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15 Innovating in a Mature Industry

This Local Color video, featuring creative small businesses around the globe, is part of a marketing series sponsored by HP

Sometimes people look at an industry and wonder if there are any innovations left. After all, pretty much everything that can be done in the pizza business has been done, right?

Cheeseboard Pizza Collective in Berkeley California is a great example of how to innovate in a seemingly over innovated industry.

Cheeseboard makes one “veggie pizza of the day” and pairs it with live music. That’s it, and people line up for blocks to come and get it. No advertising, no coupons, no happy hour.

And if that weren’t innovative enough, the business is also run as a collective, meaning all employees are owners, all receive the same hourly wage and they rotate jobs so that everyone pretty much does everything.

If you’re in town tonight stop by for a Fresh zucchini, Onions, French feta, Mozzarella, Basil pesto “PINE NUTS” pizza.

4 Letting Your Customer Define What You Sell

This Local Color video, featuring creative small businesses around the globe, is part of a marketing series sponsored by HP

Great companies and great products are often the result of someone growing frustrated with not being able to find the ideal something they want. The search for that something often leads them to conclude they need to fill the gap and create the product.

Kigo footwear, an Atlanta based company that produces minimalist shoes, is one of those companies. When the co-founders of kigo bemoaned the fact that there were no lightweight, stylish shoes you could fold up and tuck away in your purse or pack to slip on in place of your ski boots or hiking boots, they decided to dream up the perfect shoe.


A glimpse into the kigo story as told by co-founder and head of marketing Rachelle Kuramoto.

They went to work on fabrics and design and packaging and introduced their first shoes in 2009 and immediately discovered the market wanted what they were putting out.

They also heard from their initial customers that they had created something much more than a shoe to slip on to and from your activity. Around the same time their first shoes hit the market, barefoot and natural style running in very minimalistic shoes was just starting to take off as a legitimate alternative to the padded, heel heavy running shoes made popular over the last few decades.

Although kigo didn’t intend to, they had created a minimalistic running shoe and their shoes began appearing in reviews in publications aimed at the running community. They quickly took the advice and suggestions of those first customers and created a line made specifically with the minimalistic runner in mind – beefing up the sole and giving the shoe more flex and stretch.

Their success is based partly on listening intently to their customers and pouring a great deal of energy into creating the elements of a brand that smartly support what their customers value most.

In addition to fun, functional footwear, kigo products are completely recyclable – shoes, box, package and all.

9 Natural Way to Run a Business

This Local Color video, featuring creative small businesses around the globe, is part of a marketing series sponsored by HP

The running shoe industry and the entire world of running really has been dominated by several large shoe companies. These companies and the dogma they professed about the need for shoes that give stability, cushion and control has been challenged of late by a growing movement called the natural running movement.

The realization that there is another, better ways perhaps, to do the accepted is fertile ground for businesses that embrace and seize the opportunity, no matter what the industry.

For this episode of Local Color we meet Patton Gleason, founder of the Natural Running Store and a leading voice in the Natural Running Movement and proponent of something he calls Flow Running.

The Natural Running Store sells what are being called minimalist running shoes and teaches a running form that is more in tune with the natural mechanics of the body.

Gleason’s runs an online store, but his business and service philosophy is more in line with the friendly neighborhood place you go to get good service and great advice along with your purchase.

Gleason routinely sends video messages to customers, includes hand written notes in their shoe boxes and teams with other “like minded” companies to distribute samples of their products in every shipment.

Marry these personal touches with his passion to educate and you’ve got the recipe for the kind of word of mouth that can build a thriving business and take on entrenched industry icons.

The Natural Running Store’s approach is a perfect example of the way to merge high tech with high touch.

5 Oddly Correct Way of Doing Business – Local Color Video

This Local Color video, featuring creative small businesses around the globe, is part of a marketing series sponsored by HP

Leaving the crush of the 9 to 5 corporate world to take up a craft you’re passionate about is something countless individuals yearn to do. Gregory Kolsto of Oddly Correct Coffee Roasters in Kansas City realized that if couldn’t work for a company he could believe in 100% he would have to create one.


Photography and Filming by Brandon Hill Photos

Oddly Correct hand prints its coffee bag art and signage giving the package a unique look that attracts small gift stores and boutique that appreciate the blurred line between art and coffee.

On Friday’s the staff takes to the neighborhood on bikes to deliver freshly roasted coffee beans to area residents.

6 The Power of Focus

This Local Color video, featuring creative small businesses around the globe, is part of a marketing series sponsored by HP

When it comes to growing a business few things have more power than a narrow focus. Too often business owners want to be many things in order to capture as much business as possible. That seems to make sense, but what happens in most cases is that the business brand gets so diluted that the only way to capture any business is to compete on price – say it with me – there will always be someone willing to go out of business faster than you if you compete on price!

In this episode of Local Color sponsored by HP I showcase a Kansas City based wine merchant – Cellar Rat. Cellar Rat has been able to thrive, even during a down economy by focusing very narrowly on wines – mostly under $30. They’ve coupled this approach with a commitment to education and by building and consistently communicating with a community of enthusiastic customers.


Meet Ryan Sciara – cofounder of Cellar Rat – and get focused as a total marketing strategy!

21 How I Use Email Marketing

This post is part of a creative marketing series sponsored by HP

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With the advent of social media, email marketing has taken a bit of a back seat in terms of buzz – but not with marketers that understand the power this tool has for long term trust building and short term conversion.

I’ve been an advocate of this tool throughout the rise of social media and find it telling that many bloggers and social media types that have built followings online are now turning to email marketing to cash in. I don’t mean cash in as a bad thing, I mean that they have found email marketing to be a way to generate customers in this more commercially acceptable avenue.

Email marketing is a central tool I still employ for building trust, doing research, announcing new products, selling products and services, educating customers, and expanding the awareness of my web presence beyond my web site.

While there are many ways to use email marketing I thought today I would share a little about how I do it so you could have one simple and practical road map.

My email marketing routine

List building – Obviously for email marketing to be an effective play, you’ve got to possess a list. Don’t ever, ever buy one! You must build your list and you must do it by offering value, that’s it.

You should, however, employ some tools that make it easy for people to subscribe. I place a sign-up form on most pages (it’s over there in the left sidebar if you’re reading this on my blog) and I use a drop down script from dynamic drive to offer the newsletter to site visitors. I know some folks don’t like these in your face forms, but there’s no denying how much more effective they are.

I offer people a free report for signing up in addition to the offer of the newsletter and this definitely drives sign-ups. I also make a special offer to buy my books through a thank you page once someone does subscribe. This is a low cost product that I add lots of valuable bonuses to and it often starts the relationship deepening very quickly.

I also promote my list when I speak and encourage you to consider ways to build your list from your other offline activities as well.

email marketing

Image: RambergMediaImages

Getting started – I use an autorepsonder to reply once someone subscribes. I send an evergreen issue of my newsletter so they get a taste of the value right away. A few days after they subscribe I also send what feels like a much more personal thank you note from me. This is a text email that is very simple and tells them I am glad they subscribed. I get constant feedback from people that, while they may know it’s not really a personal note, love the personal feel. I suggest you adopt this tactic. (The content of the note is on page 215 of Duct Tape Marketing, you know in case you want to buy the book.)

Content – Your readership will grow and spread only if they find your content valuable. While I do send occasional product pitches, I choose to do these in solo emails (a tactic that makes the offer stand out) and choose to fill my weekly newsletter with content that I think readers have come to value. Increasingly this is snack size tips that lead them to other great resources.

Format – I send my weekly newsletter in HTML format as reading and engaging with the content is much more enjoyable in the visual format. I do also send a text version for those that don’t allow HTML and as a further tool to help get through some spam filters.

I have moved to a format where I point out a lot of great content that I’ve written or that others have written. I used to include the full content in the email, but have found over the years that people have grown very comfortable with the digest format that allows them to click through to the full content online. One word of advice, as so many people now read email online through Gmail and Yahoo make your links open in a new window so they don’t have to keep coming back to find the email. (You simply add target=”_blank” after your link in HTML code to do this.)

As stated above I use text only email when I am doing a straight pitch for a product or service offering or promoting an event. I don’t include anything extra in these emails as I’ve found that total focus on one topic, in this format, generates the highest response. (A/B testing of your emails is a standard offering in most email services.)

ESP – ESP is the acronym for email service provider. If your list is more than a dozen names you need to use a service to send your emails. There are many great, low cost solutions for this that allow you to easily create, send and archive your email newsletters, offers and campaigns. These services also help you build and maintain your list and comply with CAN-SPAM laws.

I use Infusionsoft as part it’s part of my CRM and shopping cart set-up, but I’ve also experienced good things over the years from Constant Contact, Vertical Response, AWeber, MailChimp and iContact. In my opinion any of these services will meet your needs.

MailChimp wins the award for education. Take a look at their list of email marketing ebooks.

Integration – Email is a great way to expand beyond the newsletter communication to build deeper engagement in your community. Certainly it’s become very standard to include all of the ways for people to connect with you online in your email communications. You should add Twitter and Facebook links to your emails, but also cross promote your blog content, archive your newsletter issues as web pages on your site, and promote your new issues in Facebook status updates as well. (Here’s an example of an issue of my newsletter online.)

7 Using Social Media to Drive Offline Behavior

This Local Color video, featuring creative small businesses around the globe, is part of a marketing series sponsored by HP

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, social media tools are killer for the small local business trying to drive people offline and into their businesses and to build deeper relationships with existing local customers.

For this episode of Local Color I met Scotty Wise an Indiana restaurateur and owner of Scotty’s Brewhouse that is has his business booming through the use of social media. The key in his case, and I think for any local business, is to move beyond simply building a Facebook page or Twitter feed and to look for ways to deeply integrate social media into everything you are doing.

In the case of Scotty’s Brewhouse, not only do they Tweet and use Facebook, they sponsor events that involve social media, use Foursquare to reward frequent customers and even built iPads into the booths at their newest store to allow existing customers to interact in deeper ways, connect on Twitter, sign up for their eclub and what videos of their meals being prepared. There’s even a Scotty’s iPhone app so you can order ahead, get coupons and learn about special events.

Think about how you can embed social media into every interaction and the ROI will skyrocket.

17 The Extraordinary Craft of Story Building

This post is part of a creative marketing series sponsored by HP

One of my favorite Mister Rogers quotes goes like this: “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.” I love this idea because I think it delivers a powerful business lesson.

storybuilder

Image Salim Virji via Flickr

People connect with stories that move them and most every business can and should tell a story that helps prospects and customers connect at a deeper level. I truly believe the Internet, while making it easy to find information, has left us craving real connections, with real people, and the companies they serve.

Your marketing story should be one of the primary messages communicated in your printed marketing materials and throughout your web presence. I had a plumbing client years ago that printed his marketing story on the back of his invoices because he wanted remind his clients of the role his entire family played in his business.

A carefully crafted marketing story is a tool that can serve any organization trying to break through the clutter and connect with new markets.

However, most of the advice written about the use of a personal marketing story revolves around creating and telling compelling stories and while I ,do believe that the best leaders are great storytellers, I believe the new reality of marketing asks us to become great storybuilders.

The difference may seem subtle, but it embraces that fact that we must involve our customers and influencers in the creation of our business and our story.

  • We must include our vision for the future, but that vision should be a shared vision.
  • We must know everything we can about the goals, hopes and dreams of a very narrowly defined ideal client. (Super big bonus if you’re the client ie: I am a small business owners trying to take my business to the next level, I target small business owners trying to take their business to the next level.)
  • We must frame our story with a message that addresses the desires, challenges and unmet needs of this market.
  • We must involve customers in the finishing of the story by making their real life experiences central to the character development.

If you want to take this next giant step in evolution of your marketing in a way that turns your customers and prospects into collaboration partners and storybuilders sit down with a handful of your ideal customers and ask them the following questions with an eye on developing an extraordinary marketing story.

  • What do you know about where this business is going that no one could know?
  • What is your industry’s greatest flaw?
  • If your business could choose a new identity, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite customer story?
  • What is your secret wish for your business?
  • What is the greatest challenge your business must overcome?
  • What is your greatest fear for your business?
  • What is your greatest achievement/disappointment?
  • What about your childhood shaped you for this moment?
  • What choices have you made that you regret?

It may take some guts to pose questions like this to your best customers, but do it and you’ll be on your way to builder a relationship that can’t be penetrated by a competitors low cost offers.

2 Riding With Niner Bikes

This Local Color video, featuring creative small businesses around the globe, is part of a marketing series sponsored by HP

Niner Bikes was founded by Chris Sugai and Steve Domahidy. They met on a local Wednesday night ride that they participate in every week to this day. Niner is the culmination of many conversations over coffee, the handlebars, or a cold beer.

On a recent afternoon Chris shared two important tactics that led to a great deal of their success: They focused on a very narrow and unique product line, choosing to be the best at one thing only, and they used the Internet to access a very narrow and passionate audience of champions to spread the word.

Enjoy this episode of Local Color and look for more to come.

13 How to Collaborate With a Designer

This post is part of a creative marketing series sponsored by HP

Too often small business owners abdicate important roles to so-called professionals with more experience. The problem with this approach is that nobody has your experience.

Color Wheel

Image majansa via flickr

By that I mean nobody sleeps, eats, drinks and dreams your business like you. So, while it’s usually a good idea to seek the help of professionals, you need to delegate and collaborate to get the best possible result.

One of the most important hats you wear as a business owner is the guardian of all things strategic – you can never give this hat to someone else!

The area of graphic design is one of those “leave it to somebody creative” areas that can be disastrous for the brand without proper collaboration.

Experience with lots of designers over the years tells me that the good ones know this as well and your “I want something that pops” or “I’ll know it when I see it” direction will effectively hobble them from giving you something that will provide the result your brand needs.

Design firms have long used something called a creative brief to help frame the needs of a design project and easily communicate to a designer elements that need to be considered when doing the research and creation of a logo or other design element.

I developed my own creative brief over the years to use as a bit of a process to get closer to the best possible design for the situation and while it’s not foolproof, I’ve encountered plenty of designers that asked if they could get a copy. (You can find examples of creative briefs at scribd)

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