer service is the new marketing.

Barry is a nationally recognized expert on entrepreneurship and has given hundreds of presentations to audiences ranging from 20 to 20,000 people. As a member of the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, he also has taught entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Barry has appeared on many TV and radio programs, such as The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, MSNBC’s Your Business,and The Tavis Smiley Show. He hosts his own radio show, Business Insanity Talk Radio. He blogs regularly for the American Express Open Forum and Crain’s Chicago Business.

Becky McCray has been called “the small town Seth Godin” for her savvy combination of rural entrepreneurship and marketing skills. She started her first business venture in junior high school and has been going ever since. Currently, she and her husband own and operate a cattle ranch and a retail liquor store. Along with Sheila Scarborough, she co-founded Tourism Currents to teach tourism professionals new marketing skills. Like many rural entrepreneurs, she has pieced together multiple lines of business to build a career.

Becky is a recognized expert in small business and social media and has taught nearly 1,000 classroom hours and more than 100 workshops and speeches on small business subjects. She has been featured in The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Inc., Entrepreneur, Niche, Winning Workplaces, Reimagine Rural, Community Developer, and the Agurban. Becky publishes one of the top 20 small business blogs in the world, Small Biz Survival, which is focused on small town small business.

What makes all this possible is her wide experience in small town business, community, and government. That includes work as a small town administrator, a non-profit executive with the local workforce development and Girl Scout councils, an antiques store owner, a business and computer consultant, and a newspaper reporter. For nine years, McCray spent her evenings and weekends teaching a variety of computer and business classes at local technology centers, making her the fourth generation of her family to teach. In 2004, she was an unsuccessful candidate for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She believes we learn from both our successes and our failures, even when those failures are printed in the local newspaper.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Surviving Difficult Economic Times for the Big and Small 7

The Change: Economic Meltdown 8

Impact on Brands 10

Shifting Markets and Public-Relations Mistakes 11

Major Product Disasters 12

Chasing Trends and Shiny Objects, Too! 12

Why Small Towns Survive 14

The Small Town Rule: Plan for Zero 16

Question Assumptions 17

Know the Seasons and Cycles 18

Invest Long Term 21

Applying Small Town Rules to Big Brands Survival: Planning for Zero 23

Planning Ahead Is a Survival Strategy 24

Summary: Things Don't Always Go Up 24

The Small Town Rule: Plan for Zero 24

A Look Ahead 25

Powerhouse Small Town Brands 26

Winnebago Industries 26

Forest City, Iowa: Population 4,100 26

2 The New Normal: Profiting When Resources Are Limited 29

The Change: Resources Are Now Limited 30

Impacts on Big Brands: Low Consumer Demand Hits Where It Hurts Everyone 31

Why Small Towns? Because Resources Have Always Been Tight for Rural Business 32

Lower Consumer Demand 34

A Shortage of Skilled Workforce 35

The Small Town Rule: Spend Creative Brainpower

Before You Spend Dollars 35

Creative Financing 35

Being Frugal 38

Reducing Startup Costs 39

The Labor Force: Be Creative 40

Being Creative Means Doing Whatever It Takes 41

Big Brand Solutions and Examples 41

Conserve; Stop Spending for Stupid 41

Growing Slowly, with the Cycles 42

Getting Creative in Tough Times 44

Summary: Resources Are Now Limited 45

The Small Town Rule: Spend Creative Brainpower Before Dollars 45

A Look Ahead: Will the Rule Be Relevant Tomorrow? 46

Powerhouse Small Town Brands 47

Viking Range 47

Greenwood, Mississippi: Population 18,000 47

3 Adapting to the New Economic Realities of Self-Reliance 49

The Change: No Sure Things (A Job, Income, or Help from the Government) 50

Impact on Brands: No Sure Thing 51

Why Small Town Businesses Survive 51

The Small Town Rule: Build Multiple Lines of Income 54

How to Manage Multiple Lines of Income 55

Diversifying Online: Selling Expertise 56

Market Online to Diversify 58

Big Brand Solutions: Extending Brands for Survival 59

Summary: No Sure Things (A Job, Income, or Help from the Government) 61

The Small Town Rule: Multiply Lines of Income to Diversify Your Risk 62

A Look Ahead 62

Powerhouse Small Town Brands 64

Walmart 64

Bentonville, Arkansas: Population 35,000 64

4 Adapting to the "Anywhere, Anywhen" Business World 67

The Change: Geographic Advantage Is Shrinking, and Competition Is Everywhere 68

Impact on Brands and Big Business 70

How Small Towns Gave Up Geographic Advantage Long Ago 71

The Small Town Rule: Work "Anywhere, Anywhen" Through Technology 73

Broadband Internet Makes Working Anywhere Possible 73

"Anywhen" Makes Time-Shifting as Valuable as Work-Shifting 74

Putting It All Together to Be Location Independent 75

Digital Distribution Extends Reach 77

Forget Outsourcing, Think "Rural Sourcing" 78

Applying the Small Town Rule to Big Brands 78

Summary: Geographic Advantage Is Shrinking, and Competition Is Everywhere 80

The Small Town Rule: Work "Anywhere, Anywhen" Through Technology 80

A Look Ahead 81

Powerhouse Small Town Brands 82

L.L. Bean 82

Freeport, Maine: Population 7,800 82

5 Forget Advertising: Learn Customer-Driven Communication 85

The Change: Technology Allows All Customers to Easily Communicate with Each Other 86

Impact on Brands 86

Why Small Towns Already Work This Way 89

Rural Regions Lead in Social-Media Adoption 90

Social Media Is Like a Small Town, Everyone Says So 90

The Small Town Rule: Treat Customers Like Community 92

Treat Customer Service as Though It's All You've Got 92

Use Social Tools to Connect with Customers 93

Applying the Small Town Rule to Big Brands 95

Summary: All Customers Can Communicate with Each Other 96

The Small Town Rule: Treat Customers Like Community 97

A Look Ahead 97

Powerhouse Small Town Brands 98

The Grasshopper Company 98

Moundridge, Kansas: Population 1,600 98

6 How Big Brands and Small Businesses Are Thinking and Acting Small 101

The Change: Society Is Cycling Back from Big to Small 102

Impact on Brands 103

Why Small Towns Create Community Interaction on a Human Scale 104

The Small Town Rule: Be Proud to Be Small 105

Build Community Through Involvement 106

Network to Build Power and Accomplish Goals 112

The Antidote for the Negatives 116

Move Past Connecting and On to Building Relationships 119

Build Community Among Customers 121

Keep the Business Small 123

Apply the Small Town Rule to Big Brands 124

Summary: Society Is Cycling Away from Big to Small 128

The Small Town Rule: Be Proud of Being Small 128

A Look Ahead 129

Powerhouse Small Town Brands 130

Longaberger Baskets 130

Dresden, Ohio: Population 1,529 130

7 Going Local, Even When You Are Big 133

The Societal Change: The Local Movement Is Here 134

Impact on Brands 135

Small Towns Define What It Means To Be Local 135

The Small Town Rule: Build Your Local Connections 136

Connect with Your Culture and Place 137

Using a Local Story to Build Engagement Like Milk 138

How to Build a Shop Local Campaign 139

Apply the Small Town Rule to Big Brands: How Brands Can Go Local 152

Summary: The Local Movement Is Here 154

The Small Town Rule: Build Your Local Connections 154

A Look Ahead 155

A Resources for Implementing the Small Town Rules 157

B Business Ideas Inspired by the Small Town Rules 171

Afterword: The Small Town Rules 183

Endnotes 189

Index 199

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