The importance of positioning for the small business.

One of the things I love about being in the marketing industry is the incessant stream of creativity and the ability of being able to experience the unique perspectives of various businesses.  I find it amazing when two identical businesses can put different spins on the same exact product.  You have all heard the saying that there is no need to reinvent the wheel in business but I am not so sure I agree.   Every business is different and regardless of whether you are selling a product or service that other businesses are also selling you need to create a reason for people to do business with you.  You have to position yourself so that you stand apart from the competition.  You have to come up with something that makes you unique from the rest.  This is known as “Unique Selling Proposition” referred to as USP, and this is not something new, USP has been around for years.

The goal of USP is to create a benefit for your target customer that is different than the competitions, even though the actual product may be the same.  For many years Burger King told their customers that “You can have it your way”, this was their USP.  While there may have been dozens of hamburger joints in any particular city or town you could only have it your way at Burger King.  That set them apart, made them unique from the competition.  Dominoes Pizza guaranteed delivery “Under 30 minutes or it’s free”, FedEx “On time, every time or it’s free”.  These companies all made themselves different from the competition, even though the product might be the same, they added something to the mix, to make them standout, to make them different, using USP they created a specific type of image in the minds of their customers and potential customers, known as positioning, one of the Fundamentals of Marketing.

Positioning doesn’t just apply to larger companies; it applies to all businesses, large, medium, and small alike.  The fundamentals don’t change based on the size of a business, they are just as important and small businesses would do well to familiarize themselves with the various fundamentals and how they apply.  Regardless of whether you are a fortune 500 company trading on NASDAQ or just a small business on Main Street, you need a USP and you need to position yourself in the minds of your target customers.

Waiting for the Mother Ship

Have you ever been with a group of people, smart people, business professionals and felt completely out of place as if you were standing in a circle with a bunch of extra terrestrials?  Have you ever felt like you were the smartest person in the room, and wondered how a group of educated experienced business people could possibly be so dumb?  If you answered yes, you are not alone.  I have sometimes wondered how some people actually run a business, how they are able to operate an organization from day to day.  Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think that today will be the day, the day I find out I am from outer space and that I was accidently left here as a child and that the mother ship of my highly intelligent, highly advanced people are going to arrive today to finally take me back home.  A place where people understand the difference between advertising and marketing, between direct mail and email, the difference between targeting and segmenting.  A place where people understand the crucial need for public relations, a place where they understand that you cannot spend $300 on advertising and expect to make any money.  Beam me up, I am packed and ready to go.

Most of us in business spend a major portion of our business life saying the same thing over and over and unfortunately that is just a part of doing business.  Nobody is going to beam you up and take you back to the Alpha Centauri home world; you are stuck here with the rest of us.  And yes you are going to keep having to give new customers the same information day in and day out.  There is something you can do however to make your life just a little bit easier.  At Throttle Media we created what we call an “Expectation document”, this is a document that outlines all of our polices, what the client should and should not expect from a marketing campaign, a list purchase, whatever.  While this is not the answer to all of your problems, it will go a long way in explaining what your clients can expect, what is guaranteed, what is implied and what is not.  By including a line in your agreements that state the client agrees that they have read your expectation and guarantees document, even if they have not, after seeing this, they may be prompted to read it to see what it is they have gotten themselves into.

Let’s face it, there were no guarantees when you went into business that all your clients were going to be members of Mensa.  While you are sure to have some highly intelligent clients, it’s just as reasonable to expect that some of your clients are not going to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.  So to make your life easier, put it in black and white, it won’t solve all your problems, but it will make some of your life a little easier.

Running your small business like a large business will help you grow.

My father told me many years ago when I first went into business that if you have dreams of becoming a big business someday than you need to run your small business like a big business.  I asked why?  He said because like everything in life habits are hard to break, including those habits you create for your business.  If you have plans of growing your small business into a large enterprise someday than the habits you create now will have an effect on your business down the road.  Regardless of how small your business is, even if it is just a one man operation, you need to treat it as if it were a large company.

By doing this right from the git-go will help increase productivity, reduce costs, and help your overall business run smoothly.  Some things to think about are picking a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program that has the capability of growing alongside your business.   Having a multi user CRM that can not only be expanded, if not to an indefinite number of employees than to a large number, but can also be used by multiple employees and in multiple locations is very beneficial to a growing company and there are several out there that can be used online and the cost is relatively inexpensive, most of these charge by the user so you only pay for what you use.  Another benefit to a business of any size is to create a paperless system.  This is not as hard as it sounds.  Throw the fax machine away and get an efax number which allows you to receive faxes via email as well as the ability to send via email and for a very small cost, probably less than you are paying the phone company for a fax line.  Scan all paper documents than shred them.  By using an efax number many of those docs will never get printed, you will receive and file them electronically.  Get a phone system with an auto attendant, there are many companies out there that offer this service and it is much cheaper than you think, and will give you the look and feel of a bigger company.

The bottom line is if you think small, you will probably always be small, and even if you do grow, your growing pains will be considerable, however if you start out operating as a large company than becoming a large company will not be that big of a deal, you will be ready.  To become big, you have to think big.

Using Email Marketing to boost sales.

Anyone engaged in sending an email marketing message knows that it is not as simple as clicking on the to button and select whom you are going to send the email to, quickly type out a subject and then get down to business of writing your email, push the send button in your Gmail or Yahoo account and abracadabra your message is ripping through the Internet at speeds that would have left superman gasping for breath and looking for his Albuterol Inhaler. So you send emails like this all day long at work, at home and one day while in the men’s room sitting in the back stall reading the daily edition of the Wall Street Journal that you diligently pick up off the drive way each morning you have an epiphany, BAZINGA the light bulb went off, you scramble to be as Hygienically responsible as you can be in your state of excitement run out of the bathroom and into your office and you tell your partner that you just came up with a spectacular idea that will solve the issues with business being down 20% in the last two quarters. He looks at you trying not to notice the three-foot long piece of toilet paper that followed you through the door. “Listen”, you tell him, “forget all this money we are spending on banners and SEM we need to start conducting our own email marketing campaigns. We have a fairly large database and I have a contact over at BS Marketing that will sell us a data base of one million consumers, all permission based, opted in, and so all we have to do is follow the simple rules listed on the FTC website for the CAN SPAM ACT and we are golden. We can send a million emails out and even if we only get 1% to respond well that’s 10,000 people, and if only 5% of them buy our least expensive product for $29 we make $2900 , we do that two or three times a week and we are making $60,000 a month in sales”.

I know you are thinking that this is an exaggeration, and it may be, but I talk to small business owners all the time and this is what their mentality is. Email is the magic solution. How can you go wrong with thousands and thousands of emails going right into the inbox of potential customers?

Email is one of the greatest marketing platforms ever created in the history of marketing. It has capabilities and measurable metrics that no other platform can offer. You can track how many people opened the email, and of those you can track how many clicked on a link and went to the website in the ad and more. All of this is true.

The problem with email is that people have unrealistic expectations. They think if they sent out a 100,000 email campaign that they will get 10,000 visitors to their website. It doesn’t quite work that way. Email like any other media requires planning, research, and targeting, and segmentation. Like any media email requires what we call consistency marketing, meaning that people need to see your ad several times. It is a common marketing fact that people often need to see your ad between 3 and 7 times before they make the move to purchase or even contact you. Have you ever watched a television show for an hour and saw just one Verizon commercial during the breaks in that hour? No of course not, you saw the commercial four or five times. Last week my family and I hooked up my laptop to our big screen and watched the first four episodes of the new show ‘V” because we missed the first four weeks. Each show was only about 45 minutes long due to limited commercials. Each 45 minutes show had about 5 commercials, only 1 commercial per break for only 60 seconds. We watched all four shows and out of the 20 commercials we saw, 17 of them were the same commercial over and over. It was for Hellman’s mayonnaise. Do you think they made the decision to bombard us with the same mayonnaise commercials without a good reason? No they know that this is what sells. Consistency marketing. Email is not any different.

Okay so you are going to run your email 10 or 12 times over a four or five-week period. Now you need to create an ad. Your ad can be an html ad or a text ad, depending on what you are selling and who your target is will depend on the type of ad you want to use. In either case, you want to use what is called a spam score. This is a system that grades your ad based on filter criteria that all major ISP’s use. The lower the score the better. Things that raise the score are red, bold lettering, all capital letters, words like “Free”, “No cost”, “No obligation” and much more. The maximum your score should be is about 2.5, but I recommend that our client’s goal should be under 1. You can check your spam score for free at

The last thing which many think is the least important is the subject. The subject is quite important for a number of reasons. First off, this is the first thing that the recipients are going to see. The subject is what is going to determine if they open the email or move it to trash. So you want your subject to be effective but at the same time, not too corny or too commercial. Your goal is to have a professional commercial email with a hint of personality to it. Putting the recipient’s name in the subject is a great way to let them know that you know them and research has indicated that emails with the person’s name in the subject have a higher open rate than those that do not.

The last but not the least of your concerns is going to be getting your mail through. How are you going to email? Are you using your personal email account? BZZZZ! If you said yes, you answered incorrectly. Most ISP’s like Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Gmail all have a limit to how much mail that you are allowed to send per day. Yahoo will only allow you to send 25 per day. So if you have 4000 days to spare, than you can get your 100,000 emails sent, no problem. So you are thinking that you will just go lease a server, you can get one for about $150 bucks a month. The problem is you purchased data and even though it was opt in data; they did not opt in to you. So when they complain and they will complain you cannot how proof that they opted in to your domain. Most servers and as well as email services like Constant Contact state in their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that opt in mail must have originated from your domain and not be a purchased list that was generated from Co-registration data.

So what is one to do? You need to hire an email marketing company that does this for a living. This is what they are good at. Just be very careful when you are selecting an email marketing company that you are very careful and that you have done your homework. There is a lot of scam artists out there calling themselves email marketing companies. Be careful. Check them out, something as simple as doing a Google search on the company name and the name of the principles in the company can go a long way in making sure you are using a real company. If you need some help with email marketing or just want some advice, feel free to shoot me an email at or leave your questions in the comments section below.

Integrity, an important part of doing business.

I have been in business long enough that nothing should surprise me, and yet it still amazes me the lack of integrity and honesty that so many people in the business world have.  Sales people in general have created a horrible reputation as being dishonest and slimy and that whatever they tell you should be taken with a grain of salt because everyone knows that they will say anything to get the sale.  That is not the way it should be, and it might surprise some consumers that not every sales person is like that.  There are those that have a sense of integrity and their sales techniques are governed by a personal moral compass.

As a business owner your moral compass or lack of one is what will guide those that work for you, because they are looking to you and your actions as a benchmark.  This does not apply to just sales personnel but to public relations, marketing, just about anybody who deals with clients or the public at large.  If you want your business to be thought of as an organization that has integrity than you need to lead your employees by example.  In today’s world the integrity of a company is often more important than the cost of the product or service.

It has always been said that the business world is a cut throat, dog eat dog world, and that is true.  It’s tough out there.  The question is can you survive in the business jungle and still stay true to your values and conduct yourself and your business with integrity?  The answer is absolutely.  I do this every day, as does everyone who works at my company.   Our slogan “Where Honesty and Marketing Meet” is not just something we think sounds cool; it is how we conduct ourselves.  We don’t lie or exaggerate the truth just to close the deal, the exact opposite actually.  We are completely forthcoming with our clients, so much so that on occasion we lose a deal because we have managed expectations and talked the client out of the sale.  But more often than not clients appreciate our honesty, because frankly we are the odd man out.

Can everyone do this?  Of course.  How?  Simple; let your actions be dictated by your sense of morality and ethics; not by profit.  The profit will come anyway and if you are honest, you will probably make more profit in the long run, not less.  In today’s world with so many scams and cheats and liars, by being honest and creating a reputation based on honesty, you really can’t go wrong.