One of the books published last year that has special resonance for me is Greg Verdino’s microMARKETING (McGraw Hill, 2010), in which he tells how companies can get big results by acting very small.

Greg’s premise is that the most successful businesses need to stop with the grand gestures, splashy creative, and big-budget media buys designed to reach and appeal to the widest possible audience. Instead, the most successful business will increasingly rely on “micromarketing,” and they will rethink how they invest in marketing their business.

Here are 3 ways the smartest organizations can embrace the notion that, in 2011, smaller can be more powerful. And by "smartest organizations," I mean you. Of course.

1. Use small as a competitive advantage. Rather than investing in traditional mass marketing tactics that to make you “look big”---like print ads, radio advertising, event sponsorships, out-of-home, or spot television---try acting small. Rethink how you invest in marketing, and identify more economical and more effective ways to engage your core audiences by using social media, content creation, customer-centricity, and influencer relations.

2. Market like a small businesses. The bigger a business is, the more likely it is to struggle with the things that will spell success in 2011: The ability to market “real-time;” be quick and nimble; emphasize human-scale, one-on-one interactions; embrace simple social media approaches and the amplification effect you get when the right people start spreading their interpretations of your messages and content throughout their social graphs; and maintain a maniacal focus on super-serving niche audiences (or “microcultures”), as Greg calls them. Need help? Take a page from small businesses, which are typically more natural micro-marketers and are generally more open to serving niche audiences.

The best businesses in 2011 will think and act this way, rather than trying to be all things to all people.

3. Understand how to create microcontent. What’s “microcontent”? It’s all the bite-sized pieces of information and entertainment we create and share on the social Web: our tweets, our photos, our short Facebook or LinkedIn status updates, shared links with a sentence or two of commentary as to why we’re sharing, all those two- or three-minute YouTube videos, Greg says. He uses the term "microcontent" to contrast all of this with the more conventional notion of content---long articles, television shows, movies, books, etc.---that have generally been the domain of mass media outlets.

Microcontent, Greg says, has become a currency of the socially connected---people love it when their friends share bits of content that are cool, interesting, informative, entertaining, funny, shocking or eye-opening. The challenge for business is to create microcontent that connected consumers will want to share (hint: not your ads, and nothing penned in Frankenspeak). Or consider how you can partner with your customers to create compelling microcontent that is relevant to your brand, and provides new ways to get the word out about your company, products and services without spending a lot of money on paid media buys.

So what other ways can you think and act small in the coming year? Leave a comment below, and let me know.

Need some inspiration? I'll pick a lucky individual at random and will give away a copy of microMARKETING to jump-start your 2011 marketing. (So be sure to leave an email address!)

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image of Ann Handley

Ann Handley is a Wall Street Journal best-selling author who recently published Everybody Writes 2. She speaks worldwide about how businesses can escape marketing mediocrity to ignite tangible results. IBM named her one of the 7 people shaping modern marketing. Ann is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a LinkedIn Influencer, a keynote speaker, mom, dog person, and writer.