Big ideas for small biz during small halls festival

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Under the Influence radio host Terry O’Reilly is usually helping the average consumer understand the ins and outs of advertising but in his new book he is sharing insights gleaned over his 30-plus year career in advertising with marketers.
“I’ve turned the telescope around and looked through the other end,” said O’Reilly, co-founder of Pirate Radio and Television, a commercial production company.

During his career, O’Reilly acquired much insight into marketing while working with some of the best in the business promoting Canada’s biggest brands.

“I realized that small entrepreneurs, small to medium companies, never get access to that kind of information, that kind of marketing wisdom and savvy and I always remembered that,” said O’Reilly.

He has packaged those insights into an accessible introduction to marketing for those entrepreneurs who can’t afford to hire a big agency.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the big corporations, says O’Reilly.

“Every business has competitors and the goal of marketing is how to make a company stand out from the competition,” he said.

“The key to really great marketing is to differentiate from everybody else in the category. I always say, amateurs think marketing is all about selling stuff but the pros know it’s about differentiating your company. Once you start to differentiate your company – with your branding, your tone of voice, what kind of media you do, how you treat your customers, packaging – once you really start to stand out in your category then the selling really starts. Small to medium businesses sometimes lose sight of that. Big companies are really good at it because they have so much brainpower. They have massive marketing divisions that spend everyday worrying about that, whereas entrepreneurs tend to wear several hats and don’t have the time to dig that deep into marketing.”

He encourages people to know their business and what they are selling, what is at the core of their product. The idea should be distilled into what’s known as the elevator pitch: A description of an idea distilled into something that could be communicated in the time it takes to go one floor in an elevator. “The one line pitch forces you to articulate the core idea,” writes O’Reilly. “Or forces you to admit there isn’t one.”

O’Reilly said he is always looking for the little things – what he calls going the extra inch.

“Smaller companies competing against bigger companies, one of the best ways to compete is to look for the little touches you can give to your customers because I don’t think the big guys can really see down that far,” he said. “A big company may be too big or too busy to pay attention to such tiny details but a smaller business can find those little touches.”
In the book he gives the example of buying boots and being offered a coupon for a coffee and muffin at the café across the street while he waited 20 minutes for the waterproofing treatment to be applied. O’Reilly writes that he was delighted by the gesture because the business had given him the gift of time, a chance to sit down and relax, something he doesn’t get to do very often.

The smartest companies let their personalities shine.

“Smaller companies really should think long and hard about how to let their personalities show,” said O’Reilly.
Wrapping up a book tour this fall, O’Reilly is also looking forward to picking up his newly refurbished 1969 Airstream Caravel trailer, which he has had converted into a radio studio. The mobile studio, where he can record the upcoming season of Under the Influence, will be located at his Mulmur home, reducing his commute considerably.

O’Reilly will be sharing his marketing insights at Duntroon Hall at 2 p.m. on Oct. 1, as part of the Small Halls Festival line-up. Tickets cost $30. Those who purchase in advance, will be given two tickets for the Taste of the Township lunch taking place at the hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For tickets, visit

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