Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Price TagsWhen starting a business online, one of the toughest questions entrepreneurs face is, “what should I charge?”  It is so difficult today because no matter where you turn someone is offering a similar product or service for less or free.  So how do we compete with free and still be profitable?

“Back in the day,” entrepreneurs only had to worry about what the guy down the street was charging.  It was a bigger world then and you’d physically have to walk down the street to compare prices, and therefore the race to the bottom not as fierce.  But with the Internet, we have access to the competition at our fingertips, and more and more of the competition are just giving stuff away.  So again, how do we decide on prices and compete with free?


First, we have to stop seeing free as the enemy.  In many cases it is unfortunate, but however you look at it, free stuff is inevitable in the online marketplace.  If it is inevitable then, you have a choice to either adapt and change with the times or struggle to keep your doors open.  Mind you that I’m not saying ‘everything’ should free, but entrepreneurs need to be aware of it, recognize it as a tool, and incorporate it into their strategy.

Free Costs Time

Free Costs Time

In reality, Free is not free.  Free comes with its own price.  The price of free however, is measured by the span of our attention, in time.  I’m not spending dollars and cents every time I log into my Mint account or read an article from Hubspot, but I am spending my precious time.  It’s ironic, but in reality our TIME is much more valuable than money.  Time is a finite resource.  Time is what you spend every moment you’re logged into that free service.

The new question then, isn’t how do I compete with free, but how do I use Free and monetize the ‘time’ of our audience?


Seth Godin, master marketer, writes high-quality articles everyday on his blog.  Doesn’t charge anyone to read it, even though he probably could.  But he still manages to sell thousands of copies of his book, ‘Small is the New Big‘ at $26 apiece, which…is merely a collection of some of these same Free articles.  Mint.com provides an incredibly valuable personal finance tool for millions of people, but doesn’t charge a cent to its users.  It does however make money on advertising and connecting its users to credit card offers and such. Hubspot.com is an awesome Internet marketing business that offers tons of free tools, info and articles to their audience.  This draws in prospects, and they then convert these prospects into clients.


Again, I am not saying that you shouldn’t charge people for your service and give everything away for free.  But unfortunately the online consumer expects a lot from businesses these days.  If you keep everything behind lock and key, it will hurt your business.

What you need is a balance of both.  Offer some free advice, blog about your topic, connect with your community, and show your target audience that you know what you’re talking about and can provide value to them.  This builds trust and loyalty.  As with the examples above, by balancing the scales of what you charge for with what you give away, you can create a natural draw on your audience and monetize their time.

LESSON LEARNED: Free does not come without cost and is therefore not FREE.  Free costs time to produce, and also to consume.

Update: This article by Chris Anderson, entitled “Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business” is an awesome resource for those that may be interested in ‘Freeconomics’…enjoy.

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Does your company have a story to tell?  If yes, are you taking full advantage of that story to build your brand?

Federale with Leather Briefcase

Federale with Saddleback Briefcase

I recently put “Be a Good Story Teller” on my list of ideas for this blog.  It was a topic that I felt I wanted to address because it was something that I hadn’t heard much discussion on.  So what does telling good stories have to do with building a successful brand?

We should have all figured out by now that the purpose of branding is to capture attention, engage interest and leave a memorable message with the recipient.  The more refined and well crafted the brand marketing, the more clear and understood the message will be received by the targeted market.  This in turn, will result in more sales, traffic, etc.

Coincidently a good story must contain these same elements, “to capture attention, engage interest and leave a memorable message.”  If your business has a story to tell then by all means use it.  Incorporate your company story into your business the same way you do with branding.

7 Reasons Why Story Telling is Good for Business.

  1. Everyone likes a good story.
  2. Stories show personality.
  3. Stories have the ability capture and hold our attention.  (We’re all a bunch of ADD’ers)
  4. Stories build brand loyalty, by creating an emotional connection between business and customer.
  5. Stories are easier to remember than facts, and being memorable is the objective in branding.
  6. Stories are unique, and…
  7. People like to share stories.

“They’ll fight over it when you’re dead.”

The Saddleback Leather Company

The Saddleback Leather Company

There is really no better way to show the value of a good story, than to look at a perfect example of a company that has an amazing story and has used it to build its brand.

I was introduced to the Saddleback Leather Company’s story from the SAMBA Blog (article by Jon Dale, They’ll fight over it when you’re dead) and it inspired me to share the value behind good storytelling.  Dave Munson, the president and founder of the Saddleback Leather Company invites his site visitors in and shares the unique story behind the company’s founding.  Even their prominent Call to Action on the homepage draws you into the story of the brand more than the products themselves.

Now following Saddleback’s example, let’s examine how we can tell a good story.

How to Tell a Good Story:

  • Be Yourself: The personality of your brand will in many ways match the personality of the entrepreneurs who build them.  From the tight-laced professional to the fun-loving hipster, our businesses and brands tend to reflect their owners.  So embrace the your uniqueness and what it brings to the table.
  • Be Interesting: Remember, just like branding, telling your story must capture attention, engage interest, and leave a memorable message. Be descriptive, use pictures, and paint the picture of your amazing product or services journey.  Where did it start?  Who was involved? What did you struggle with?  How did you overcome challenges?
  • Be Honest: Fairy tales are great, but if you lie to your customers they will find out and it will ruin any work that you put into it.
  • Be Proactive: Don’t stop creating your story.  How do you want your business and life to be remembered?  Be adventurous and bring your brand with you.
  • Involve Your Customers: Just like the Saddleback Company created a photo contest for its customers and received responses from Africa to Antarctica, involve your happy customers and everyone wins.  You build brand loyalty and advocates for you company and your customers get to be a part of the story.

I’ll admit that not all businesses will have a compelling story to tell, and therefore should not try to make one up. However if your business has a good story then by all means tell it and use it to sell your brand.

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conversationAs we prepare for the release of the new Facebook, and its Twitter-style real-time updates, I think it is time for a quick reminder.  Listening to the conversation online is no longer just recommended, it is critical to the success of entrepreneurs.

The real-time connection to that conversation, made possible by Facebook and Twitter, makes it impossible to ignore.  As CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the Facebook blog Wednesday;

“As people share more, the time line gets filled in more and more with what is happening with everything you’re connected to. The pace of updates accelerates. This creates a continuous stream of information that delivers a deeper understanding for everyone participating in it.”

The reminder to pay attention and listen to the conversation is both an EXCITING and SCARY one for entrepreneurs.  On one hand, good news and positive conversation can and will spread faster.  But on the other, if you screw up or piss a customer off, that negative conversation will also be carried farther faster.

Seth Godin brings up a great point today in his blog Direct from Consumer Marketing, “Angry phone calls are your friend. They’re your friend because the alternative is angry tweets and angry blog posts.”  How true.  This is a powerful statement that MUST resonate through the entrepreneurial community.

It is truly a new era when companies welcome angry phone calls.  Not necessarily out of the desire to provide excellent service to their customers, but out of FEAR that if they don’t tell us they are pissed, they’ll tell a million that will listen.

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Stop Watch3 Seconds and Counting…

When positioning a new Internet StartUp for release, it is imperative that your marketing message be clear and easily understood.

Remember that online, your visitor’s attention span is measured in seconds. Interest or engage them in those few precious seconds or lose them. Personally, 75% of my time online is spent scanning, not reading. My time is precious and with SO MUCH information available on the web, more is only a click away. So tell me you have what I’m looking for or I’m gone.

Simple, Clear & Easily Understood

A marketing message on the web has to be clear and easily understood. If I come across your site/service, I should be able to understand whom you are and what you do in three seconds or less. If there is a question about who you are…I’m gone. Developing and refining your marketing message is critical to online success.

Case In Point: TheEcoKey.com

Yesterday, I took some time to browse LinkedIn’s Answers section to see if I could offer some helpful advice to fellow entrepreneurs. I came across a question asked by Jennifer, founder of TheEcoKey.com. Jennifer was looking for advice on how to market and drive traffic to her newly launched website.

the eco key dot com

TheEcoKey.com is a great idea and has a great cause and story behind it (I encourage you to check it out). The problem, as I explained to Jennifer was that their message was unclear. I’d visited the website and could not help but be confused: “The Eco Key: Cleaning up our planet, one search at a time.” Umm… I don’t get it, and neither will anyone visiting the site without further explanation.

In order to discover why I should use TheEcoKey.com I had to find the tiny ‘about’ and ‘FAQ’ links at the bottom of the page for a further explanation and to find out what the heck is TheEcoKey… If I hadn’t been trying to help the EcoKeyers out, I wouldn’t have looked at the page more than a split second before hitting the back button. Sorry…I’m gone.

Lesson Learned: Be crystal-clear about who you are and what you’re offering. Spend as much time as needed clarifying your message so that it can be quickly and easily understood by your audience.

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robotIn a previous post, ingeniously titled Seth Godin: Man or Machine?, I gave Seth a digital pat on the back for being an inspiration to marketers and entrepreneurs with his blog.  Providing ‘us followers’ with a daily dose of valuable innovative wisdom.

Now that Seth has published his 3,000th blog post, I think this may be the evidence needed to confidently answer the question of Man or Machine, and say that Seth Godin is definitely a Machine.

Congratulations Seth, I look forward to the next 3,000.

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Seth GodinI started reading blogs on a daily basis about 6 months ago and I am amazed at how much information is available through the Blogosphere. Even though there is plenty of noise (aka crap) out there, I continually find myself reading more useful information from blogs than I do through any other source. Even while searching Google for random topics on ‘Whether to bootstrap or Fund’, ‘Angel Investing’, ‘Venture Capital’ or whatever, it seems that somehow I always find my way to a blog post. I can remember even a few years back when I’d be researching a topic, and find myself on Wikipedia or this or that.com, but now 75% of the information I find is through blogs.

Great there’s a lot of information on blogs, what’s your point?

Point is, that out of the hundreds of blog posts I’ve read, Seth Godin consistently posts the best blogs. (The keyword I want to impress here is “consistently”.) Full of information and value, I have yet to be disappointed, or left without having gained something from one of his posts. What blows my mind is that he posts new blogs everyday, sometimes twice a day! How does he do it?

Regardless, if you haven’t subscribed to Seth’s Blog yet, do it. If you call yourself an entrepreneur this stuff is mandatory reading.

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