Category: Marketing

Be Relevant (Right Message to the Right Audience)

You really have to make your customers feel like you are listening to their cares and desires.

There is no quicker way to turn someone off than to blast them with content in which  they have zero interest. If you want them to take an interest in you, you have to be relevant. Personally, I enjoy simple email content that points me easily to something I have intense interest in, but there is no quicker way for me to hit that “Unsubscribe”, “Mute”, “Cancel”, or “Unfollow” button than to spam me with trash that I could care less about or even worse waste my time on the phone or in person.

In many cases you are selling more than one product and in to more than one market. Make sure that your newsletters, emailers, etc. all give your customers an option as to what content they want and what they don’t and make sure you comply with that request. That doesn’t mean you can’t make suggestions or add links here and there to something that you think they might also like (associative sell), but keep it rational if you want to keep them as a customer.

Just because someone was kind enough to share their email address with you, follow your social media feed, pick up the phone, or give you an in person meeting doesn’t mean they are giving you the right to waste their time or bombard them with irrelevant junk. Your customers put their trust in you, so before you ever hit that send button, ask yourself “Am I being relevant to those I am about to blast?” If you aren’t 100% sure, think twice.



Don’t Strive for Better, Strive for Different

Most companies focus too much on better products, when perception is far more important… the first product in someone’s mind is usually superior.  In fact, it’s even better to be first than it is to be better. Be realistic about your place on the ladder (If You Ain’t First You’re Last) and then work to position yourself against the next guy in line. Everyone by now has heard of the Avis example of their “we try harder” slogan…whether or not they actually did try harder is besides the point, they were just trying to position themselves against number one (Hertz).

Don’t try to be better (it never works), try to be different. Think of these examples:

  • 7Up moved from the tiny lemon lime soda market into the number three spot in the much larger cola market by calling themselves the Un-Cola.
  • Apple focuses only on the high $$$ market…10% of the customers, but 75% of the profits

So, not only should you pick a niche, you must! But, make sure that it has enough profitable potential customers. All you need is 1,000 True Fans and you are off to the races.

What is your differentiator: Service, Distribution, etc. Look for the hole to fill. Everyone is interested in what is new, not what is better. Better is nowhere, different is where it’s at! I got a kick out of this video by Derek Sivers…one man dancing can start a whole crowd, but you must be bold enough to put yourself out there.

Now, go be different!

If You Ain’t First, You’re Last!

Ricky Bobby famously said this in the movie Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last”. Now, that might be a bit extreme, but being first can make a big difference.

ricky bobby

Consider this…all brands in a category have rungs on a ladder. #1 tends to have 1.5 – 2X the share of #2, #2 is 1.5 – 2X  that of #3, etc. Of course this varies, but pretty amazing how much it plays out. Think about examples like:

  • Fast Food Burgers: McDonalds vs. BK vs. everybody else
  • Internet Seach: Google vs. Bing, Yahoo, etc
  • Smartphones: Samsung vs. Apples vs. everybody else
  • Coffee Houses: Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ Donuts vs. everybody else, etc.

Ricky Bobby was right that being first is a big deal, but if you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category…Bert Hinkler was the second person to fly across the Atlantic… Amelia Earhart was third, but she was the first woman.

If somehow you find room for yourself to be first in a new category, pick a name that can work generically: Advil (ibuprofen), Tylenol (acetaminophen), Q-tip, Band-Aid, Kleenex, Jell-O, Saran Wrap, Crazy Glue, etc…that will give you a much longer life and create that separation between you and the competition.

When considering when to try and insert yourself in the mix, consider that it is even better to be too early than to be too late. It is better though to be first in the mind than first in the marketplace… even if you are late to the market you can still be first in the mind.

So, get out there and be more like Ricky Bobby…”Shake & Bake”!

Again, if you haven’t read either of these, do it (I’ve borrowed liberally from both…these guys are brilliant!)…

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout





Scarcity…How I Love Thee

Scarcity increases demand. Consider: people fall in love with those who could care less, banks give money to those that don’t need it, and people don’t want to go to a party if you are begging them (clubs and restaurants make fake lines out the door while having plenty of empty tables inside), etc. It is a funny law of human behavior.

As a rule, if an item is rare or becoming rare, it is more valuable. As something becomes less available to us, we feel loss of freedom and that makes us want it even more. Think about the times that someone has tried to keep you from taking the time to think a deal over by scaring you into believing you can’t have it later because the thing you want will probably be gone…what is your response (probably depends on how badly you want it).

Here are some ways this is used against us everyday:

  • Companies like Apple complain that they can never fully satisfy demand
  • Bitcoin: US $ can be printed, but there are only so many Bitcoin to be had
  • Salesmen push for you to buy now as another person wants to buy it too… no time to wait
  • Politicians may say something detrimental to them has been censored so they can’t speak about it (now we really want to know)
  • Declarations of inadmissibility in the courtroom usually have opposite effects on jurors
  • Auctions: sometimes they tend to a bidding frenzy beyond all reason…if the other guy wants it that bad then I want it more 



2 really great experiments in the book Influence by Robert Cialdini:

  1. Beef in short supply: a control was asked to buy beef and told nothing. Another was told of a future scarcity and bought two times as much. However, the customers that were told individually of this “exclusive” information bought 6X as much. The fact that the news of the scarcity was made scarce was even more persuasive.
  2. Cookie shortage: participants were given cookies… both groups were told that the organizers had to take some back but one group was told it was because of a mistake and the other was told because they were in high demand by other testers. The ones in the highest demand were deemed by all to be more valuable and desirable.

One way to maintain long term demand for your product is to never totally satisfy the demand. This applies to dealing with people as well. Make yourself less accessible and you increase the value of your presence…the ardor of an indifferent lover surges with the appearance of a rival.





Pick a Word, Any Word, But Own It

The essence of marketing is narrowing the focus. How narrow? Can you sum up everything you want to convey in one word? Can you own one word all to yourself in your prospect’s mind? This is powerful.

Keep it simple

What word do you choose? Well, not an invented one and not a complicated one either. The simpler the better… right out of the dictionary. The best words are simple and explain the benefit you are providing. Once you choose it, don’t chase trademarks… you want others to use it… to be a leader, you must have followers. Examples:

FedEx: they sacrificed all other methods of delivery in their business to own “Overnight”
Prego: they took share from Ragu by borrowing words from Heinz (in another category) and went with “thicker”
Volvo = Safety
Dominos = Home Delivery

Words you can’t use

You may have your heart set on picking words like “Quality” or “Honesty”, but these don’t work as everybody says they stand for these and no one is taking an opposing view, so you can’t take a stand here. The “Unquality” corporation or the “Dishonest” political candidates have no volunteers even though there may be many in existence

If somebody else owns it, look elsewhere

If a competitor already owns a word in the prospect’s mind in your space, look elsewhere. Example: Volvo owns safety and many others have tried to say they do too, but Volvo still wins after vast sums have been spent on futile advertising. Another example: Atari owned video games but once business slowed they tried to make Atari = “Computer”, but there were too many others already in that space and they lost. The sadder part is they gave up “video games” to Nintendo who has owned it since. You can’t go for a word too similar to your competitor. You need to pick another attribute and own it. You can’t predict the size of a new attribute’s share, so never laugh.

Some great reads that I borrowed liberally from:

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout


Forget Logic and Facts, Arouse Emotions

There are no facts, there are no best products. All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception is the reality. All truth is relative. Relative to your mind or the mind of another human being. You believe what you want to believe. So, your job is not to sell logic, but to arouse emotions.

Don’t focus on the product

If the secret of success is getting into the prospects mind first, what strategies are most companies actually going with? The “Better product strategy”… trying to convince strictly through logic. This is where most people make their mistake in marketing by thinking you’re fighting a product battle rooted in reality. Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products. Regardless of reality people perceive the first product in the mind as superior and to get there you have to trigger emotion.

Think this only applies to B-to-C, think again, and check out this article on how emotions and personal values come into play in the B-to-B space compared to business values. Why, you ask? “B2B purchasers potentially have a lot more to lose, such as their credibility, future budget allocation, and ultimately their job. Fear is the most powerful emotion coloring our decisions. 

How to do it

Firstly, let’s try to avoid strictly trying to imply our product is better and lets not focus too much attention on features like: size, speed, power, etc. Instead, let’s focus on benefits received and find an emotional connection…how will it help them? Here are some strong buying emotions: pride of ownership, style, security, vanity, prestige or status, peer pressure, self-improvement, health, love of family. When there is a lack of difference between products, emotional factors are magnified, not diminished. People also need a rational excuse to justify their emotional decision, so give them one.

Some other things to consider

If you can involve the senses, go for it as this highly increases your chances. Consider what your price is saying… if you put the exact same product on the shelf side-by-side  (say cheese) with different packaging and mark one $1.99 and another $7.99, the implication to the consumer is that the $7.99 one is much better… you may actually sell more of the more expensive one… it becomes more desirable as the price goes up. Also know that many customers make buying decisions based on secondhand perceptions… they base their decisions on someone else’s perception of reality… be aware and adapt.

Some great reads that I borrowed liberally from:

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins