Category Archives: Branding

Becoming a Niche: Being Small has Big Payoffs

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Let’s face it – we’re living in a more interconnected world each day. While this is fantastic for increases in exchanging of ideas, experiences and learning, there is a dark side.

I’ve often said life is about tradeoffs: Buying a bigger, more comfortable house and paying more for it, vs. buying a smaller, less expensive, cramped house that leaves you fighting amongst others for space; Taking your bike to work to save on gas and getting caught in the rain only to be miserable and cold the entire ride home; Getting lunch out of the vending machine at work to save time only to get a stomach ache later vs. having a delicious 7-Layer Burrito from Taco Bell. No matter the situation, you will end up miserable. Unless you got the 7-Layer Burrito, which is sure to give you complete happiness.

So now you’re probably thinking “Ok, where is this burrito-loving, Negative Nancy going with all of this?” Chill man! I’m coming up on a point here.

The tradeoff with business is trying to be everything to everyone. There comes a point where you need to say NO to a market. While it was much easier back in the 1960′s to be a jack of all trades type of business, this day in age is much different. Back then, you may have had the only business in town, which gave your customer base few to no options. Today, with global sourcing ability to be had within a couple clicks, you’ve got a completely different landscape for commerce.

As the world gets more and more interconnected, the lines are getting more and more blurry. This is great for consumers. It gives people more options than they ever imagined. Because of all the options, the market becomes inundated, and suddenly a product drops in price to a faction of the cost it may have been to manufacture even a year ago. This is also great for a consumer. But where does that leave business?

You’d think that businesses would have to cut costs so much to stay competitive it would be hard for them to even afford employees. And as we saw from the economic downturn a few years ago, where EVERYTHING fell out, businesses are stretched to the max to maintain that ever-shrinking margin.

Fortunately for many industries, advancements in technology have countered the competition some. Those not upgrading technology fall in the abyss and disappear into history. But the best businesses find ways to focus.

Focus? Like the car, you ask? Actually yeah – the Ford Focus is a great example. The Ford Focus was a car that consolidated a few other regional models like the Escort and Festiva so they could produce one model for the global market. This probably isn’t the best example, but I used it anyway because the name fit for this lovely expository. Now that I think of it, this example actually opposes of the point I am trying to make. Scratch that. Moving on…

Focusing into niche businesses. We’ve seen it already – as competition for the broad audience becomes harder and harder, the products also get more and more watered down because they NEED to appeal to everybody. This leaves the door wide open for businesses that want to became the absolute best at a certain style of product.

And that is just the beginning. Once we have niche products, then we’ll get even more and more niche style niche products, as consumers set course for something that is ever more unique and fits their personal style like never before.

An example of this progression would be the skateboard. This used to be a niche product for urban dwellers. Today you can pick up a basic skateboard anywhere. As the dwellers become daredevils, the options have grown immensely. There used to be one style. Now we even have a sub-niche market – longboards. The buyers in this market are different and more unique.

And when you’re in that niche, you can make all decisions because you’re the market leader. You’ll define norms. You have the opportunity to create objects that are tailored for unique individuals.

This is how I think the future of business will be. Skills will be becoming more and more specialized to produce products for a super small segment of the market that buys.

Pictured Above: Another niche style product, Vurtego Pogo Sticks.

So what are the nuances that make your business unique and unlike any others? This is what you need to promote. Start honing your skills to fill these areas. Stop trying to say you do it all. Jack-of-all-trades-and-masters-of-none will find the way of the dodo bird. Focus, focus, focus on what you love to do, and the rest will become easy!

Marketing is taking your business to the gym

You’re doing it wrong.

OK, well maybe not you, because you’re awesome – but most don’t do it right.

What is that you inquire? Marketing.

It’s interesting to actually think that there are successful business people out there that don’t understand marketing. And I guess I see how these people can think. Especially as  a business owner, it’s incredibly important to look at the balance sheet and try to minimize the not needed expenses. But how do you know it is not needed, and why does it seem like marketing the first on the chopping block?

It’s kind of funny because businesses that say they “don’t do marketing” actually do. Every business does, but they don’t really know it or think of it as such. For instance, word of mouth advertising is even marketing. For some businesses, it’s the ONLY marketing they do. They let their customers tell their story. It’s usually combined with location marketing – or in other words, being in a popular street with a lot of traffic. Only when you add a controlled marketing medium on top of word of mouth advertising, you start controlling the message being said about your company.

Usually the business owners that try to avoid marketing have been burned by it in the past. This is easy to understand. When you market to the masses or use the “spray and pray” method, you usually end up spending a LOT of money, and don’t really have fantastic results because you may be only hitting a small percentage of the target market, and you without any tracking, you have nothing to show for it in the end.

Here’s the key: start small, and start super-targeted.

I once worked for a business that did radio advertising once using “market to the masses” method. They tried it once, and after it was said and done, they said never again. This is too bad, because I think radio is one of the most powerful forms of advertising, if you have the right message targeted to the right audience. Granted it is expensive with the allure of being on the top 40 station because you think “Everyone listens to Katy Perry, therefore everyone will like my brand.” It’s a misguided way to start, and a solid crash and burn when the budget is depleted in the first month. Rather, fine tune your message to a smaller market segment using a lesser known channel that you know your target audience listens to at the non-expensive time time slots once a week or few times a month.

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Here’s the second key: Don’t give up.

Marketing is an ongoing activity – much like going to the gym. You don’t go every day for a week straight to walk out on Friday night saying “Yeah, I’m done for good!” No – It’s a starting point. And for some it’s just the beginning, while for others, it’s a great way to stay in shape. It’s your choice.

When you give up on the marketing, that’s when the problems start. Then you usually hear “See, it never really work from the start.” Actually it did, but when you pulled the plug on marketing, that’s when the problems arose.

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The experts say that it takes roughly seven touches for a person being exposed to a brand to become a buyer. Keep that in mind constantly when doing your marketing activities – because each time a prospect is exposed to a brand, whether they see a logo or hear a jingle for your company, it counts. It starts building a story of your company in your prospects minds.

Marketing is storytelling. So tell a GOOD story. Tell YOUR story, and tell it OFTEN!

The Real Value to Being Special

What is the value of being special?

We remember things that are special. Special means important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, important events. All things that we prepare for…. think about what we’re going to wear… etc. It’s what makes it special. Pretty profound huh?

What makes it special is because it is different. It is outside of the norm. It stands out from the hum-drum.

What about business? How does the successful become? How do we not get stuck into the what’s normal and break through to becoming special?

Technology, to me at least, is becoming normal. Very few things really impress me when it comes to marketing from the digital sense. I think it’s because that’s what everyone does. And when I mean everyone, I mean virtually every business in every industry. Technology is the new norm. It makes sense because the internet is unlimited, and more graphics and text or other stuff doesn’t have material costs.

Now I’m not saying you should give up on technology. Don’t shut down your website because you want to be different. But what sorts of things are you doing besides using the norm? Marketing involves interaction. I really enjoy seeing really intricate designed and printed invitations, packaging and other real life stuff (not virtual on screen things created to look like real life things!). Real, clever, and thoughtfully designed packaging not only delivers a product, but it delivers an experience. That is a great thing to use to complement technology.

So it’s not about cost. It’s about value. Value lies in if you want to stand out from your competition. Value lies in if you want to be different. Value lies in being valuable to your customers.

This stuff is the new way to “think different” as Apple would call it.

This is the new way to be special.

 

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Long live the poster!

Posters. They’ve been a part of our culture since as long as signage was a part of business. Posters have been captivating our world since the late 1800′s and conveying an ideal, a dream, or a way of life that inspires viewers to buy a product, attend an event, or support a cause.

Posters were probably the first medium that helped to convey an identity. Viewers would see the poster and  say “That is an identity I want to associate myself with.” Whether or not it was true or not with the viewer, it created an archetype in their minds that would have an effect on the products they buy and the lifestyle they would want to live.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was probably the original most famous poster designers. He created imagery in his posters that was a sign of the high society of cool for the late 1800′s in Paris. His designs started a artistic movement, Art Nouveau, that inspired the world. Soon businesses used the style to promote events to products hoping to capitalize riding the wave of popular culture.

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Later, Jules Chéret and Alphonse Mucha helped propel the form even further with designs that became world famous. As lithography grew to include more vibrant colors, posters from that time became the popular choice for commercial promotion.

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Today we still see movie posters and band posters and it still has the same effect. They become more than just an advertisement, but they can also become an object of desire itself. Super fans of the shown brand collect the posters, frame them, and display them in shrines all over the world.

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Some posters bring back memories and think of a time when everything was great. I remember the Ferah Fawcett was hanging in my childhood friend’s woodshop.

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A truly fascinating medium with a decorated history, posters will always be a definitive hyperbole that has proven power to entertain and captivate. When done right they have the ability to transform the brands that they promote into superstars.

In Printing, The Old Becomes New

How many of you have stuff in the wardrobe that is so old that eventually it comes back into style? I’m sure there is a few of you that ran across this phenomenon.

But if you’re anything like me though, you just can’t seem to wear it again even though it comes back. Maybe it’s the memories associated with the particular item. I have to give it away. Now, if it’s someone else’s used stuff, then game on!

Where am I going with this you ask? Let’s look at the printing industry. Printing has been around for centuries, and let’s be honest, not much has changed a lot in the past four or five hundred years. Sure we have cool new colors and the machines that put the ink on the paper look a little different, but the overall concept remains the same. So where does that leave us?

Enter the digital age. Today, everyone is bombarded by digital advertising, whether it is through an advertisement through an app or a Facebook page or mobile ad or a link through twitter. Well, if you’re like me again, those things can get very easily ignored simply from the sheer quantity of stuff out there. Eventually, nothing looks different. Nothing stands out. Nothing catches your eye… because you’re viewing it through the same 4″ screen.

That’s what excites me about printing. To me, it’s the most valuable advertising mediums, because it lasts. The things that are printed have staying power as though it seems. If something is well designed and has a clever concept, I may just keep it for a while just because I like the cleverness of it. All the while I keep it, that company’s brand image is being tattooed on my brain. Next time I think of that type of product or service, chances are I’ll think of that cleverly designed, printed message.

Beautifully designed brochure

Not only that, but there is a handmade movement happening right now in manufacturing and in the retail setting. People want to know that the stuff they buy is made by real people – not only that, but extremely skilled craftsmen – who have hopes and dreams, and also believe in creating something to the best of their ability.

I know a few press operators that truly believe in producing work at the highest level. They come in pushing buttons and turning dials on sophisticated printing equipment in order to lay that ink on that crazy textured or super glossy paper so your images look perfect. They are seeking the most vibrant colors. Their eyes are tuned to not seeing a picture of a family, but a series of dots with percentages of colors. It’s truly fascinating watching a master at work.

Pressmen operating printing press 1920s

Printed advertising will create a different experience that no digital advertisement can  match. Paper textures, ink colors, and overall size, pages, all create a story. The possibilities are endless. You can take them to a place, a moment when they felt young, or paint an image of something they want to achieve. Plus, viewers probably don’t see printed items as much as they did in years past, so this can be a whole new sense for them.

That is what excites me about the print industry. It’s not ever going away. It becomes more valuable to marketers. It may be changing, but that just means those who take advantage of it will get more out of it.

Social Media Ideas from Tony Zayas, Marketer & Social Media Strategist for Proforma

Tony is really an amazing dude. I got a chance to meet him at the Proforma Convention last week in Grapevine, Texas. He says he’s spent loads of his own money learning best practices from Social Media gurus in various industries so he proves to be a wealth of knowledge and I had the great opportunity to listen to his presentation and talk to him personally. It was a huge value to take a lot of good notes on using social media strategically as a sales tool.

Here are some takeaways and highlights:

Strategy

Point 1: Build a plan.

You need a strategy in order to be successful. Being “all over the place” is not a great way to be relevant on social media. Instead, it is crucial to focus your efforts on your pillars.

  • Pillars: You as a person have a personal brand. Those are the pillars. Each post should be an example demonstrating one of those pillars that you include in your “About Me” section. For example, each of these could be a pillar: You’re a parent, Your top 2 professional things you provide for others, and Your main interest or hobby.

PILLARS

  • Follow your customers on Twitter. This shows that you find them interesting. Reply back to them. “Favorite” a lot of their posts. They will see this and it will make them feel good.
  • After some time of building a base, it’s a good idea to follow them on Linkedin. Start by sending a personal message saying you follow them and think they are interesting, and want to start building a relationship.
  • Then once you become close, friend them on Facebook. At that point you find out about their family lives, find out what’s truly important to them, and what their hopes, dreams and aspirations are.

Let your personality shine

Point 2: Be personal.

People work with who they know and like as a person and that helps build trust. The key is to BE REAL. Let your personality shine though. Everything should be a post in the pillars of your brand or it’s not worthwhile.

Point 3: Don’t be paralyzed.

Sometimes we don’t post anything because we’re worried about someone seeing something we’ve said and then becoming offended. That’s OK, because you are being you, you are being real, and it will resonate with those who are close to you. Now, in the same token, it’s NOT okay to be offensive, or veer off your pillars. The key is to think with a good heart and use your best judgement.

Company Pages

Facebook has unfortunately made them irrelevant by charging money for posts to be seen. While their important to have still, the focus is on your personal profile as the sales person to build a real relationship. Only 10% of company page posts actually show up to your followers, unless you pay to have those posts seen. Tony informed us that you should never have to pay for Facebook; it’s just not worth the money.

Talking to people and being of service will go much further than just throwing offers out every week. These are some keys that I’m going to use to start bringing some A-game to my social media presence.

Thanks again Tony, I’ll be and sure to catch you a cold one next time I see you!