Category Archives: B2B Branding

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

Here’s a modest product with pro-like branding

Usually you’ll find me criticizing a branding travesty on these pages.

I can’t help it. There are so many of them and they stand out because they cause discord and disharmony. (And don’t give me the old story that any notoriety helps your brand. Not when with a little care and attention good vibes can be achieved for the same amount you’d spent on lousy branding.)

 Anyway, today I’m here to praise.

I saw an ad for a tattoo removing solution in last week’s USA Weekend. A 3/4 page, modestly colored ad with the headline “Finally…TATTOO REMOVAL. Beneath the headline a picture of the box was tied to the tagline, “It’s easy as opening this box.” The copy, a column on the right interspersed with visuals, speaks to the product’s advantage over laser procedures and a risk-free guarantee. Then an 800-number and an “ask for order” with bonus close.

Now I can’t vouch for the product, nor am I a prospect. I dodged a couple of “lets go get a tattoo” episodes in my college days. Sometimes I wonder how I survived those days, but that’s a subject this blog will not explore. Ever.

Anyway, the product’s name is WRECKING BALM.

 Wrecking Balm package

Isn’t that a great name for a tattoo fading product? See the tension? Isn’t it memorable? Won’t that be the kind of name people will enjoy repeating to friends and associates? 

The logo goes well with the name even though it smacks of patent medicines of a hundred years ago. Yet it does depict a character, Doc Wilson, who may or may not be real. Nevertheless his name lends some credence to the product.

 Wrecking Balm logo

The color palette, a faded rust and black, provides contrast and seems appropriate. If Wrecking Balm ever makes it to store shelves, it will display very well.

All in all, I’d say this was a first-class branding and advertising effort.

Now that this product’s on the market, perhaps I’ll look into getting that tattoo I nixed 50 years ago.  Nah.

Martin Jelsema

Branding for Referrals? Tell a Story

You’ve probably concluded if you’re a regular reader of The Branding Blog that I’m a fan of Scott Degraffenreid and his insights into referral marketing (Embracing the N.U.D.E. Model, The New Art and Science of Referral Marketing). I am.

He speaks to Novelty, Utility, Dependability and Economy as the four attributes a product or a service must have if it’s to be a good candidate for referrals. He further states that novelty and utility have a tension between them that helps people remember the brand’s story. He also proposes that dependability and economy also have an “opposites” relationship of the same type.

I’ve deduced from his work that the key to referrals is to develop a short, interesting and memorable “story” based upon the N.U.D.E. Model.

The model as Scott had formulated it really meant product or service attributes. But as a marketing communicator, I think the brand story incorporating those attributes is almost as important as the attributes themselves.

There’s been a lot written in the past several years about creating a brand story. But I’ve not read anywhere just what should go in to such a story, who should be telling the story, or to whom the story should be told.

Well, if referrals are important to your brand, The N.U.D.E. attributes should go in the story, those people doing the referrals should know and relate your story for you, and the people hearing the story will be part of the network of friends, family and associates of the story-teller.

Martin Jelsema

Branding for Referrals: Think Networks Instead of Markets

Scott Degraffenreid of Necessary Measures and author of Embracing the N.U.D.E. Model: the New Art and Science of Referral Marketing has a interesting perspective on niche marketing for referrals.

He contends that markets and market segments are no longer the best way to define marketing targets. Now, with the Internet and wireless media accellerating, a more precise and functional way to approach the marketplace is by identifying, and then identifying with, networks of like-motivated people.

It’s not just a semantic thing. There are real differences between a market as traditionally defined and a network.

Defining “Market”

A definition of a good market has always meant to me, at the consumer level, a group with demographic and psychographic similarities that meet four criteria:

1) The group is large enough to be profitable for me and my competitors.

2) The group has a desire for products/services in my selected category.

3) A major part of the group has the means to buy my offering.

4) I am able to identify and reach them economically.

Using this set of criteria I begin to define a market by the members’ age bracket, income level, family size, geographic location, abode type and special interests.

The market segments based upon special interest in a particular activity or event, i.e., golfing, gourmet cooking, first-time parenting or owning 10-year-old luxury cars, may only have that special interest in common with others. If so, you’re getting closer to marketing to a network of like-minded people. Here you’ll likely find both formal and informal gatherings and communications around shared interests.

Let’s take golfers. First, they play together. They also network in club houses, pro shops and clinics. Because of their common golfing interest they are likely to pass on referrals for my stroke-reducing gadget – if it meets Scott’s N.U.D.E. model of Novelty, Utility, Dependability and Economy. They also have tons of sources of information available including magazines, TV shows, and most importantly lately, the Internet. And they’re willing to share it, to help other network members.

Major Difference Between a Market and a Network

Here’s the big difference between a network and a market: Members of a network have opted to be part of the network whereas marketers dictate who will comprise their market(s).

If you are seeking out and immersing your company in a network, you are in a sense practicing “permission marketing” even though it may not be exactly what Seth Godin had in mind when he coined that phrase and book title.

The thing about networks is that if you’re an active part of the network, you belong. You will share common interests and concerns. You will not be an outsider attempting to “sell them something”.

Networking Implications for Branding

So as far as branding is concerned, There are three major considerations if you wish to before a marketer to network members. This is particularly applicable to the local, service-oriented business, but by breaking your organization into networking groups at local and regional levels, these precepts will apply.

1) Build relationships. The main objective is to become a relationship-building entity. Your people, whether it’s only you or a whole division of sales reps, need to become part of the network. Your people need to share info, participate in conclaves and tournaments, contribute to forums, volunteer to lick stamps, provide a venue, sponsor an activity.

2) Personalize the brand. Bring it down to local personalities. In a larger organization, this may mean finding and hiring only certain personality types (within the law of course) that will both represent the brand by being a spokesperson and by genuinely conveying the brand personality through their own personality. Honesty and relationship-building needs to replace “salesmanship”.

3) Walk the walk. A level of openness with employees and with prospects needs to emanate from “headquarters”. There must also be a “brand story” that is simple enough for every employee to convey with ease. There must be a code of ethics and a deep understanding that in effect, the brand is the individual employee. All these efforts must be honest and true. Management must “walk the walk” as well as employees. Finally, the branding activities must make it easy and natural for employees to take on and express the brand persona. 

Now with that said, there are still basic branding tenets to be observed, the most important of these is consistency. Every decision should be filtered through the “how will this affect the brand?’. Also, the traditional branding elements need to be in sync with the brand story and personality. There should be no disconnects or confusion. This is way a brand platform, brand story and code of conduct need to be integrated and communicated to all.

Okay, I’m stepping off my soapbox now.

I hope that thinking of branding for marketing for networks will begin to pervade your branding thought process. Please let me know how you’re changing the emphasis from internal constructs of market segments to serving networks of living, breathing souls.

Martin Jelsema

Make it simple to refer a brand

I’ve quoted Scott Degraffenreids’s book, Embracing the N.U.D.E. Model: The New Art and Science of Referral Marketing, as it pertains to branding.

One of his basic assumptions is that people refer products and services to their friends and acquaintances in order to look good in the eyes of the referee. Referrers like to be thought of as experts and purveyors of inside information.

So if I were to set as a goal for my brand that it enable people to refer others to it, I’d make it as simple as possible to do so.

I’d first look to the name of the product or service. First, it must be memorable. People won’t refer a product without naming it.

Second, and the real subject of this blog entry, people must be able to pronounce the name.

Both of these tenets seem obvious, but look what a recently introduced prescription drug did.

They named their product AcipHex. Their commercial voice-over pronounces the word as if spelled “acifex”, using the “ph” as a voiced aspirate (according to my old copy of the American Heritage Dictionary). In other words, “ph” sounds like “f”. But look at the way they present the pH. They’ve done that to be “creative” since the pharmaceutical addresses acid indigestion. So it starts with “acid”, adopts the measurement for acidity (pH) and ends in the ever-popular “ex”.

But I have a difficult time pronouncing the word while looking at how it’s spelled. I want to pronounce it “acip-Hex” not “aci-phex”.

I think they’ve given up a lot of referral opportunities because of the name. People unsure of the product’s pronunciation are more likely to remain silent than to risk looking like they don’t know what they’re talking about.

The answer, beginning with the name, is to use brand elements that are simple, memorable and clear.

Combine that piece of advice with Scott’s N.U.D.E. Model (standing for a product or service that is Novel, Utilitarian, Dependable and Economic) and your chances for referrals will increase considerably.

Martin Jelsema


Branding for referrals – more about the N.U.D.E. Model

I wrote about Scott Degraffenreid and his research which discovered the N.U.D.E. Model for referral marketing.

But I forgot to give you the details about the book and his website. So before I go on, here’s his website, You can order his book and/or an e-course from there.

If you recall, the letters N.U.D.E. stand for Novelty, Utility, Dependability and Economy. These are the four attributes Scott’s research revealed to be the motivators for referring a company, product or service. This combination, usually with emphasis of novelty and utility, are those that will, at least as perceived by the referrer, make the referrer LOOK GOOD in the eyes of the person receiving the referral.

One significant thought here: quality is not one of the attributes. Scott explains that on his website.

Anyway, novelty and utility together make a pair that form a tension between themselves that needs to be addressed. The same tension exists between dependability and economy.

Now I’ve known Scott and his theories for several years, and from his teachings (particularly through the IBI Free Enterprise Forum where Scott is a faculty member) I’ve formed several opinions about the value of tension in branding. This is especially pertinent to high-tech new products, but also relevant to any branding project.

In order to get noticed, in order to get press, in order to get the attention of distribution channel members, you need tension between the known and the unknown. Another way of presenting that is tension between problem and a unique solution (AKA differentiator).

And of course when branding for referrals you want to create those two tensions (novelty-utility, dependability-economy) in a way people can easily understand and communicate.

Here’s an example: a chiropractor client is also a mountain climber: That’s one of the reasons he relocated in Colorado. We developed his story – he wants to climb all 53 Colorado mountains of 14,000 foot or more. So he’s keeping a score card in his office, checking off mountains after he’s been to their summits. He always talks to his patients about his latest climb. His summary story: “Climbing the 14ers one at a time – only xx more to go. If you’re as active as I, you just might need a treatment.” Though they account for less than 25-percent of his clientele, he’s attracted mountain climbers to his practice. And he finds his story gets circulated most often to people in pain who have declared in conversation with one of the doctor’s current patients that they were aching because of a hike or climb.

So we’ve capitalized on the novelty (mountain-climbing doctor) and utility (chiropractic treatment). The natural tension between the two brings the business to top-of-mind with patients when the time is right.

Now there’s a lot more to this tension thing and to the N.U.D.E. Model. I’ll address it, but you can get a lot more info and understanding much more quickly by visiting Scott’s site.

Martin Jeslema