We’re in the thick of March Madness and everywhere we look there are updates, commentary, stats, and advertisements about the upcoming games, Cinderella stories, and unexpected upsets from last night. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is madness and we love it! For nearly 80 years, the NCAA has built on the excitement, unpredictability, and intensity of this month-long event. With an ever-increasing audience, the tournament commands serious market share of televised and streamed channel distribution, and dominates across all social media platforms. People simply cannot get enough of it – even if they have no team affiliation or general interest in basketball during the other 11 months of the year.

So what has March Madness done to garner such loyalty from millions of viewers year after year? It has established itself as a marketing powerhouse and a No. 1 seed in our minds. We’ve taken a few plays from their book to help your marketing endeavors take your small business to the championship round.

Be Sticky

From the unofficial tournament name, March Madness, to the escalating rounds of play, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four, the use of memorable names paired with alliteration makes these phrases sticky. Ask anyone off the street if they’ve heard of these token names, and you’re likely to be met with recognition of the names and what organization they’re associated with. In business, having sticky content, whether it is your brand name, slogan, logo, or taglines, leads to strong reputation and credibility. These are the building blocks for any company’s reputation, and taking time to consider the sticky factor while creating your brand language is paramount to success. Your end goal is to foster a strong customer base, and by designing sticky content, you will significantly increase your odds of moving return visitors and followers into repeat consumers.

Play Man-to-Man Coverage

No, this does not mean you need to personally interact with every potential customer. It does mean that you should cover your bases and have a strategic presence across all pertinent distribution channels. Having a website, Facebook for business page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube accounts may seem daunting, but once you get up and running, your business will be easier to find and rank as an expert in your field. Know where your target audience is most active and dedicate consistent and quality content to those networks. Don’t know where to begin? Start with creating an editorial calendar to streamline your efforts, schedule content, and ensure your brand voice and messaging is consistent across all of your channels.

Megaphone with social media icons

Embrace the Underdog

Everyone loves to see an unexpected team scratch its way to the top and come out as the victor. The grit, determination, and passion are palpable in the players’ efforts and they engage audiences in unexpected ways. This is true of businesses, too. People love a story. Integrating color commentary content that speaks to your passion and determination will attract consumers and have them invested from the jump. From there, loyalty can be nurtured through on-brand messaging and interactions.

There’s a reason “Small Business Saturday” and the tagline “Shop Local” have resonated so strongly across the country; people want to support the underdogs and see them thrive. Paint your business as one worthy of their endorsement. People react positively to seeing their values mirrored in others and it inspires camaraderie and authenticity. You can create a cheering section from your audience by embracing your differences instead of masking them.

In the small business community, understanding your value and core differentiators from the competition leads to success. How will you harness these nuances to better position yourself in the marketplace and land a coveted spot in the championship round?