The Island of No-Marketing

Marketing To Improve Sales
(Photo by Easa Shamih)

Imagine you’ve landed on the beautiful Caribbean island of Sa Lez. It’s sunny, populated, healthy, and bustling with activity. As you wander around you notice that there are no stores, only market stalls. At each of the hundreds of stalls, you see that each vendor lists what they offer and their price. How would you choose which vendor to purchase from?

It’s clear that the vendor’s price list alone is likely not enough to sway your purchase. Digging deeper, you might compare vendors based on location, or best selection, or longest line, or best looking display, or best smile. You’re using other cues to help you pick the best vendor for your needs.

This is the essence of marketing. How can a business owner help people to choose their products or services?  It starts by identifying the type of person who’s looking for what you’re selling, and clearly articulating what makes your offering better for them.

Now, imagine you have one of the stalls at the market. What should you do to get more customers? Here are some varied approaches:

  • Sit in your stall, and watch what people touch and ask for (passive learning).
  • Give a talk at the entrance of the market that gets everyone excited to buy from you (active sales).
  • Do something wild, that strongly gets the attention of a few people (so they tell their friends), while the rest of the people ignore you completely (guerrilla marketing).
  • Hand out flyers at the entrance with a special free treat that many of the people there are appreciative of (but few remember or talk about) (product sampling).

There’s no absolute right or wrong approach to market your business. The right solution is the one that works for you and your prospective customers. While experts can suggest the best practices to begin your marketing strategy, ultimately it’s up to you to fine-tune the approach to customize it for your specific needs.

Slogan For Membership Site

We are an education company that provides a certification program for insurance agents that sell LTC insurance. Once they become certified in their state to sell LTC insurance we want the “next step” to be for the them to become a member of the LTC Inner Circle (our membership site).
The benefits of the membership site:
-Sales and Marketing Training
-Webinar Series
-Late breaking industry news
-Quote & Underwriting engines to show their client
-Access to “Ask the Expert”
-Access to a community of other insurance producers to ask questions.
Basically everything they need to sell LTC insurance after they have become certified.

We want them to feel like they are a VIP when they join, that they get the “inside scoop” on the industry. They have help, coaches, guidance every step of the way. Right now we have a logo that is the shape of a circle with people in it- and it says “Members Only.” Our company that is offering this is called LTC Connection and our company slogan is “We help producers sell LTC Insurance”. The LTC Inner Circle is a way that we continue to “connect” with producers and “Connect” the with tools and resources for selling LTC Insurance.


Jay’s Answer:

  • Become a Leading Salesperson
  • The Smart Way To Stay Ahead
  • Learn What Works From Our Experts

A Name & Tag Line for my Take Away Coffee Shop

Dear J, Greetings!

Focus Points:

  • Its a take away coffee shop.
  • Other Deliverables: Sandwich, burger, fresh juices, coffee (hot/cold)
  • Target Customers: Travelling people, night workers, students, MNC
  • employees, busy life stle consumers
  • Locations: Airports, Train stations, Tube & University campus & busy streets

USP: Open 24/7, free door delivery in 30 minutes, only Cafe in India offering the above 2.

Need a easily pronounceable, unique name & tagline since we focus on middle class & the above middle class people here in India

Note: Middle class is the bottom of the pyramid in India and there’s huge opportunity on this business.

Considering the above facts, would you please suggest some names and taglines for our Cafe. Few in Mind:
Cafe King: The King’s @ your service!  
Ground Floor: wheres my coffee.


Jay’s Answer:

  • 24/7 Coffee
  • Anytime Coffee (Shop)
  • Anytime Café
  • C’est Café (this is a play on words/language – Rhymes in English, and means “Coffee is…” in French)

Tagline For An Online Parent/Child Boutique

Hi! I’m opening an online boutique for families. I will offer child clothing, tutus, shoes, frilly things; as well as photo jewelry & photo handbags/wallets for parents. Looking for a catchy tagline. The name is “Olive’s Lane” (named after my twins Olivia – “Olive” & Alhena – “Lane”); logo has an olive branch in oval shape with the name inside & twin girl silhouettes at the top. Any ideas?! I’m thinking something cute, posh & catchy. Maybe something that plays with the ‘lane’ part of the name & maybe linking it to a path or road ?!


Jay’s Answer: Since Olive’s Lane doesn’t give a clue what you sell, then a tagline could help make it more obvious (rather than something “catchy” that would further make it obscure). For example: A Cute Family Boutique.

Craft Business Name

I would like to have a name for a business that makes both hair bows and other random crafty projects. I don’t want to limit myself just to bows but want people to know they are important. I do graphic design as well, but am at a loss on this one.


Jay’s Answer: Your business name should focus on what you’re selling, rather than making people feel important. “Random Crafties” could work as a name, but it would be much better to get clear on who you’re targeting, why they’d buy from you, and what need you’re trying to fulfill.

Starting Out In Online Digital Distribution

So I recently broke into the Game Industry. Started working for a game developer that also has their online digital distribution store (pretty much like Valve with their Steam, but of course on a much smaller scale). In fact, there are 2 of them: one for a specific region, and one is worldwide. Incidentally, the first one is the one
bringing in most income (the 2nd site has a much more limited games choice). Within the company  I’ve been working mostly on their websites and also in tech support.

So yesterday I was offered a great opportunity – to take over the online digital distribution store that is focused on worldwide audience. Needless to say, I could not pass on that opportunity and took the job. However…

I have never run anything of such scale before. I always wanted to, but never got the chance. So now here is my chance, opportunities are potentially endless, but I have no idea what to do. I have done some online marketing and promotions before, but nothing  like that. For example, I have never signed a contract with a
publisher or developer to sell their games in my store.

I need to come up with a structured plan for myself on how I am going to develop this project. There seems to be overwhelmingly many things to do, and I have no idea what to start with, and from what side to approach it, so to speak. What research do I need to do first?

So my main questions is: what steps do I need to take first? Second? Third? What sources can I read about running a digital distribution website?

I understand that this is a great challenge for me, but also a great opportunity. And I am more than willing to make it work and eventually be a big part of the gaming industry. I hope you can give me some advice and show me the direction I need to go from this point on.


Jay’s Answer: If I were in your shoes, I’d start by gathering analytics about your website (visitors, language, search terms, pages visited). That’ll give you a baseline to be able to judge the results of your actions.

Next, I’d ask a lot of questions of your management team: what are their goals, their expectations, resources they’re willing to commit, and how they think they would achieve these goals. The point here is to ask, listen, and learn.

After I gathered all this data, I’d send a summary of what they said. The goal now is to ensure they’re consistent with what they say and how they react to the “big picture”. I wouldn’t yet commit to these goals – the point is to document the conversation to understand the internal needs.

Next, I’d try to reverse engineer how my competition does their marketing. What is their traffic, their pricing model, their SEO data, etc. The goal of this is to begin to start a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) – so you can leapfrog the competition’s efforts (or borrow some great ideas from someone who’s not a direct competitor).

If I was planning on courting developers to sell their products on your site, then I’d start talking to them about their needs and also learn about your competition through their eyes. By doing these informational interviews (you’re not promising anything – you’re again asking questions and learning) you’ll build some strong allies with a vested interest in how you proceed.

After this, I’d have a good idea of what management wants and how best to proceed. I’d start slowly, measuring the results of my actions (compared to the baseline analytics).

A tagline for a HR & Recruitment

I need a tag/punch line for our organisation in HR and Recruitment  / consulting business? Would appreciate if you could help with a few suggestions.


Jay’s Answer:  The mistake most people make thinking about tagline is that you can create a “catchy phrase” and suddenly people will remember your business name, and want to hire your services. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

Instead, a tagline is a carefully considered phrase that connects your business name with your target audience by highlighting a key benefit that you offer. That means that to create a great tagline requires a deeper understanding of many issues (your company name, your location, who specifically your target client is, where they are located, what you offer, why they’d hire your services, what you specialize in, what makes you better/different from your competition, when they’d hire you, etc.). Without a deeper understanding of these issues, you’ll get a generic phrase, which could be used for any company similar to yours’, but not yield the results you’re looking for.

Currently it appears that your company’s existing tagline is “Bringing Critical Pieces Together … People!” If so, why would you want to change it? How do you think a new tagline would help your business or change your perception? What do your prospective clients think about this tagline, and what message do you wish they understood instead?

Scaling Up Excellence

Scaling Up Excellence Book CoverIn an ever-competitive business climate, how can organizations become ever more excellent? If you follow closely the usual best-practices, you’re likely to discover fundamental dilemmas. So, what’s a business leader to do?

In a word, “adapt”. While there are many best practices highlighted in the book, it’s clear that one size doesn’t fit all. You need to clearly know your existing business culture and be willing to experiment to identify the right mix of techniques for your business today. The authors (Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao) give lots of examples of modern companies who have struggled with these same issues and picked a mix that’s right for them.

The authors’ 7 key “scaling mantras” which guide their thinking:

  1. Spread a mindset, not just a footprint. Rather than dictate what you want others to do, help them to see (and share) what you believe.
  2. Engage all the senses. What isn’t immediately obvious may have profound implications.
  3. Link short-term realities to long-term dreams. This is the heart of strategy, making every step of your journey take you closer to your intended destination.
  4. Accelerate accountability. To move an organization requires not just a single leader, it requires group cooperation. Cooperation happens when people are empowered and accountable for their actions.
  5. Fear the clusterfug. Planning for the worst is long-term smart planning.
  6. Scaling requires both addition and subtraction. To scale up an initiative sometimes comes at the cost of something else. You can’t do everything at once.
  7. Slow down to scale faster – and better – down the road. A strong foundation allows for better growth.

The mantras are expressed in 5 scaling principles:

  1. Hot causes, cool solutions. By clearly articulating the “pain point” you can create opportunities to emotionally address the problem (logic alone won’t do it).
  2. Cut cognitive load. We often think more is better. But more is simply more. And too much information induces paralysis. Carefully isolate the key issues to allow attention to focus where it belongs.
  3. Build organizations where “I Own the Place and the Place Owns Me”. Simply trying to make everyone a superstar performer isn’t sustainable long-term. Better is to create a culture of reciprocity – where the workers are truly empowered to do what’s right.
  4. Connect people to cascade excellence. Rather than trying to change an organization all at once, build a domino chain instead. Teach a group your message. Once they’ve embodied it, let the group become the teachers (and repeat). Each group will adapt the changes to their needs, and then pass along a more effective system.
  5. Bad is stronger than good. In a field of excellence, what’s noticed is the outlier – the bad thing. Paying attention to the details will allow the big excellence picture to grow organically and sustainably.

Marketing With A Beginner’s Mind

Targeted Marketing Achieved With a Beginner's Mind
(Photo by DeeAshley )

The easiest thing about marketing your own business is that you’re the world’s expert at what you’re selling. The hardest thing about marketing your own business is that your prospective customers are not likely experts in understanding what you’re selling.

You know all the pros and cons of your offering. You understand all the detailed specifications and shortcomings. When you have a conversation with a prospective customer who’s highly educated about your technical expertise, you “click well”. They understand what you’re saying and vice versa. But unless you’re only targeting highly-informed customers, your marketing is likely off-the-mark.

Think of your marketing like dating. You first want to “get” your date. What are they saying? What are they needing in their life? How do they make decisions? Only after you “get them” can you focus on having them “get you”.

Japanese Zen Buddhism introduced the concept of “shoshin” (“Beginner’s mind”). Approach your marketing by thinking like a non-expert in what you’re the expert of. This will no doubt hard for you, since it’s been a long time since you’ve been a beginner in your field. But if you can convey your message to a beginner, someone who doesn’t necessarily know what they’re looking for, your marketing is likely to connect with your entire market.

Beginners may not have a clearly articulated problem. They just have a vague problem and are looking for an answer. Position your business squarely by clearly giving voice to what a beginner is needing to hear. You can then showcase that you’re not simply talking to beginners, but your entire niche.