Saturday 23 August 2014

Market Your Boring Business to Awesomeness

Marketing your business aint an easy task folks… There are always obstacles; competition, cost implications, the economy, struggling marketplaces… The list is endless. If it was easy I’d be out of a god damn job! In fact, I’d have started a different type of business that would currently be making £squillions!

However, what really helps is if you have a sexy & exciting service or product to offer. Our human nature drives us towards these categories of business.

So what if you have a business where the product or service is boring as hell?

The problem with most marketing advice available to us is that it tends to use un-typical examples. It’s very difficult for the majority of small business to relate to case studies like Apple, Virgin or Domino’s Pizza; Case studies that seem to litter best-selling marketing books.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great lessons to be learned from these big-time companies; you can always down-scale an idea or strategy. However, if you own or work for a company that is ‘low-key’, and offers mundane products or services, the strategy might just not fit.

The good news is being boring doesn’t mean you can’t make huge profits, and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and exciting with your marketing techniques. The idea people need to remove from their mind is that their marketing techniques must reflect their product or service. Fuck that! You’ll blend in with the rest of your market and get nowhere.

So let’s look at what can be done for all you supposedly boring businesses out there:

Is your business actually boring or do you just suck at explaining what it does?

First of all, if you’re business is making money then there is a market and they’re showing interest in it. Second of all, you chose your business for a reason. There was an opportunity to make money and a market ready to be captured – If this isn’t the case then we should be having a completely different conversation!

So if the second statement is true, show some of that enthusiasm that got you started in the first place and discuss the benefits of your products or services – But REALLY sell them. Maybe there’s some amazing story about why you decided to create the product you sell. I mean, if James Dyson can make vacuum cleaners sound exciting and sexy, well…

I’m tired of asking people about their business only to be met with a mumbled, un-enthusiastic response. Some of these people have had quite a cool business on the face of things, but after two minutes of explanation the zzz’s are floating out my mouth.

Enthusiasm, confidence and success are all attractive qualities. People also love great story tellers.

Get wild and crazy!

I recently sat beside a senior manager of the van leasing company Vanarama in a business seminar. Have you seen any of their adverts? If not then have a look:

So, this is kind of how the conversation went:

Me: “So what were you guys thinking with your new TV ad? It’s annoying as fuck, but it certainly sticks in my mind”
Vanarama Dude: “Well exactly. Name me another van leasing company in the UK”
Me: “ehhh….well….erm…”

I couldn’t think of one! Are you shitting me? I know I could probably lease one from Arnold Clark, and I’m sure some manufacturers like Ford have van specific showrooms. However, at the time I wasn’t sure. These were just thoughts; thoughts that were surrounded by that bloody tune in the Vanarama TV advert.

You see, it turns out they contracted the same advertising agency that created the Go Compare adverts with the fat, Welsh opera singer, and the approach they take is ‘be memorable at any cost’. That cost happens to be annoyance for some. However, let me ask you the same question I was asked: Name me another market comparison website without using Google - In my mind one of the only other’s is Compare the Market, and those guys use talking bloody Meerkats.

Both of these companies use memorable, craziness in order to hold your attention and stick in your mind. These adverts make very mundane companies seem fun, and current.

Now the lesson to be learned here isn’t that you should be annoying, or cheap and tacky to attract attention. It is simply to understand that a reliable tactic for promoting a boring business can be to create an advertising strategy that is focused on wild, fun and crazy in order to be memorable and provoke fun thoughts about company.

Another example to further explain this is when Sir Richard Branson abseiled from the top of the Palms Casino Hotel, Las Vegas, to promote Virgin America. What’s that got to do with the service? He-ith haw, but it drew attention; a lot of attention. This is one of those extreme examples I was discussing at the start, but it explains the theory well.

People like to be surrounded by fun people, even at work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Be interesting – Do interesting things

Although your service or product may be mundane, it doesn’t mean you can’t surround it with interesting stuff. That ‘stuff’ can be physical or the business itself and how it works.

There are countless opportunities here; You could:

  • Package your product in an interesting way that’s never been done, or is in itself fun.
  • Maybe all new clients receive a welcome pack that includes all sorts of cool things; possibly a story about your business journey, or a code to enter a client only section of your website that allows your clients to network… Have a think.
  • Your company could create its own foundation that supports a chosen charity.
  • You could host weekly advice surgeries for start-up businesses, passing on the experience you gained starting yours.
  • You could even create a fun office environment where all your staff sit on yoga balls instead of office chairs, or have full size chalkboard walls for staff thoughts and ideas. You just have to make sure to show this fun side of the business to the world through your website and social media.

Be honest

Far too many businesses try to create a false front, pretending to be something far bigger or revolutionary that they are. In reality they are a fairly small, normal business. I’ve been there; I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.

In order to create this fa├žade, usually created out of embarrassment, companies use meaningless business buzzwords, which completely obscure what they really do. What these guys don’t realise though, is that these buzzwords are holding them back. A recent study showed that those buzzwords are costing companies millions because their own employees don’t even understand what they mean and how they relate to their business. So how the hell would a customer or potential client know?

Be clear and honest about your services. Trust is the most important factor in any sale, so brutal honesty can work.

Don’t be a people pleaser

I’m very interested in the phycology of productivity. I’ve read countless books and articles on the subject and love to study other people’s working day and how they manage it. It’s a safe bet that 90% of you are thinking ‘what a fucking weirdo, that sounds horrendous’. However, I bet some of you are currently thinking ‘me too!’

The point here is that many people will already be very interested in what your business has to offer, but some people will never be interested. This is fine, as long as you target the market that is willing to spend money on your product or services.

Taking a shotgun marketing approach is very inefficient, and also very archaic. We’ve entered an age where there are so many market research and targeting tools at our disposal that it baffles me why anyone would continue to spend huge sums of money advertising in national press. If the same money was spent on targeted marketing their ROI (return on investment) would be 1000x higher.

Your task here is to do your homework. Make sure your market research is bulletproof and you completely understand who your market is.

Put your own vanity of wanting everyone in the world to love your business to one side and remember that you’re in business to make money. When your business starts turning over tonnes of the Queen’s finest Sterling notes then it will quickly become interesting to a far larger audience.

So there you have it!

You can now go forth and implement some of these strategies.

On the other hand, you can continue doing what you’re doing and chuck a tonne of money at the type of advertising that has got you to where you are today. However, will this sustain the long term future of your business?

The clients you have now won’t be around forever. So I encourage you to adapt and become creative.

Too many businesses get lazy with their marketing and use the copycat approach of ‘what are our competitors doing?’ You will never stand out from the crowd and gain the market share you desire using this approach.

Turn up the volume of what makes your business different and never be afraid to stand out from the crowd. Forget about what your competitors are doing. It’s your job to place your business at the forefront of your market’s mind and be the maverick of your industry.


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