Monthly Archives: December 2007

Find your niche for long-term growth

I preach the principal of focusing your marketing efforts.

I believe it’s particularly vital for a small businesses to find a niche that they can own and focus their resources and attention on that niche exclusively.

Mostly people nod agreement, then ignore this advice.

There are two reasons, I think.

First, they aren’t patient enough. Understandably, they are cash poor in the beginning. We know the biggest concern of start-up businesses is cash flow. If you can help a business generate cash flow, you are considered an angel. Never mind where the customers come from or how they are acquired or how loyal they may be or how fragmented their needs may be, if they represent immediate cash they’re welcome.

So business owners try a coupon mailing. If the first one “doesn’t work” in generating immediate customer activity, they abandon it and begin listening to the radio salesperson, or the list broker with a sure-fire traffic generator. Flitting from one medium to the next, from one message to a second, from one offer to another, whatever income is produced by unfocused promotions is funneled to another medium promising better results.

Thus, prospects may never hear more than one or two messages. And according to Jay Levinson of the Guerrilla Marketing empire, it will take an average of 17 exposures to your message before prospects will consider purchasing from you.
The second reason entrepreneurs won’t focus is because they might miss some business. Their attitude is that if they do not address “the masses”,  they will leave money on the table. It’s not greed so much as fear that they may be missing a great and on-going opportunity if they narrow their focus.

If you focus upon a specific market segment, fashion your product/service, your brand and your message to meet needs in that segment, you can build a brand and a business that will thrive long-term because it “means something” to your customers and to those they will refer to you.

Selecting the market segment(s) you will serve may be tricky. There are three criteria I believe a segment must meet to be viable
1.       Is it large enough to accommodate your business?
2.       Are the members of the segment willing and able to buy what you’re selling?
3.       Can you readily identify those populating the segment?

It’s worth exploring niche marketing as a major strategy. Just be patient and never fear.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 49 in a series

As we press on with the process of creating brand name candidates, here’s a way to combine words without special software.

Remember last week I spoke of word-combining software specifically designed to randomly combine words from two lists.

But if you have a fairly sophisticated word processing program with a “find and replace” feature and a table-building feature, you can easily combine words.

Here’s how.

1) Make two lists, one will usually be your adjectives, the other your nouns.
2) Create a two column, one row table.
3) Type your adjective list into the first column with a carriage return between each word. Select all words and format right justified.
4) In the second column, type a single character, say an “a”, opposite each adjective in the first column.
5) Select the column of “a”s
6) Go to your Find and Replace menu and instruct the program to find the word “a” and replace it with the first noun you wish to combine with the list of adjectives.
7) I’d then select and copy the entire table onto a new page.
8) Going back to the original page, go to the find and replace menu.
9) Replace the first noun with the second one on your list and activate.
10) Select and copy that table to another page, and  continue the process until all the nouns have been combined with all the adjectives.

From the lists you can select those possible candidates for your name. Also, peruse these lists looking for additional ideas that often spring up when a couple of unconventional combinations spark your imagination.

One word of warning: if the two lists you begin with are over 10-12 words each, I’d look at breaking them up and doing two separate combination projects because the process can become rather monotonous.

Next week: candidate evaluation.

Martin Jelsema


Bashing designers is not my hobby

I seem to bash graphic designers quite often in this blog.

I grouse about reverse type, or type laid over a non-contrasting background.

I dis designers who immediately want to incorporate the initials of a company name in their logo designs.

Then there are the designers who use nearly-illegible type faces just because it’s “trendy” in Wired or some underground art magazine. And those who want to impart the latest fad illustration technique even knowing the style will date the brand.

But I must say, most designers do not make the mistakes just described. They’re looking for unique ways to present a brand while maintaining the style the brand naturally requires, and not resorting to fad-like, the-latest-thing me-to-ism.

It’s just that some designers do get carried away. My advise: tell them what you require – design that will last a while and represent the true core of the brand. Most will “get-it”. A few will not. When you run into one of them, don’t be intimidated – fire them.

There are plenty of good designers who know the importance of brand and how to design for the long haul. Seek one out.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 48 in a series

Recalling last week’s Naming Tips entry, I’d suggested word associations were more fruitful in building a list of name candidates and name-parts than were just synonyms.

I even mentioned the software that brings up lots of word associations for about any keyword: Thought Office.

So what’s next? This is when I start looking at word combinations. From the long lists and the mind map I start combining words and word-parts.

I obviously look to combine adjectives with nouns.

But I also combine nouns with verbs, and nouns with other nouns.

Then I’ll look at some of the most likely words and play around with adding positive suffixes or possibly prefixes.

This can be a little tedious without some help from the computer.

There are several programs that will combine every word from list A with every word in list B. That’ll give you a lot of combinations, most of which border on gibberish. But all you’re doing in this exercise is scanning the list for the 10 or 12 diamonds that come in the manure pile.

Next time I’ll give you more details on the software I use for combining words as well as perform a multitude of other tasks that help you generate fresh name condidates.

Martin Jelsema

Another brand-diluting, wimpy tagline

So here I was watching TV and along came a T-Mobile commercial.

I thought about how their brand has become generic since the days of Catherine Zeta-Jones. She was a celebrity spokesperson and more. Her manner and style made her likable as well as watchable. She got our attention and represented T-Mobile well. At least that’s my opinion.

Then as this newest commercial closed, a voice over spouted their latest slogan:

Stick Together.

What was that? Stick Together?

What does that mean? How does that differentiate T-Mobile? How does “Stick Together” imply a benefit of the system? How is it relevant?

Desperate companies in desperate times sometimes panic. Is this what’s happening at T-Mobile? Has desperation caused execs there to lose perspective? What’s important about T-Mobile that would compel someone to buy? It’s not “Stick Together”, the one thing, although poorly expressed, that every mobile phone company offers. The might just as well have a slogan like “Communicate”.

And shame on the ad agency who let their T-Mobile account exec take this tepid tagline to T-Mobile for approval. It would have never gotten out of my shop.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tip: Number 47 in a Series

For the last couple of weeks I’ve blogged about the process I used in a recent naming project. I’m still at it.

I mentioned the need to generate large lists of words that can describe or be positively associated with the product or company being named. I certainly advocated a good thesaurus to dig for synonyms for the words my client had indicated were good descriptions of his company’s personality and attributes.

Then I arrayed those words in a “mind map” so I’d have a visual method of seeing and drawing relationships between words from different groups.

But I wanted to go further. I also wanted to find words that are closely associated with the original terms without necessarily being synonyms. I’m looking for word associations.

I know of no book that does this for you. The closest is the Random House Word Menu by Stephen Glazier. It organizes language by subject matter. Their own jacket blurb states the book is “A merging of dictionary, thesaurus, treasury of glossaries, reverse dictionary, and almanac…” I find it immensely valuable as a source of name parts and name candidates.”

Then there’s the software I mentioned briefly in the Naming Tip 46: Thought Office. This is relatively new in its present form and name, but it evolved from the Idea Fisher software project of the early 1990’s. It is a source of word associations as well as synonyms, song lyrics, words that rhyme, quotes and images for any word or phrase you ask it to help you with.

Here’s an example of word associations it provided for the word, romance: moonlight, Valentino, candles, roses, perfume, France. In fact, over 300 words were presented. Of course most were not relevant in some way or another. But I added about 80 words that were.

Thought Office is not just a word retriever, although I use it mostly for that application. It also has a ”topic” section. You can acquire specific application modules to run from the topic section. Essentially these are organized lists of questions concerning your topic. By answering them, you can develop strategic plans, movie scripts, new product development. And yes, there’s a naming module.

By the time you’ve completed the questions from the naming topic, you have a very targeted naming brief. And if you’ve been reading this series, you know how important I believe a good naming brief can be in the naming process.

Anyway, if you’d like to learn more about Thought Office and how it can help you with many of your creative projects, just click Thought Office and check it out.

Martin Jelsema

Here’s a great definition of branding

I’ve been a log-time fan of John Jantsch, marketing guru extraordinaire. John heads Duct Tape Marketing, a web site and resource all small business people reading my blog should get to know. (He didn’t ask my advice in naming his company. He really doesn’t just apply Duct Tape to your marketing problems, we actually helps you repair and refinish them.)

Several years ago I was one of six or seven people who blogged regularly under his Duct Tape Marketing blog banner. He even included a couple of paragraphs about my own prospecting methods in his recently published book, named, oddly enough, Duct Tape Marketing.

In a recent blog on his amazingly content-packed site, John provided a definition of branding I found to be profound.

It begins this way: “Branding is the art of becoming knowable, likable and trustable”. He then goes on to make the distinction between marketing and branding, as well as relating how they relate one to the other. Click to read his definition of branding blog.

And then I’d find his opt-in box and sign up for his informative eletter as well.

You’re welcome, John

Martin Jelsema

Positioning and unique selling proposition: two different concepts.

Back in the 1950’s and ‘60’s there was an advertising cult built around Rosser Reeves, Chairman of the ad agency named Ted Bates & Co., and his book, The Reality of Advertising.

He had invented a term that was the touchstone for the type of advertising he and his agency produced. The term: unique selling proposition, USP for short.

The unique selling proposition was (and is) a single feature or benefit of a product hammered home through ads that focused powerfully and solely on the USP. You’d have to be at least 50 to remember the ads he conceived for Anacin. There was a cartoon arm wielding a hammer to the head of a headache sufferer. Then came a clock face with the hands moving very fast and the single word, FAST, flashed on the screen four times in succession. Then the head become a smiling face signifying the headache was gone – fast.

They were most annoying and very intrusive. But they sold product.

Now Mr. Reeve’s concept of USP has carried on to this day. The idea is still sound and effective in sales as well as advertising.

However, some people have attempted to use USP and positioning synonymously. Well, they are not the same. I hear some marketing people expressing a USP as their position in the marketplace. They treat the USP as if it were a genuine differentiator when in reality it is a benefit/feature plucked from the market research indicating why people have said they buy a product from the product category.

A USP is just what it says it is: a unique selling proposition. It is an advertising campaign theme. Or the canned sales pitch. It is predicated on making a claim before s competitor can establish that benefit as its own. In other words, Anacin was no faster than Bayer, its only competitor back in the 1950’s. But Anacin used speed of relief first and loudly, making it their own.

Promoting a product’s benefit does not differentiate the product in a significant way. If a particular campaign doesn’t work or gets stale, you ask the agency to come up with another USP. The USP is a device, not a strategy.

I once heard a sale trainer in a room of some 300 entrepreneurs claim that you differentiated your product with an USP such as a coupon offer or a two-for-one sale. These may be USP,s but they are not differentiators in the sense of defining a position a brand can occupy in the collective minds of a group of loyal customers.

Al Ries, one of the creators of the term positioning and co-author of the book, Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind, likes to say it’s the single word that comes to mind when the brand is mentioned. For Volvo it’s “safety”. For Whole Foods it’s “organic”. For Sierra Club it’s “environment”. These words come from the essence of the brand. It begins with the corporate mission and the vision for the product. It incorporates corporate values and culture. It’s the brand story, the brand platform, the brand presence. It’s the people associated with the brand at all levels of the supply chain. It’s the leadership of the company and of the brand champions within and outside the company. And it’s the word-of-mouth and status the brand enjoys.

The USP does not normally communicate a genuine product position. There needs to be more than a benefit at the root of the brand and its position.

Lets just sat that positioning is a strategic activity and developing a unique selling proposition is a sales or advertising tactic.

Martin Jelsema