What Successful Brands Have In Common (it might not be what you think)

Last week, I was attending the Cult Gathering at the stunning Fairmont Banff Springs in the Rocky Mountains, that I’m so very proud to call my backyard.   Cult brought together some of North America’s top brands to talk about what has made them so successful.  From an energy drink that broke three world records with their space diving project, to a tourist and convention bureau that had their ad go viral when it was banned from playing during the Super Bowl, story after story unveiled one common thread they felt lead to their success.  Read more…

Let’s start by looking at a couple of success stories.

Red Bull Gives You Wings

One of my favorite companies to watch is Red Bull.  I remember drinking Red Bull over 25 years ago in Austria and was shocked when it became an international sensation and created what was then a new beverage category known as Energy Drinks.  Today not only does it dominate in its market with over 40 Billion cans sold in 166+ countries (5.3 Billion in 2013 alone) but it has expanded so much into content marketing that it has its own publishing house.

While many people are aware that Red Bull supports extreme sports most don’t know that they also own their own Music Academy.   Why?  Because the company’s  mission is to “give wings to people and ideas.”  They want to inspire the body and the mind and it shows in all their marketing.

One of their most incredible marketing feats was the Red Bull Stratos project when Felix Baumgartner sky dived from the edge of space.  If you have never seen the entire video, I highly recommend it (though I find it hard to believe there’s anyone out there who hasn’t seen it).  Here’s the short intro to give you a taste of what they accomplished.

In fact if you want some entertainment some time, check out any of Red Bull’s ads online.  Not only are they fun and adrenalin pumping, but they remain consistent to their slogan – Red Bull Gives You Wings.  What you will NEVER see is a product dump.  They won’t talk about its taste and they certainly won’t justify why you should buy it?  What they will accomplish is their mission – to inspire the body and mind.

Over 40 Million Served Per Year

Back in 2003, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority was launching a new campaign that the Super Bowl refused to air.  The Super Bowl had a policy not to air any commercial with inferences to sports betting and with Las Vegas being a gambling mecca, it felt it needed to reject their ad.  There is nothing like forbidden fruit to raise curiosity so when the ad played shortly after the event, viewership went through the roof and the LVCVA successfully launched a campaign that has made “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” a common household phrase.  Here’s the irony.  The ad the Superbowl rejected had no references to gambling.

If you want to get a sense of some of the LVCVA ad campaigns here are snippets from the very success What Happens In Vegas Stays in Vegas campaign and their current campaign called “Vegas Enablers.”

Again what you won’t see is emphasis on the product or on gambling and casinos yet they attract over 40 million visitors a year.   Cathy Tull, Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority explained that they know that Vegas isn’t for everyone and they aren’t trying to justify it to the non-Vegas fans.  Their mandate is to stay true to their audience and to continue to provide  the ultimate experience to the loyal die hard Vegas visitor.

Of course, it’s easy to justify successes like these when you have a huge marketing budget.  It’s important to remember though that companies like Red Bull weren’t always big.   What they did was stay true to their mission and their target market no matter what!

So my challenge to you smaller companies out there is this:

Are you spending your marketing dollars justifying your product or connecting with your audience?

In other words if your promotional material is “we” or “I” focused, it’s time to change it to “you” focused and make it about your target market.  It’s also time to take a stand for what you believe in.  You do what you do for a reason.  There is something that truly matters to you.  Are you getting that across to your audience every chance you get?  If not, give it a try.  You might just be that next marketing success story.

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Feel free to use this article as long as you include the following: by Cidnee Stephen of Strategies for Success

About Cidnee Stephen

Cidnee is a sought after speaker and Duct Tape Marketing Consultant specializing in what she calls Credibility Marketing. Her content focuses on the 3 key pillars of success for service-based businesses – online marketing, content marketing and referral marketing. Besides blogging for Duct Tape Marketing, Cidnee is also a regular contributor to Constant Contact and BPlans. She also publishes the popular marketing ezine, the Marketing Excelerator. MOST IMPORTANTLY – Cidnee is an avid skier, golfer, traveler, and her son David’s biggest fan.

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Keeping-In-Touch –– Why Bother?

Excellent question!  Is there a good reason?  You bet there is!  Two (2) in fact.  Prospects give us two  compelling reasons to keep-in-touch over time:

  1. your prospects have a life-time of value, and
  2. your prospects have a life-cycle of need

This is calculated as follows:  the number of times a qualified prospect will need the kind of services you offer X their average client transaction = their Life-time Value.

Stew Leonard, Jr, CEO of the most profitable green grocery in the world (Stew Leonards®) once heard about a shopper who left the store and her grocery cart behind because of a delay in being cashed-out.  His staff didn’t feel that was so bad.  In fact, one newer employee commented, “It was only about $200 of groceries”.  Stew, Jr. jumped on that comment with this classic response:  “She didn’t leave $200 behind, she left over $58,000 behind!”  The clerk was confused.  “Look”, Stew said, “our typical customer shops here for about 5.6 years and spends, on average, about $200 / week on groceries.  DO THE MATH!  52 weeks X $200 X 5.6 years = $58,240 — and if she doesn’t return, THAT is what we’ve lost, not $200 in one cart, OK?”

Obviously, there are many more transactions awaiting you if you work with the same qualified prospect over the course of their useful buying lifetime for the product or service you offer.

Regardless of what you do or sell, there’s a good chance a qualified prospect isn’t likely to have a constant need for it.  Think about the following kinds of predictable purchases we all make and how much time passes, on average, between the last time and the next time we’re ‘in the market’ for it:

•  FOOD . . . bought weekly
•  DENTAL CLEANINGS . . . bought every 6 months
•  TAX PREPARATION SERVICES . . . bought every 12 months (April 15th)
•  AUTOMOBILE . . . bought about every 3 – 5 years
•  HOME . . . bought about every 5 – 7 years

These cycles of need suggest a period of time where people will have a higher or lower need-to-know about that product or service.

If you just bought new home, odds are good you’re at a ‘low’ point in your need-to-know cycle for ‘housing’.  Alternatively, if your car is 5 years old, you may be a lot closer to the next time you’ll be visiting auto dealerships than you’ve been in the last 5 years.  Right?

Here’s the problem this presents for you as a marketer.  You can’t choose or predict when you’ll come into contact with someone who will, sooner or later, be ‘in the market’ for a product or service you offer.  If you determine that a new contact isn’t ready to make a buying decision, but you don’t have a way to stay-in-touch and top-of-mind with them until they are (again!) in the market, you may forget about them.  Worse –– they may forget about you!


Net result?  You won’t come to mind the next time they’re ‘in the market’ for a product or service you offer.  But don’t worry.  They WILL find someone when those times come who will help them.  They’re called your competitors!  And they’ll be only too happy to take care of your forgotten and neglected prospects.

If the thought of having to constantly ‘hunt’ for your next sale isn’t attractive, you’ll want a SYSTEM for keeping-in-touch and staying-in-mind with people who are likely to buy what you do BUT . . . not aren’t ready to do that when you first connect with them.

A useful system for cultivating your contacts and positioning you as a ‘Preferred Provider’ of you with prospects, clients and strategic alliances should include the following:

  • Automation . . . if you have to work too hard to use it, you won’t.  It’s that simple.
  • Media . . . use media that is most likely to reach your contacts — email’s a good bet
  • Permission . . . to contact someone ensures you’ll have their attention and get their response

Keeping-In-Touch with people who can buy what you offer (or, refer you to others who can!) requires a process, a plan and a program to carry it out consistently and conscientiously.  The Client Machine™ is one such system that may be worth a look to determine if it would be of some help to you.

Bill Doerr – I’m a Markitect — I help clients design the marketing plans for their dream business and find highly qualified contractors to build them out so my clients can ‘enjoy the view’. As a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, I believe marketing is more about creating and maintaining a key relationship — ‘Client’ — than anything else. In fact, once you do that, all else tends to fall into place, doesn’t it? ‘-)

How to Write Better Ads for Your Business

Open up the Yellow Pages, your local newspaper, a magazine, or any other printed directory, and one of the first things you’ll likely see are banner ads for small businesses.  Unfortunately, in most cases the ads that businesses publish in printed directories are not very well-written and probably aren’t actually generating many new customers for the business.  Luckily for the folks who publish those directories, businesses do such a terrible job tracking the return on investment from their advertising that they will probably never realize their money is going to waste.

Let’s take a look at some of the essential ingredients of the typical poorly-written small business ad, using a real-life yellow pages ad as an example.  Then we’ll re-write the ad to make it more effective, and give you an idea of how you can do the same thing for your own ads.

Irrelevant Headline

The first essential ingredient in the terrible small business ad is the irrelevant headline that doesn’t  identify the target audience or tell us anything about the company in the ad.  In the example to the right, taken from a local yellow pages (with logo and contact info removed to protect the innocent), the headline says “Don’t Compromise”, but doesn’t tell us who shouldn’t compromise, or what not to compromise about.

The Impossible and Overused Promise

Another essential ingredient of the terrible small business ad is the impossible and overused promise of “best product, best service, and best prices”.  This is what everybody claims to have, and ironically it is also impossible.  Think about it–if you are willing to accept poor quality or bad customer service (or both), you can always get a cheaper price, or possibly even not have to pay at all.  What this company probably meant to say was that they had the best combination of service, quality, and price.  Although it’s possible that this could be true, it is still something that everybody claims, and does nothing to distinguish this company from its competitors (who, keep in mind, will be listed right next to them in the yellow pages).

Bullet Point List of Products and Services

After making an impossible and overused promise, the terrible small business ad usually includes the same list of products and services sold by competing businesses.  However, in our example this company actually doesn’t even do that–they simply include a list of nouns like “homes” and “rental properties”.  We don’t actually know what this company does to homes or rental properties based on this ad.  Does it build them?  Clean them?  Remodel them?  I actually had to visit the company’s website to even determine what it was they did.

Confirmation of a Basic Expectation

For some reason, many small businesses feel the need to use up space in their ad with credit card logos, indicating that they do, in fact, expect to get paid for the service they provide or the products they sell.  I’m sure the credit card companies appreciate the free advertising, but in an age when anyone with a cell phone can except credit cards, it’s pretty much expected that you will also.  Unless you really are the only one among your competitors who accepts credit cards, or are in an industry where this practice is uncommon, don’t waste valuable space in your ad with credit card logos.

Meaningless Trust Symbol

Finally, as the last essential ingredient of our terrible small business ad we have the meaningless trust symbol.  In a recent live workshop with twenty people in attendance where I used this ad as an example, only one person knew what the shield icon with a check-mark actually meant (I didn’t know either until I looked it up–it’s some type of quality guarantee program offered by the yellow pages to their advertisers).  Using badges from third parties are a great way to gain people’s trust, but to be meaningful it must be something that people actually recognize.

Let’s Fix the Ad

Now that we’ve reviewed all the mistakes made by this advertiser, let’s re-write the ad to make it an effective “two-step” or direct response ad.  A two-step ad is one that grabs the attention of a specific target audience with a valuable offer (step one), and then directs people to a place where they can get what is being offered in exchange for some type of contact information like name, email address, and phone number (step two).

In the new ad, the headline clearly identifies the target audience (homeowners), identifies the type of company doing the advertising (a handyman service and remodeling contractor), and calls attention to the content of the ad (questions you should ask before hiring a handyman–which is exactly what someone reading a yellow pages ad would be thinking about doing).

In the body of the ad, the three questions not only call attention to the three main types of services offered by this company (something the original ad didn’t do), they also highlight how this company is possibly different than their competitors.

In the call-to-action section (which was completely missing from the original ad), we tell people how to find out the answers to the questions posed in the ad, and offer a valuable incentive for them to do so (a coupon for one month of free service).

Finally, we top it all off with an award from a well-known and widely trusted third party–in this case, Angie’s List, which is a service that allows people to review and rate contractors and other service-based businesses.

By re-writing the ad in this way, not only would this company probably get a better response, but they’d also easily be able to track their return on investment from the ad.  All they’d have to do is set up a unique landing page on their website with a lead capture form that people could fill out to get the coupon for one month of free service, and they’d know exactly how many people responded to the ad.

Use the example above to write several two-step ads for your business, so you can start getting better results from your advertising.

About Kevin Jordan

After a short career as an airline pilot, I started my own e-commerce business in 2010. I learned the skills I needed to make that business successful, and in 2012 I began teaching those skills to small business owners. I now offer several comprehensive training and coaching programs for small business owners who are serious about improving their marketing.

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Cause Marketing (Part 2): Use Public Relations to Increase Visibility for Your Business and Your Cause

In Part 1, I talked about differentiating your business through Cause Marketing. In Part 2, I’ll show you ways to leverage public relations to increase visibility for your business and your cause.

In the Cleaning for a Reason story, Debbie Sardone, a residential cleaning business owner, saw an opportunity to give back to a cause that held a special place in her heart. And she did it in a way that tugs at the heart strings of almost anyone that has been even remotely touched by cancer.

As the foundation grew, Debbie made it her mission to spread the word through the media, as they are always hungry for a high impact, “feel good” story such as this one. It started with a few newspaper articles about what her company was doing to help women with cancer. It didn’t take long for the television stations to pick up the story and run it on the evening news. Now newspapers and television stations all over the U.S. and Canada are telling the story, giving publicity to many of the cleaning companies that have partnered with Cleaning for a Reason.

Cleaning for a Reason on Fox News

One of the challenges however, is helping these cleaning company owners overcome their fear of speaking to reporters and appearing on camera. After all, we want to make sure they are using sound bites that get across the messages that most help the cause, and that helps their company shine too. So the foundation has put together an entire program that helps the business owners learn how to connect with the media, as well as how to get over their fears so they can get the most from the publicity they receive.

If you are seeking publicity for your cause, be sure to follow these tips:

  1. Research each media source to see which reporter would cover causes such as yours.
  2. Remember that reporters must come up with stories for their newspaper or TV station, so when you bring a pertinent topic to the reporter, you’ve helped him get his job done.
  3. When reaching out to the media, you must have a strong message or hook, to get their attention.
  4. The cause has to be universally appealing. Finding homes for abandoned guinea pigs may be a worthy cause, but is probably not going to garner a spot on the evening news.
  5. There has to be both timeliness and relevancy. For example, Cleaning for a Reason stories are relatively easy to get on the news during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month.

If you are struggling with the fear of speaking on camera, here are some pointers:

  • Don’t be afraid to let your passion for the cause shine through, as it will enhance your authenticity in the eyes of the audience.
  • Practice using “sound bites”. There is nothing worse than finishing the interview, and realizing you forgot to mention a very important detail. So prepare the points you want to make ahead of time, and make them short and concise.
  • Ask the reporter if you can get the questions ahead of time, and then practice with a friend.
  • Sometimes people aren’t sure if they should look at the interviewer or at the camera. Look at the interviewer – it will keep you from looking all around and will help you keep your composure during the interview.
  • Don’t make it about your business, make it about the Cause, and the good feelings you and your employees get through your participation.
  • Send a thank you note to the reporter after the story has aired. It’s a simple gesture but goes a long way with the reporter.

And finally, be sure to stay in touch with every media person you’ve connected with. Follow their reporting and send a note to compliment them on a recent story. Also let them know of other topics you may have for them. In Debbie’s case, since she owns a cleaning company, she’s pitched the idea of demonstrating how to disinfect touch points throughout your home during flu season, which resulted in a prime time newscast story in Dallas. This has continued to increase her status as a cleaning expert, and garnered even more publicity for her business and foundation.

About Jean Hanson

Jean Hanson is a long-time entrepreneur, co-founding two commercial cleaning companies, running a virtual assistant business, and in 2005, launching a business portal for commercial and residential cleaning business owners. She serves on the Board of Directors of Cleaning for a Reason, a non-profit foundation that provides free cleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment. In 2013 Jean became an Authorized Consultant for the world-renowned Duct Tape Marketing System. To learn more about her marketing consultant business and to apply for a free marketing audit, visit http://www.MarketingSystemsByDesign.com.

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Cause Marketing (Part 1): Standing Out in a Crowded Marketplace

For the past few years, I’ve been a member of the Board of Directors of Cleaning for a Reason, a non-profit foundation founded by my friend and business colleague, Debbie Sardone. The purpose of the organization is to provide free cleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment.

Most people that hear the story immediately connect with it, as most of us have been touched by cancer in some way. Debbie owns a residential cleaning company in the Dallas area. Several years ago a woman who had cancer called to see if someone could help clean her house. Unfortunately the woman couldn’t afford the service and was wondering if Debbie could donate the cleaning. Debbie’s first reaction was to say no, and immediately upon hanging up the phone, regretted it. She thought to herself, “Why can’t I clean her home for free? I own the business, and that is my decision.” So from that day on, Debbie made a decision that if any woman battling cancer reached out for help again, she would not be turned away.

The phone call also gave her the idea to start Cleaning for a Reason, which has since grown to over 1000 participating maid services throughout the United States and Canada. As of this writing, the residential cleaning companies that participate in the program have provided more than 17,000 cleanings with a value of more than $4 million in donated cleanings.

Setting aside our personal reasons for participating in a worthy cause, from a marketing perspective, our participation is called Cause Marketing. It is a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. It’s also a unique way to differentiate your business from all the other similar businesses in your marketplace.

Here are some other examples of cause marketing that you may recognize:

  • Dawn Dishwashing Liquid uses pictures of animals they’ve saved from oil spills. For every bottle purchased, Dawn contributes $1.00 to aid wildlife preservation.
  • Cadbury Chocolate partnered with Save the Children to raise funds for Save the Children and other focused community programs, which benefited the cause and Cadbury’s corporate image.
  • Yoplait Yogurt’s “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign in support of the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure of Breast Cancer. The company packaged specific products with a pink lid that consumers turned in, and Yoplait donated $.10 for each lid.

Cause marketing is a valid business strategy. When you select a potential non-profit partner that has a natural affinity with your for-profit business, the result can be more media exposure, stronger public relations, plus additional revenue. And these three will more than likely serve both partners.

Large corporations use cause marketing very successfully. Small businesses can learn a lot from them, and work to duplicate what makes sense for your business in order to reap greater profitability.

Cause Marketing Differentiates Your Business

How do you differentiate your business from your competition? Competing for price is a no-win situation. Providing a guarantee is commonly done by many. Saying your quality is top notch is all too often touted. None of these claims truly stand out. Cause marketing can create that ultimate differentiation to make your company and the cause you foster memorable.

When you link your company to a cause, the cause should be something about which you are genuinely passionate. The cause you select has to come from your heart if you want it to make sense to those who see what you are doing. If Dawn dish soap didn’t really care about wildlife, consumers would spot it in a second. The message you want to convey to your clients should be along these lines: “We aren’t so focused on just making money that we don’t take time to do something nice for others.”

In Debbie’s case, her primary business is Buckets & Bows Maid Service. Her heartfelt cause is helping women with cancer through her company’s participation in Cleaning for a Reason. By leveraging the fact that her company provides free cleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment when marketing her business, it makes her business memorable. And the fact that Debbie is the founder of this nationwide foundation, results in even more publicity for her cleaning business.

Another important aspect of cause marketing is to do more than just give money. As business people, we frequently become so focused on business essentials and challenges, we forget all about doing something nice for someone else or just doing good for the community. Adding cause marketing to your business mix allows you and your employees the opportunity to “do good”. In fact, in the case of Cleaning for a Reason, the cleaning technicians of the participating companies love to do the cleaning for women with cancer so much that they vie to be at the top of the list to do these cleanings. They feel a genuine connection to these women and they feel as if they’ve served a higher purpose through their participation in the cause.

When companies have a passion for a cause, and ensure their participation is mutually beneficial to both entities, then the result is often more loyal customers and more loyal employees. And the bonus is more attention for your business due to the social impact you’re making in your community.

In Part 2, I’ll discuss how to use public relations to increase visibility for your business and your cause. 

About Jean Hanson

Jean Hanson is a long-time entrepreneur, co-founding two commercial cleaning companies, running a virtual assistant business, and in 2005, launching a business portal for commercial and residential cleaning business owners. She serves on the Board of Directors of Cleaning for a Reason, a non-profit foundation that provides free cleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment. In 2013 Jean became an Authorized Consultant for the world-renowned Duct Tape Marketing System. To learn more about her marketing consultant business and to apply for a free marketing audit, visit http://www.MarketingSystemsByDesign.com.

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