Think Big, But Execute Small (and Fast!) in Marketing

May 19th, 2010

One of the things I teach is how to think big and then come back down to earth and quickly prioritize and execute the small marketing steps that will put a business on the fast track to success. After you brainstorm and determine some possible marketing activities, you then need to make some quick decisions as to what to focus on, based on what you think will give you the greatest chance of meeting your goals. Usually, there is no perfect or right answer. Most often, you will take a trial-and-error approach. You just need to implement your marketing goals as quickly and inexpensively as possible. You also need to define your financial boundaries, which is how much you can afford to risk financially on this marketing project should it not generate revenue.

For example, I was speaking with a student who had just created a new product. She had leapt in immediately and begun manufacturing. As it turned out (as I often hear about), she did no research upfront. This research would have determined what information is required on the product box such as a bar code, if she decided to sell through a store. She could have also factored in other costs into the retail price, such as shipping and handling (if she sold direct) or a resellers’ markup.

Very understandably, her goal was to take action and not procrastinate. However, her challenge might be that this first go-round with this product could be a somewhat costly lesson, if she needed to go back and make changes to the design of the box, so that she could include a bar code or a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).  In this case, she managed to come up with a backupplan which, if needed, is to shrinkwrap the boxes and attach a label containing the bar code.

Of course, the reason that we want to take action is that it feels more like real work than planning does. Also, for a task we have never done before, it sometimes seems easier to summon ourconfidence just enough to leap in and take action, rather than take a chance on getting discouraged by looking at what might go wrong.

Ideally, what I recommend is that you try to find a balance between both—getting yourself to take action and trying to minimize costs during your learning process.

How do you do that? Use these five basic steps:

  1. Quickly draft an action plan. Consider your long-term goal, your planned short-term steps, and the aspects of your decision process.
  2. Set up a support system as soon as possible. This should be no more than a couple of other entrepreneurs whose opinions you respect and, if asked, will give you their honest input, not just what you want to hear. 
    You could do this as a one-time meeting with more experienced entrepreneurs who are willing to act as mentors. This could even include free counseling from the volunteer counselors at the Small Business Administration (SBA) and/or its partner organizations. (See the SBA website for more information.) Alternately, you could look for a couple of other startup entrepreneurs with whom you could set up frequent meetings (perhaps biweekly), who will each hold the others’ feet to the fire if they do not take action. You might even want to do both.
  3. Review the plan with your support system as soon as possible. Get input on possible short-term and long-term issues you might not have initially considered. (Obviously, the short-term issues have greater priority.)
  4. Quickly make a final decision on your short-term activities, but do so with the knowledge of where the pitfalls might be and what your contingency plan is.
  5. Execute your plan. Do not be afraid to make revisions if you encounter any serious issues. Remember that it is usually less costly to change things now, rather than later. For example, for an additional fee, my student might have been able to add a bar code during the course of the manufacturing process. That option would have probably cost less now than needing to reorder a few thousand product boxes with a bar code later.

When you have discovered the right support system, you will no longer feel like you are stepping off a cliff without a net and that is what will keep you moving forward quickly (and within your budget) with your marketing plans.

Rubbermaid Builds Marketing Relationships with Professional Organizers

November 7th, 2009

While reading the book Twitterville by Shel Israel, I learned about how a Rubbermaid’s e-marketing manager based in North Carolina, Jim Dietzel (@Rubbermaid), began using Twitter to connect with professional organizers.

This was great timing, because I was preparing to speak at the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers on November 7, 2009, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than uncovering a useful resource that my audience might not be aware of. (My topic was Understand Your Market in 10 Easy Steps.

What was great about Shel’s story is that it reinforces one of the key strategies I teach, which is that in order to employ no-cost or low-cost marketing strategies you need to become aware of where your prospective clients hang out, so that you can (ideally) begin to build reciprocal relationships.

That is, in fact, what Jim Dietzel has done. I suggest that you read Chapter 7 in Shel’s book to get the full story. However, very briefly, Jim first began building a list of all of the professional organizers that he came across on Twitter in May 2008. Then, he published that list in his blog, which enabled an informal community to develop.

Without making any kind of sales pitch about Rubbermaid, Jim created immense goodwill within the organizer community by sharing suggestions, asking for input, giving organizers the opportunity to get publicity and visibility, as well as finding ways to offer discounts on smaller quantity purchases, which were usually only available to larger businesses.

Shel even gives an example of the significant impact the publicity has had on the business of one professional organizer from Austin, Texas, named Lorie Marrero (@ClutterDiet).

Shel provides more details in his book about exactly what Jim did on behalf of Rubbermaid. It represents a marketing strategy that Shel calls “lethal generosity,” where the most influential are the most generous versus the loudest. I highly recommend this strategy and I love the title Shel has bestowed on it.

If you are looking for marketing ideas using social media, you will definitely find Twitterville a worthwhile read.

WWF Smart Gear Competition for Inventors of Fishing Gear – Deadline 6/30/09

May 30th, 2009

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is holding its 4th Annual International Smart Gear Competition to find “innovative ideas for environmentally-friendly fishing gear. . . . The competition is searching for new designs for fishing devices that reduce bycatch, real-world fishing solutions that allow fishermen to fish ‘smarter’ by better targeting their intended catch while safeguarding the dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life often caught unintentionally.”

First prize is $30,000 US, $10,000 of which is in the form of a grant to increase the likelihood of actually developing the idea. There are two runner-up prizes of $10,000 US each.

Eligible inventors–individuals or teams–from any profession can submit entries. Only entries submitted in English will be accepted.

Neither the sponsor nor any of the judges will retain any intellectual property rights to the technology contained in the entry. However, inventors should always read all of the competition requirements to ensure that the terms are acceptable to their particular circumstances.

Electronic entries, which are preferred, must be received by June 30, 2009. Mail-in entries must be postmarked by June 30, 2009, and received by July 7, 2009.

My suggestion is to start with the competition information on the WWF Website, then go to the Smart Gear Website.

Low-cost Promotion for Skateboarding Film

March 22nd, 2009

The recent Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose had a great example of guerilla marketing. On the sidewalk outside one of the theaters, they were using a freestanding screen to show a skateboarding film to a group of guys who were sitting on their skateboards.

The Importance of Leverage in Marketing

May 27th, 2008

My latest interview is with Alicia Smith, founder of Alicia Smith Consulting & Training LLC, located in Bozeman, Montana ( I’ve taken marketing classes from Alicia at CoachVille and I’m familiar with her products and services, e.g., and

Alicia has a very practical approach to marketing. Throughout this interview, she discusses why a key theme of her business is leverage. As one example, she explains why she believes the term “passive revenue” (or passive streams of income such as books, CDs, tapes, etc.) is a bit of misnomer and why she prefers to use the term “leverage revenue.” She also shares her perspective on why market research is necessary to verify that a product can be implemented and used by a large number of people–rather than just our mothers. She talks about the importance of using DISC assessments with both her clients and in hiring, e.g. virtual assistants.

We also discuss tips from her 90DayMarketingMarathon program, i.e. the business use of email signatures, voice messages, and “Top Ten” articles. (Alicia even gave me an example of how I could revise my email signature to promote my teleclasses. Thanks again, Alicia!) She also talks about the importance of training our clients on how we want them to work with us. Plus, how some of our best ideas come when we take a break from our daily routine.

Alicia is the guest co-host for my Marketing Q&A in May, which will be recorded and available in the audio archives.

Check out my website for more information::

An Inside/Out Approach to Marketing and Sales

April 22nd, 2008

I recently had the opportunity to interview Richard Reardon of R&R Business Development (based in Santa Monica, California; I initially met Richard several years ago, when he was a co-founder (with Thomas Leonard, arguably known as the “father of coaching”) of CoachVille’s School of Small Business Coaching.

For me, part of Richard’s competitive advantage is the way he combines practical marketing and sales techniques with what I would call a “New Age” perspective. He emphasizes doing the inner work on understanding your own needs, in order to be successful at marketing and selling.

In our interview, we touched on a broad array of marketing and sales topics, including his “inside/out approach”, selling value vs. services, why tiered pricing allows the prospect to co-create their solution, and how to handle the question of price at the beginning of the sales call. The interview runs approximately 70 minutes. You can download it or listen online.

Richard is also my co-host of April’s Marketing Q&A session, which will be recorded and available in the audio archives.

For more information, check out my website:

Business Networking as a Marketing Tool

March 24th, 2008

Recently, I interviewed Lorraine Lane of Lane Business Consulting (Brooksville, Florida; on the topic of how to effectively use business networking.

Lorraine specializes in working with business owners who are overwhelmed, frustrated, isolated and in crisis-management.

On the topic of business networking, Lorraine discusses the strategies she coaches on, including the five business card limit (yes, you read that right), using give-and-take in referrals and more. The interview runs approximately 50 minutes. You can download it or listen online.

Lorraine is also my co-host of the Marketing Q&A session, which will be recorded and available in the audio archives.

For more information, check out my website:

Everyday Edisons — Follow-up for Inventors

March 14th, 2008

If you want to learn more about the Everyday Edisons TV show casting call process (next is Chicago this Saturday, March 15th), be sure to check out the articles written in Stephen Key’s blog on (To find, just search on the show title.) In those articles, Stephen interviews a past participant in the show, discusses numerous tips and strategies for pitching your idea to the judges (including how to read between the lines of the instructions on their website: and shares insights gained from the judges and participating buyers. Some of the articles even have an audio option.

Even if you are not planning to attend this event, Stephen’s advice is still very useful to selling your idea in other situations.

Best wishes to those trying out in upcoming cities!

Inventors – Everyday Edisons TV Casting Calls

February 15th, 2008

If you are an inventor or an aspiring inventor, you might want to check out the upcoming casting call dates for the Everyday Edisons TV show ( – check “Casting Calls” in “The Show” section).

Upcoming 2008 casting call dates:
– San Francisco/San Jose (California): Saturday, February 16
– Dallas: Saturday, March 15
– Chicago: Saturday April 19
– Northeast (TBD): Saturday, May 17

Be sure to scroll down and read through the “Frequently Asked Questions” section because it will help to prepare you for pitching your idea. Please direct any questions to the Everyday Edisons folks at and not to me, as I have no connection to the show.

This notice came from my friend Andrew Krauss, president of the Inventors Alliance (, who will have a booth at the San Jose event. (I’ll probably be there helping out.) Inventors Alliance is a great association providing very practical advice on how to inexpensively bring your product to market.

Additionally, successful inventor Stephen Key, will be a speaker at the San Jose event. Stephen is Andrew’s partner in their other business InventRight (, Stephen also has another great business Hot Picks USA ( which has transformed guitar picks with cool designs into collectibles. Stephen is a great person to listen to as he is a rare combination of creativity, salesmanship, and streetwise business shrewdness.

Hope to see you there!

Prioritizing Your Target Market Niches

June 15th, 2007

Most businesses have several target market niches. When small business owners claim to have one market niche, it is usually because traditional marketing methods have directed them to choose a single niche. A single niche is either too narrowly defined or, worse case, too widely defined. A narrow niche probably will not contain enough people to build a business around. A wide niche tries to satisfy almost everyone. In either case, the niche segmentation becomes almost meaningless.

Defining the market niche becomes significant when you begin determining what marketing activities you are going to pursue for your business. The marketing activities you choose can directly impact your sales. Most small business owners do not realize that the marketing activities they choose must align with their target market niche to make a sale. For example, many small businesses claim their target market niche is corporate executives, yet the marketing activity they choose is attending free business networking events. This is an example of how the marketing activity is out of alignment with the target market niche, because corporate executives are typically not going to attend free business networking events because too many people approach them for jobs, instead of allowing them to do their own business networking with their peers.

I first developed my hypothesis of multiple target market niches many years ago when I was selling desktop publishing software for Xerox Corporation. Our Xerox software sales team was directed to primarily focus on pursuing large-volume corporate sales and secondarily on pulling sales through computer software dealers. Given that it can take a minimum of 18 months to make a corporate sale in a good economy, we (the regional sales managers) quickly realized that we had to rethink the plan to meet our quarterly sales objectives. In retrospect, I now realize that the approach I took was to divide the target market I was planning to pursue into three segments—top, medium, and low priority.

  • Top priority (fastest sales cycle, not largest volume)—Pulling sales through computer software dealers.

    This worked well for me because the main marketing activity was to conduct desktop publishing seminars. I was a good presenter and I was willing to hold seminars no matter how many prospects attended. (Note that a strategy such as this has to be weighed against one’s family responsibilities.) Today, with the price of gas in the U.S. combined with the unbillable roundtrip commute time, I would rethink my attendance criteria, especially regarding minimum numbers.


  • Medium priority (relatively fast sales cycle)—Pulling sales through individual departments within both small and large companies.

    I was able to make connections through seminar attendees, our user group attendees, tradeshow leads, and our smaller Value-added Resellers (VARs). In fact, one of my VARs shared with me his technique of making corporate connections by becoming active in Toastmasters Clubs, which were held on company premises but open to the public. He used this strategy to build relationships within the corporation, while he was working on his public speaking skills.


  • Low priority (longer sales cycle)—Pursuing the large volume corporate sales as directed.

    To be honest, I did not have as much success in this area.I would like to claim that it was simply because the sales team was not provided with enough incentives to make this worthwhile. However, I believe the reality is that you need to understand corporate politics to determine how the committee decision process works, including its key influencers. In my case, I would have needed to find a trainer or coach specializing in this area. Nonetheless, I am not complaining since exceeding my sales targets allowed me to achieve President’s Club twice, which in this case included a trip to an exotic location with fellow sales team members.

The irony of my corporate experience is that although the stated objective of our Xerox software sales managers (as with most corporate sales team managers) was large volume sales, the reality was that our quarterly bonuses were tied to short-term sales results. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to guess that the sales team was more motivated by quick money in their pockets.

I have found this irony paralleled in small business marketing. Many small business owners’ primary target market involves a longer sales cycle than they initially expect. Meanwhile, they find themselves chasing after short-term options. It would be much better if they simply honored the fact that they need both upfront.

In my opinion, this is why the real issue is traditional marketing‘s focus on a single target market niche. When you allow yourself to select and prioritize multiple target markets (preferably starting with no more than three), then you have given yourself permission to be honest about the realities of selling knowing that some target markets will deliver sales results faster than others. Multiple niches also provide a contingency marketing strategy if the primary target market does not pan out as planned.

After you define your priorities, the next step is to determine the percentage of time to spend on each priority during a day, week, or month. For example: top priority, 60%; medium priority, 30%; and low priority, 10%. In my case, this meant that I allocated time to each priority area every week.

When you, the small business owner, use the strategy of prioritizing your target market niches, you will gain clarity about the target market niches that are a better fit and are more profitable for you to pursue.

If you have an interest in learning more about this, consider attending my teleclass titled “Prioritizing Your Target Market Niches.” To register, visit my website at