Category Archives: Marketing

Becoming a Niche: Being Small has Big Payoffs

niche small business

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!

Feelin’ Emotions: How to Sell the Dream in 5 Steps


Sometimes I wonder how many times people come into my office and they find me staring up into space. People must think “does this guy actually do anything?”

Well…. in fact, on the contrary – I’m doing something very important that not a lot of people consider doing while at work. Dreaming. A Mariah Carey song just came into my head… “You’ve got me feelin’ emotions… deeper than I’ve ever dreamed of”… Feel free to sing along with me…

Dreams are everything really. Everyone wants to live the “American Dream.” And it differs slightly for everyone. Sometimes it’s spending a weekend away with the family. Sometimes it’s enjoying a fishing trip with your kids. For some its starting their own company. These are all valid, very real, and also very important.

As much as you think your products features are so cool and therefore you think everyone else will think so as well, it’s not the best way to go about selling or marketing. That’s not what your customer wants to hear. Instead, think – how will a feature help them obtain their dream?

For sales and marketers, this is vital to consider. Here are a few tips to get you thinking and possibly to change the way your message is delivered.

1. Take Time for Daydreaming.

First and foremost: Visualize. Test your idea coming to life and people responding to it. What does it look like? What do people say about it? What kinds of questions do they have? Preparing yourself with mock answers helps you think more on your toes when questions arise in the future. Maybe you rehearse a sales call in your mind before dialing. You visualize telling a joke and everyone laughing hysterically when you reach the punchline.

2. Avoid the Features.

Yes, everyone likes getting a good product for a bargain price. They want to satisfy every item on their checklist. But what are you compared to your competition then? Rattling off the features doesn’t make the longest lasting, most fulfilling customers. It’s not even that fulfilling to the buyer at that point. People want to live their dream or know they are taking steps to achieve them.

3. Appeal to Emotions.

Sell with emotion. For marketing, paint the picture of perfect that your customer is so longing to hear. I was recently talking to a friend who was looking for signups to a web development clinic they are hosting. They liked mentioning the things they were going to talk about like software architectures and processes. But I asked how is that going to get someone to act, especially if they don’t know what any of that stuff is? Instead, I said, appeal to their emotions by saying: “Are you sick of the 9 to 5, punching the clock for 10 bucks an hour? Start living the good life of being the programmer and make 60-80k a year!” This could include imagery of people riding boats, at the beach, driving sports cars, etc.


Believe it or not, people want to make decisions emotionally. It’s more fun for everyone. Which takes me to my third point…

4. Get to Know Your Audience’s Dreams.

Like I said earlier, everyone has a slightly different dream. If you can find out what that is, selling to the emotions becomes natural. Ask pointed questions to find out your customers dreams so you can have a custom tailored pitch sure to resonate with them.

5. Pre-plan Your Desired Action.

What is it that you are looking for? What is your dream? When you define it specifically, you can start making a plan to figure out the steps to get there. This is your dream plan. When you have it created you pretty much have a road map to achieving what it is that you’re after. You can also do this in your sales and marketing. Plan the course your customer will take when navigating through your website, and also through the questions they may have when discussing your product or service.

Appealing to emotions have big payoffs. Start by hitting up these 5 steps and maybe too, you’ll be living your dream sooner than you thought.

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.


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.


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 key to getting a sale every time

It’s interesting people’s perception of sales if they’ve never been in the role before professionally. Many think it’s kind of a slimy thing. Well, the worst people, or in this case the aforementioned “slime-balls,” are the ones that try to push people into something they don’t want or need. They usually don’t end up doing sales for long. The truth is everyone can be a sales person no matter what you do.

The best people in sales are the ones that build the relationships. Because the ones that end up truly being successful are the ones that get what their customer wants. Sounds simple, right? Well that could mean more than you think. But in order to get your customer (or anyone, maybe even a friend) what they want is to simply listen to their needs. And I mean FULLY understand what they are looking for. This even goes for a product you’re not currently selling.

To be the best, you can’t think about the balance sheet, you need to think about treating the person you’re talking to like a friend. Getting to know people and building the relationships takes time, but has the longest lasting impact.


So what is the “Key” that this article is titled for you may ask? Well other than all the great tidbits I was just informing you before, here’s the key:

Ask for the sale!

If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. Because chances are they’ll go to someone else who asked for it. Now this only works only if your product fits their needs, what I was talking about before. And in order to do that, you need to LISTEN to their needs.

Try it, and you’ll be surprised.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Focus – The real value in printed communications

This week I’m taking a step away from the Marketing Calendar Planning Series to focus on… well, focusing.

After reading Erin Anderssen’s post “Digital overload: How we are seduced by distraction“, we can see how easy it is to get distracted through apps, iPads, smartphones and perpetual links to an endless internet.

So here’s what I found works for me:

Disconnect. Difficult to do sometimes, yes. I kind of equate it to going to the gym, only mentally. I subscribe to magazines. Books and other forms of printed media (not those e-readers either!) work also.

Printed communcations

For me, there is something extremely enriching about picking up a good book or magazine. I’m not sure about you, but I can get MUCH more out of a written magazine article than an online post. I think this is because when I’m on the internet, I’m usually skimming through material, and not really immersing myself in the writer’s content fully.

Marketers: that is a point that is BIG to consider.

When there are less distractions, you can focus completely. When I put all of your attention to one particular activity, I find I’ll not only retain the information better, but it also means more to me.  I think over time, it actually strengthens your “focusing muscles” so you can focus better.

Connect Fully by Disconnecting

So if I were you, I’d give it a try. Do yourself a favor at times and leave the TV off, and pick up a real book or magazine (with paper pages!)…or even a newspaper. If you incorporate this into your regular routine, who knows – you may rediscover a whole new world.

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:


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.


  • 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!

Marketing Calendar Planning Series: Step 1 – Getting Your Project Off the Ground

When taking the plunge into plugging your business into a marketing mentality, there are a few things to consider:

  1. How to get this project off the ground
  2. How do I bring the message to the audience (brand awareness)
  3. How do I get funding
  4. How do I keep focused on the goal
  5. Analyzing your results

The first four points are what I call the Marketing Fab Four – These are all very important things to consider. The fifth one could take on a life of it’s own. I will go into these as part of my Marketing Calendar Planning Series in the next few  posts.

I know that with myself, I have the hardest time on #4 – staying focused. Actually I find it easiest to launch something or get something off the ground. That’s easy. All you need is the look and a great message and voila – You have a program. But it’s really more than that. A lot more; in fact it can get quite complex. It’s kind of like “Transformers! More than meets the eye!” Oh yes… take me back to the 80′s. Happy times. Good stuff. But … what were we talking about? Oh yeah, the focusing part…

But we’ll start with #1 for today – like I said, we’ll cover these others in the next few posts as part of the Marketing Calendar Planning Series.

1. How to get a Marketing project off of the ground

This is the most fun part about marketing for me. It is the opportunity to really run wild. But let’s take a look at culture. Culture is a fascinating thing. I probably could write an entire blog post on culture itself. For building a campaign, we can take elements as part of our culture and use them in a way for people to relate to.

Sometime around the turn of the century, manufacturers saw benefits of placing names and slogans on products to differentiate theirs from other manufacturers. They began to recognize the way in which consumers were developing relationships with their brands in a social/psychological/anthropological sense. Campbell’s soup was one of the first companies to take advantage of branding.


Let’s take a look at a real-life example. Seasons are a popular theme. They are common, always changing, and something everyone can relate to. Now we can use this and just run with it by calling it a “Summer Sale” but we’re more creative than that. Let’s try to make this a little more dynamic.

Say you’re an ice cream vendor going to an outdoor film festival at a park. Your event promotions would could look something like this:

ice cream marketing promo

Now this isn’t what the promotion was originally used for. But admit it – it could’ve been cool!

The key is to play up on those familiarities and associations that people can relate to. Combine that with intriguing imagery and illustration from a talented graphic designer and you have yourself something memorable and timeless.

Now that you have your look and theme, it’s time to move on to #2 getting your message to your audience… stay tuned!

Hunting & Landing the Perfect Marketing Campaign

When I started out in marketing, I knew there would be a day that I could capture this elusive beast. I lay awake at night dreaming of me sneaking up on it, rifle in hand, crawling prone through the mud in deep bush wearing camouflage… topped with my jungle hat bearing artificial leaves attached making me invisible except to malicious army of mosquitoes…. only to see her frolicking freely near the stream seemingly without a care in the world.


“There it is,” I whisper under my breath, careful not to make a sound as I know how fleeing the creature is. “It’s beautiful,” I go on, almost getting lost in the moment watching its pure and graceful beauty.

I take a slow, deep breath and hold it with my cheek pressed firmly on the stock of the rifle. My finger finds the trigger guard as the sight tracks the beast, to the left and to the right, far down the barrel of  my Winchester Widowmaker.

“Bah!” I startledly blurted out, while trying to remain quietly as I can, as a mosquito digs into my skin. Even as the sharp pain registers, I try with all my might to not move an inch and rustle any leaves, as doing so would be enough to startle the beast and never see her again.

“You’re mine now,” my confidence builds as my finger once again finds the trigger. The beast bends it’s neck down to the stream, still as it’s ever been. This is it. Now or never. Here we go.


As the dust settles, I don’t see a monster laying on the ground. The only sound I hear besides the ringing in my ear was the sound of a trampling beauty darting away before I could catch another glimpse. Gone.


While this story seems more appropriate in the pages of Field & Stream, the metaphor remains true. Trying to hunt for that perfect marketing campaign that will create the impact you want is often sought after but never achieved.

Why is this?

Part of the problem I usually run into is the follow-through. A lot of times we get started on this wonderful idea, try it for a while, invest virtually nothing besides a bit of time, and move on to the next thing. This is where we may go wrong. A great campaign takes an investment – of time, determination, and a budget. Now, I didn’t say a MASSIVE budget, but a budget is usually needed. Don’t get me wrong – there are some great things out there that are free (advertising-wise). But because they are free, everyone does them,  and because of that, there isn’t much impact.


Marketing involves using channels to convey your message. What channels are YOU using? A big part of which is Social Media. Another channel is your sales team and the products they are using – catalogs, flyers, sell sheets, etc. The best campaign uses ALL of these channels in a clear concise matter, using the proper voice to speak to the corresponding audience.

Marketing Channels

Go where your customers are

This point seems obvious. But lets look at again. Say for instance your demographic are steel buyers, with ages from 45-60. While Facebook seems attractive because it’s where “all the kids are hanging out”, investing in a marketing campaign may not be the best channel to speak to your demographic.

This can hopefully get you started on thinking about your next marketing campaign to generate some more sales activity. So go out there and make it happen!