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Following up on my last couple of posts: here’s a perfect example of 1) giving your customers a story they can’t wait to tell, and 2) getting it done in 300 words or less.

Phil’s 550 is a little convenience store in the woods outside of Marquette, MI. Owner Phil Pearce has a Facebook page and a website, but more importantly he has a big lighted sign out on the road:

DepartmentD.com - Phil's 550 Sign
Images courtesy Phil’s 550 Store

His store has no Twitter account, but he’s right next to a college town full of people who do. So Phil goes out to that sign every day and gives them something to Tweet about.

As a result of all that free publicity, his little store is a must-see side trip for many visitors to Marquette. For a guy who runs a business out on a county road, a road that goes nowhere in particular, that’s huge.

How can you duplicate Phil’s success?

Make it about me, not you: Phil gives away laughs for free, and doesn’t bore you with news about this week’s sale on Pepsi. If you hand me something of value every time I brush up against your brand, I will repay the favor by buying your product.

Speak my language: Phil’s sense of humor isn’t for everyone, but it’s characteristic of Marquette County; no matter where you live, local people appreciate not being spoken to like a marketer’s lowest common denominator. Plus the out-of-towners appreciate an authentic souvenir to Tweet to their friends back home.

Be conscientious and consistent: Phil’s been at it since 1996. It’s not easy being funny and concise all the time, and I imagine there are days when he just wants to slap OPEN 6AM M-F on that sign and take a couple months off. But that’s no way to run a business.

Phil’s 550 shows how a unique voice—assertive, honest and generous—can power small business success even in the near-absence of a marketing budget. While an aggressive digital media strategy can amplify your voice exponentially, the voice itself is up to you.

Dan Sarka

Dan Sarka puts the D in Department D. He's a website developer, graphic designer and copywriter who enjoys helping small businesses grow. Born and reared in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, he now lives, breathes, bicycles and writes songs in Minneapolis.

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