June 18, 2018
How to be unique in your marketing
In today’s marketing world you’re often told that you should be unique in your branding and in your corporate identity. You’re told your company must be different in order to be successful. You must be unique and special and focused on a niche market previously untapped. And without fail this never ceases to brings to mind a rather paradoxical quote I’ve heard which says:
“You’re unique- just like everyone else.”
I laugh every time I hear the quote because indeed it holds a level of truth. In your branding you do want to be unique, and so does everyone else, including your competitors.
How to Be Unique
The reasons you want to be unique are numerous, you want your company to be easily recognized, remembered and repeated by your potential and past customers. Let’s look at several ways you can be unique in your marketing and branding.
Your Logo Is Important
First you should be unique in your logo. Sure, now days you can go and pick out a logo for a couple bucks and have a brand. But this logo that you picked up at some discount website is not a unique brand symbol. It doesn’t represent what and who you are as a company. Your logo is much more than just a symbol or cute graphic. Your logo is a fantastic visual representation of not only what you are as a company but more importantly, who you are. You want your logo to be unique and memorable, and you want your logo to be timeless. I’m sure we can all think of other logos which have withstood the test of time and still today stand as representations of the company for which they were created. Of course over time things will change and refinements may be made, but some of the most classic logos have stayed relatively the same through generations.
That last one, Nike, is timeless. We can see even over decades these brands have altered very little about their logo (except for the early days for McDonalds). These logos are both classic and contemporary.
Designing your logo can be difficult because there are so many opportunities to go after the latest trend and what might be currently hot in design and marketing. Your logo should be something you thoughtfully consider and carefully craft.
Your Follow-Through Is Important
Secondly, you can be unique in the services and support you offer to your existing customers. Sure, it’s rather easy to be outgoing and friendly to the potential customers because you want their business. But once they are a customer, that’s when you have the opportunity to be unique. Treat them with respect. Be personable. You will stand apart from other companies because of your connection to your customers.
There are some other companies which have made their name and reputation on their customer support. One such company, Rackspace , offers the tagline, “Fanatical Support”. Then they hold themselves accountable by advertising they answer the phone with a real person in under 15 seconds. That is absolutely unique and memorable.
Your Marketing Is Important
You can be unique in your marketing. Marketing is your opportunity to express who you are as a company. It’s your chance to show the world the culture and the community associated with your company. Your marketing should reflect your values and your abilities and provide a unique insight into your company. Your marketing takes time, thought, and practice. Yes, your marketing takes practice. You need to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can speed up this process by learning from others. Determine what resonates with your target market, but more importantly be true to your company and your vision. If there’s a disconnect between the two then there’s an opportunity to evaluate if you have correctly identified your ideal customer. Your marketing is not something to take lightly and certainly not something you ignore.
Your Reputation Is Important
The last area I want to look at today is your reputation. Your reputation is what others think of you. There’s a number of great quotes on reputation but I remember one by Abraham Lincoln which I particularly like.
“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
– Abraham Lincoln
Reputation reflects on your character and your reputation is unique to your company just as your character is a unique trait of your business. Unfortunately there are some who would ruin their reputation in an attempt to grow their market share, discourage competition, or otherwise just attempt to ‘get-ahead’ in business. And as the quote says:
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
– Benjamin Franklin
You may be aware of the recent news story regarding Uber and their somewhat questionable recruiting practices and other aggressive efforts to kill their competition, Lyft. That story is a very real, very recent example of this exact principle. I have always admired Uber, they had the “cool factor” in my book and I would share their services with others whether they were interested or not. After this latest revelation I hesitate a bit before being willing to advertise for them. A single marketing campaign can ruin a reputation. And ruin a company. Be sure your reputation is important and a great way for you to be unique.
You can be unique in your business. The world is waiting to see what you offer … and what makes you different. Don’t be afraid to show them.
April 28, 2016
A Pyramid Scheme for Startups
Most startups traditionally all want to approach the market in a similar way. Scratching an itch. Starting with a great idea. Focusing on fixing a problem that the entrepreneur has personally experienced or seen. This is common. And certainly nothing wrong with this way for getting started. Ultimately you have to feel passionately about the problem you’re trying to solve; the pain you want to alleviate.
If you didn’t have this deep-seated desire there’s no need joy in the task you’re undertaking. But too many times (I’m learning this too as I talk with others) this is the sole foundation and focus of the business. When this personal perspective is the only focus of the startup there will be a struggle. So how does a startup grow beyond this phase? What’s the better approach to take for a successful business?
As I learned from a good friend there is a simple diagram which can be immensely helpful in creating this structure. I call it a pyramid scheme for startups. Only this pyramid scheme is highly beneficial and immensely helpful. And totally legal.
I’ll start by giving you the picture and then digging into it a bit to better explain each level and what it looks like from a couple different perspectives.
How the marketing uses the pyramid
First, we want to look at this pyramid scheme from the position of the marketer. The marketer needs to create the branding and marketing message for the organization. They have to start with the core and work out. In this role they need to take this pyramid, start at the top, and work their way outwards (or down).
A good marketer recognizes they must begin by identifying what the company is (What we are). Once they have a good handle on the “why” for the business; they align with the company goals and objectives; and then they shift their focus to be slightly more broad and begin to create the marketing message. This marketing message should point people to what the business does and funnel traffic “upstream” into the what and why statement.
We’re Different. Here’s How.
Continuing downward the marketer then begins to build on this marketing message into some of the specific ways in which the business is different from the competition. This is the differentiating aspect of the marketing message. Again, this stage is broader still in the overall marketing context and begins to include other sources, the general market space, and a broader reach.
The broadest and most generic marketing message is the bottom of the pyramid. The last part a marketer builds out and focuses on revolves around the practical application of the business/product to an audience. How the customer would use the product.
An interesting point you’ll notice as the marketer builds this pyramid from highly specific (company-focused) to very broad (audience-focused) there begins to form a number of different “channels” or as more commonly known “verticals”. This can be easily shown in the pyramid with the following minor addition.
What you’ll see is with the addition of these vertical markets the marketer continues to funnel everything upwards into a single core message and becoming more company-centric and refined.
It’s a brilliant way of thinking about the marketing message. I think it represents similar concepts to what you’ll find if you look at Simon Sinek’s presentation on Start with Why. Which incidentally is also one of my personal biggest influences. I’ve written on that topic time and again. But this is only one part of the equation.
How sales uses the pyramid
We can take this same pyramid structure and look at it through the eyes of the salesperson. If we start from a sales standpoint we have to approach the situation from the opposite direction
The reason for this is simple but let’s walk through it anyways as an exercise. First, when you’re approaching a business from a sales perspective you have to start from a common point. The best salesperson recognizes that instead of yelling about what makes the business great the best way to begin involves listening. A salesperson that listens first to a customer, understands and helps identify pain points is going to have a much easier job providing a solution that solves specific problems.
You have to listen first.
This approach of listening and identifying pain points means simply identifying how the business/product would be most effectively used by the customer (aka the bottom of the pyramid). This is a critical step. This lays the foundation for the relationship and helps the salesperson reach the broadest possible audience. Keep in mind the verticals we discussed previously. Listening to the pain points and identifying use-cases means targeting a specific vertical path from the bottom of the pyramid.
Secondly, once the customer recognizes and relates to the pain points and how they would use the solution the salesperson can continue to refine the sales message to begin to highlight key differences between the product and the competition. This is still the differentiating step, but specifically as it relates to the pain points previously identified.
Relate to your customers
The third step is the relational step. At this level in the pyramid the salesperson takes the differentiating factors and leverages those along with the pain points to relate to the customer. Here the interests of the customer need to be aligned with the solutions provided by the company. This is the “caring” level where the customer begins to see in a semi-focused manner why this particular company will uniquely be able to help them.
Finally, the last step in the sales process is where the company can share a bit more of their personal message, culture, and experience. This is where the company can open up a bit. Note, that you don’t want this to occur too early in the relationship but rather be saved until the connection has been made and the basis for a relationship formed.
I hope you find this helpful to think about as you work within your company (really any stage company can probably benefit from this). Keep these principles in mind as you build your marketing strategy and your sales strategy. Focus your time and efforts where they matter most. Of course this isn’t a perfect picture and there are ways this could be improved upon both generally and also in specific company use cases.
As I’m learning and thinking on these things I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Have you found a particular pyramid or other diagram that helps identify and organize your thoughts around preparing a marketing message (sales traffic) besides the funnel. Because, yes, I’ve seen enough funnels to last a lifetime.
February 23, 2016
Global Marketing Automation
When we talk about global marketing automation and the need for a product which can meet the diverse needs of a world market one of the first priorities becomes languages. I’ve written about this before but recent news has made this a good time to revisit the topic. More often than not people tend to forget that there are other languages spoken in the world. It’s just human nature to become comfortable and focus on your local environment. This is especially noticeable in the Western world (aka the United States). But this is close-minded and a narrow focus on the task to accomplish.
Marketing automation has traditionally been one of the largest offenders of this narrow view of the world. Case in point: some of the most well-known existing marketing software companies are proud (and actually brag) on the fact they provide their software in 5 languages. Five.
Mautic is an open source marketing automation platform where the focus from the very first day has been on a global environment and the vision for a product available to everyone in every language. This community-first approach has lead to some incredible milestones being reached at insane speeds. How incredible? Let’s look at some numbers.
More than 253 collaborators have joined the Mautic translations team. Together these engaged volunteers have actively been translating Mautic into 24 languages. With more than 47 languages started. That’s amazing! (24 languages is 500% more translated than the other marketing platforms.) And the Mautic community has accomplished this in under 10 months. That’s not a typo; in less than a year this community has come together and built a robust platform available in a way unlike anything before. Local and familiar.
But this is not the end of the story. Even Mautic has a long way to go. Our community has some great momentum but this is not the time to sit back and relax. Because this is the bigger picture:
“There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today.” (Source)
And so, even though Mautic dominates the marketing landscape there are still thousands of languages yet to go. And as we have done so far we will continue to do, pressing on, empowering people around the world to use cutting edge marketing software in their native language. Because that’s what open source and community means. This is the power of our community and this is the power of Mautic.
September 2, 2014
Magic and Content Marketing
Magic is one of those occupations that has a mix of lovers and haters. Some dislike feeling tricked, or not being “in the know” about how something is performed. Regardless I think there are some similarities between performing magic and the art of successful content marketing. Yes, magic is an art and so is content marketing. Here are four questions you should ask about your content marketing.
Where are your users looking?
One of the first things magicians and sleight-of-hand artists learn is the skill of misdirection. Causing your audience to watch one hand while the other hand performs the trick. Hmm, deception, how does that relate to content marketing.
Well of course we don’t want to encourage deception in our writing, but there’s another principle that must first be learned that is far more important than deception. The magician must know exactly where their audience is looking. They must command their audience and draw their eyes to exactly what they want them to see. As a content marketing expert you want to be so in touch with your audience that you know exactly where they are looking and what will keep them looking. You want to draw their eyes to what you want them to see.
Are you entertaining?
There’s no doubt that sleight-of-hand artists are entertaining. You can’t help but watch them somewhat mesmerized when they are performing a trick. You want to see every move, every split-second action. You’re highly engaged and entertained. Just the same, you as a content marketing artist must make people feel entertained while they are reading what you write. It’s no longer just a manual or a blog article about a new feature for a piece of software. It’s an opportunity to entertain.
This means because you know where your audience is looking and because you are in touch with what interests them you can now craft a story, an intrigue, a heartbreak, or a comedy which captures their hearts and engages them in what you are sharing. You must be entertaining. You must be engaging. Your content is your stage from which you can mesmerize the world.
Are you exciting?
Magic is exciting because the user knows what to expect and yet is still fooled. They are drawn into the illusion and the magic of the moment. When you craft content marketing you have an opportunity to excite. Yes, of course the user may know what to expect and yet you can still surprise and delight them through your delivery methods. Be exciting in the sentences you construct and the words you use to deliver your message.
Content marketing is not just business. Yes, it has many real-life applications and uses. But we should never forget that our content is a way to communicate, excite others, and stir within them a passion for the thing which drives and motivates us. Your words can empower people. You can excite your audience to do more.
Are you encouraging questions?
If you’ve ever watched a magic show you’ve seen audience members shocked, amazed, entertained, and excited. Then the questions start to come out. They want to know how the trick was done. They want to know more. They want it to be performed for them again. A good artist will be at home with their audience, will encourage interaction, and will welcome the opportunity to establish a more personal interaction.
As a content marketer you want to do the same. Content marketing is about engaging with your audience; sharing relevant information and encouraging questions. Good marketers leave their audience wanting to know more and asking questions. Great content marketers not only cause their audience to ask questions but they provide answers as well. Suddenly the content has come alive and become a channel by which the writer and the audience share a bond.
Are you practicing?
One thing every magician or sleigh-of-hand artist will tell you is the importance practice plays in their success. I’ve heard stories of magicians practicing a single trick for thousands of hours before ever showing it to the world. They want the illusion to be perfect. They want the mystery to be captivating and the trick to be flawless.
Content writing is also a skill which must be practiced. Your words must be chosen carefully and thoughtfully and the more you practice writing beautiful sentences the better you will become. You should want your writing to be flawless. There is not a day which goes by when I don’t see an imperfection a flaw, or a mistake which I could have done better in my writing. I see each day as an opportunity to practice more.
My wife laughs at me because I constantly go back, read and re-read my posts and then chagrin over how they could have been improved.
Magical Content Marketing
You can be a content marketer. You can be great at writing a thousand words a day without blinking an eye. Perhaps you are quite good at creating captivating posts. There is always room for improvements. We can all become better, hopefully these four questions playfully comparing content writing to magicians and other artists help to look lightheartedly at ways in which we can continue to improve our craft.
We are artists. We must be flawless in our execution, engaging in our delivery, exciting in our content and magical in the experience we create. Let’s practice a bit more magic when performing content marketing.
Remember, we’re all in this together!
May 13, 2014
Free Marketing Ideas for Small Business
Most small businesses also have small marketing budgets. And it’s pretty much a fact of life that there will always be bigger companies with bigger budgets working in the same space. How can the little guy get noticed?
There are a variety of ways a small business can effectively market themselves and their product without competing in the paid marketing arena so easily dominated by larger companies. Below is a short list of 10 ways you can generate traffic and interest in your company without breaking the bank. That’s right, free marketing. Remember, these are in no particular order. Try to apply some of these to your business and see if you have more success than the larger companies.
1. Make Your Size Matter
Find the benefits of having a smaller company size in your particular market. Does it increase your customer care? Then brag about it. Figure out the ways in which your size is a positive over the other companies in your same industry. It’s not always the best thing to be the biggest company around.
2. Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media provides an excellent opportunity for leveling a playing field. You can create a Facebook page or Twitter account just as easily as the next company. And there’s no reason not to. Of course there are paid or “promoted” tweets and advertising opportunities on other social media. Even still, the opportunity to interact with your users one-on-one and do more than just shout into a void exists for all companies equally. I’ll have a full post in the future on proper use of social media.
Everyone can write. Sure it takes some people longer than others to write good content, but there is no cost obstacle to writing. This is often the single biggest hurdle that businesses must overcome. Often writing is seen as a time-consuming venture which does not yield a return. The truth is writing fresh content can be the single biggest factor for improving your on-site SEO and although the return is not immediate, there is absolutely an incredible amount of value in good content.
4. Be the Expert
Small businesses usually started because the founder(s) knew something. They saw a problem and they created a solution. They are experts at what they do. When competing with a big company the best thing the little guy can do is to establish themselves as an expert in their field. Showcase why you do what you do and why you’re passionate about it.
Focus on what makes you different and those areas where your knowledge makes you more powerful.
5. Feature Guests
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others to have them post information to your website. This will first of all encourage others to point traffic to your site, and secondly, will show that you are open to connections and sharing of information. Everyone is eager to share things they are working on and when they have an opportunity to share that on someone’s site they will not only be willing to guest appear, they will tell everyone they know about it. This will help your small business stay relevant in the industry and become a worthy competitor.
6. Build Lists
Everyone likes to be put on a list (as long as its a positive list). If you are in an industry where you can compile a top 10 (top 100?) then be sure to do so. Not only will you have many other people now interested in where they ranked and how they did but they will also understand you’ve spent time reviewing each. This points again to your expertise in your field. Be sure to do this thoughtfully and carefully.
7. Go Local
Big companies very often fail to understand the nuances and differences of a small community. Small businesses which are involved in their local community understand those details and as a result can meet the needs of their local groups more effectively. You may not get the best business from your local community, but word of mouth spreads rapidly and the more you are involved locally the better chance you have of being recognized elsewhere. Good work spreads.
8. Get Involved
As a small business its important to find ways to be involved. Involved in your local community (as mentioned above) but also involved in your industry. Find the trade shows, the meet-ups, the other places where like-minded people from your field are gathering, and get involved. You don’t have to have the biggest and best booth – in fact you don’t have to have a booth at all. Just be present, shake hands, introduce yourself, make friends.
9. Be Original
Small businesses should never try to just mimic the behemoth company. Of course there are always things to be learned from the others and especially the big companies which have been successful. However, small businesses should focus on what makes them unique and original. This ties into several of the points above. It’s all about finding a niche, demonstrating expertise and differentiating. Being original means being true to the character of the founder and creating the right type of company culture.
Similar to the previous point about being original, the best possible thing is to be willing to be innovative. Capitalize on your company size and your ability to pivot quickly. Find the failure points in the business field you’re in and capitalize on them. Don’t follow the status quo. Be willing to take chances and make changes which the big company will be too reticent to make. Use your size to your advantage and suddenly your perceived weakness (being small) becomes one of your greatest assets.
Small businesses make up the majority of the economy and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a small business. I love them and love working in them. Just because there is no multi-million dollar marketing budget does not mean we cannot compete with the bigger companies. You don’t have to spend money to have a great marketing campaign. Use some of the points above and begin building your traffic and your audience without spending a penny.
Remember, we’re all in this together.
April 20, 2014
The Thrill of the Hunt
It’s that one weekend where my wife and I follow along in the amusing and pointless hiding of plastic spheres filled with candy so our children can run around giggling, laughing, and shouting as they hunt for their ‘treasure’.
Yes, it’s Easter weekend and culture has deemed this a time for a bunny to place eggs (makes no sense to me) in obscure locations for young children (and I admit, some older children) to go sleuthing in a total safari, big-game hunt. The result?
Approximately 80% of all hidden gems are found with 20% hidden so well, even the person responsible is unable to remember where it was placed.
No doubt it will be found months later when weeds are being pulled or the lawn is being mowed. The last plastic egg, faded by the weeks in the sun, with some candy wrapper remnant inside (the chocolate long-since melted).
Even as I watch these excited kids bounding with enthusiasm around the yard I can’t help but think to myself how much this relates to marketing. As a marketer we hide ‘eggs’ all over the backyard of the internet. We carefully tuck them away in the form of well-placed articles, neatly packaged comments, a tweet, or other social media post. All types of little ‘easter egg’ marketing nuggets.
Sometimes we take great care in placing one, and other times we almost casually toss them around and hope they land in a good spot. But we always have a goal in mind. We’re leaving them for someone else to find. Sure, we may leave some out in the open, easy to retrieve, easy to consume. But we also plant some slightly beneath the surface, a reward for those who dig, for those who look a little deeper. Then we watch, and we wait.
We watch as eager, excited customers bounce around from place to place looking for the products they need.
We hope they find the items we’ve left and we hope, just as my kids do when they find a new goodie, they come running towards us to show us what they’ve found. We want our customers, finding the treats we’ve left for them and running to us for more.
Hide them well
I’d encourage you to keep the analogy in mind the next time you’re working on a piece of marketing. Remember the 80/20 rule I jokingly referred to above. It may very well be that 20% of your hard-work is never found or uncovered. Or maybe it will remain hidden, lying in wait for just the right person to come along and find it, days or even weeks later. Be a thoughtful marketer. Take the time to carefully consider your ‘easter eggs’, plant them where your customers will look, but don’t overload them either. If the backyard were to be covered in easter eggs then the game would be no fun. It would become a mundane, almost tedious experience and no kid in the world would enjoy it. The fun is in more than just collecting tidbits, the fun is deeper, the experience, the feeling of accomplishment its as much the journey as it is the reward at the end.
I love marketing, I love the feeling of sharing the excitement with others. The joy which comes from planting the treats, writing the posts, and making the game. All for the hunters out there. Because there’s nothing better than preparing for, and watching others’ enjoy the thrill of the hunt.