Monday, September 01, 2014

Successfully Marketing and Promoting A Consumer Product on Amazon … On a Shoestring

 A Budget-Conscious Guide for the First-Time Retail Entrepreneur

By Ned Barnett


Amazon is an amazing international marketplace – in some senses it has become the world’s largest flea market.  Its closest competition is eBay, which has dramatically increased their “Buy it Now” category, taking away the uncertainty of auctions.  However, Amazon – by virtue of its ability to pick-and-pack and ship (i.e., fulfill orders), it’s incredible trust factor among online purchasers, and its ability to collect money from credit cards – stands apart from eBay, which is primarily focused around PayPal payment systems (not surprising since eBay owns PayPal). 

Both can be effective, and both can work in tandem, but for the purposes of this evaluation, Amazon has some unique features ideal for the first time retail entrepreneur.

The following is a step-by-step guideline to effectively marketing and promoting retail consumer products being sold on Amazon.

Preliminary Steps

Product:  First, find or create a product. Many successful products are private-label versions of commercially-available products, some are custom-made (or manufactured exclusively on behalf of by the seller) and some are widely-available products purchased and resold without rebranding. 

Focus on one product, or one product line (variations on the same product), rather than trying to offer a wide range of differing products. A key reason for this is simple – each new product or product line will have to be promoted separately, to different and distinct audiences. 

Better, at least at first, to focus all of your marketing efforts – and your marketing investments – on a single product/product line.  Expand into other lines later, only after your first product line has reached a sales plateau.

Details of this product-selection process are really beyond the scope of this evaluation, but successful products are usually under $50, are uniquely-labeled (so there cannot be head-to-head price competitors) and something of a nature – or of a perceived premium quality – not easily available in local retail stores.

Storefront:  The next thing to do is set up a storefront arrangement with Amazon, complete with pick-and-pack and ship (fulfillment) arrangements and a means by which Amazon can pay you (i.e., how they can make payments into your checking account).  This is easy to do and the guidelines on Amazon are clear. 

Set-up:  Get the initial batch of product to Amazon, so they can begin fulfilling orders as they come in.

Now you’re in business and ready to start promoting your product or product line.

Marketing and Promotion

Marketing on a shoestring:  Marketing and promotion is everything you do to get people to your Amazon page, so they can buy your product.  Obviously, “free” is better than “paid” (in most cases), but sometimes you’ll have to pay, at least something, to get the word out.  Make sure that this is an investment with a positive ROI, rather than a cost of doing business.  And also remember this key to paid marketing and advertising – “anything worth paying for is worth getting for free” – which is why social networking and public/media relations are so effective, and so valuable.

Google Ad Words is a fairly safe way of advertising – since you’re paying for clicks or views or some other measure that could actually lead to sales, it has more potential than traditional print or broadcast ads. However, I don’t recommend this – it’s an option, and it might be a good one, but it’s not a “shoestring option.”

One other key here. Remember about “truth in advertising,” and know that there are Federal agencies looking for (and punishing) fraudulent claims.

And – if you’re selling dietary supplements, remember that the FDA will shut you down if you make unsubstantiated health claims.  Any claims you make should be “equivocal” – for instance, this “may help” or it “encourages” positive outcomes.  You can cite credible third parties who make claims unconnected to your product, but do be careful.

Press Releases:  This is a potent way of generating awareness and interest, especially if you are both regular and frequent in your creation of press releases.   However, to do so, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1.     They should be written as “news,” not as “commercials.” They should read as if they could be dropped into a newspaper, magazine or ezine as legitimate content.

2.     Whenever possible, cite third-party experts – research studies, for instance, or news from non-profit trade associations.  If you’re quoting from published research or information, include a link (for added credibility).

3.     While facts can be presented without “attribution,” opinions should be presented by a named spokesman, such as:  “our new breakthrough in the liposomal delivery of fat-soluble vitamins delivers 43 percent more bio-active vitamin molecules than capsules or pills,” according to Bob White, President of Liposomal Vitamins.  “This means you get more health benefits from our 1,000 mg vitamin than you would from 2,000 mg of any other vitamin on the market.”

4.     Your goal here is to get coverage – either by reprinting the release, or by interesting the editor or producer in a one-on-one interview for a longer article, or for broadcast purposes.

5.     Be sure you post your release (and coverage) on your website, and announce it on Facebook and other social networking sites.
Press releases can be posted on many free sites – Google “Free Press Release Placement Site” and you’ll get links to a number of free services.  They are worth what you pay for them, but they do help you get the word out.  When you do post a press release, also place it on your website, announce it on Facebook and in other social networking sites (see below) and even consider doing a video blog about the subject matter covered in the press release.
Wire Releases:  However, for really big news (and you should do this at least once per quarter – or more frequently if you have the budget), you should place it on a paid distribution service such as BusinessWire.  With BizWire, you have to select a geographic distribution – my advice is to pick the lowest-cost geographic area you can justify, rather than paying extra for going national.   There are three reasons for this:
1.     When you place a release on BizWire, it is automatically picked up by several hundred news-aggregator sites. Some are small, but Yahoo Business and MSN are included.

2.     When you use BizWire, you also get free distribution to all topically-appropriate distribution lists they have.  This puts your release in the hands of someone who might actually use it.

3.     You save money while getting most of the coverage you’d get from a higher-priced distribution on BizWire.
Of course, if your release gets picked up, post links on Facebook and Twitter and your Website, brag about it on Facebook groups, and do all you can to make sure the people who should know about it, do know about it.

Tapping into Breaking News: The news media is always looking for fresh new faces to help put breaking news into perspective – which means you, as an online retailer and expert in the product and its market space – might just fill their needs.  Here’s what you do:
·      Create Google Alerts for key words relating to your product and market space

·      When news breaks, if you have something to say, write a quick blog about it, summarizing your perspective on the news

·      Email the appropriate news media – or put out BizWire press release (if you have the budget) encouraging editors and producers to check out your blog, as an example of what you could say to their audience in an interview.  “Tease” it in the email – don’t give it all away – but get them to the blog.
I tested this approach out in 2008, and wound up on Cavuto (Fox) five times, on Imus five times, on 56 other radio programs and gave more than 100 print and online print interviews.  This approach works, but only if you’ve got something important to say. If not, wait for the next breaking news story – don’t risk your credibility by “commenting” on everything.
Product Reviews:  This is probably the most potent deal-closer you can have – favorable product reviews.  Once consumers find your product (because of your marketing, or through serendipity), a selection of intelligent, well-informed and favorable reviews will help sell the product.

To get reviews, enlist your network of family and friends, asking them to write reviews and post them to Amazon.  An important “hint.”  However, before they write their reviews, get them to buy the product first, then wait till it’s delivered. Amazon shows preference to reviews by people who’ve actually bought and received the product.  In addition, make sure the reviews are “in their own words,” and do something to relate their reviews to something about themselves.  This “personal testimonial” carries a great deal of weight.

For example, and in part of writing this guide, I reviewed a recent purchase from Amazon ( The product is a book about a fairly obscure WW-II British combat aircraft.  In the review, I noted that I’ve purchased (with satisfaction) other books by the same author, and also noted that my interest in this fairly obscure aircraft was a bit of a “guilty pleasure,” which will appeal to others with the same kind of interest.

You will want at least three strong and positive reviews to begin with. However, keep track, because if you get a negative review (hey, it can happen), you’ll want at least three more positive reviews to offset each bad review.

Also publish the reviews on your website and on your Facebook page, and link to them on Twitter and other social media sites. 

Testimonials:  Encourage satisfied clients to also create video blogs/ video testimonials/ video reviews that can be posted on Facebook and YouTube and on your website, and promoted extensively.  Video product reviews – when done naturally by “real people” (instead of actors or shills) can be very powerful.  Make sure they use their full name. Nobody gives any credence to “Bob W. of Omaha” – but some will give credence to “Bob White of Omaha, Nebraska” and all will give credence to a video testimonial that begins, “Hi, I’m Bob White, of Omaha, and I’d like to tell you about my experience with this great new product I found on Amazon.”

In creating testimonials (and also social media word-of-mouth), enlist family and friends, but also see if you can network with college students (for the right products, of course). There’s something about a “.edu” email account that seems to add credibility.  While you don’t want to wear out your friends, family and other contacts, do your best to enlist them to supporting you on an ongoing basis.

Website:  With the advent of WordPress (with design templates) and low-cost domains, it would be foolish to NOT have a website. Here, you can place product photos and product specs, kudos and testimonials from satisfied customers, press coverage about the product and the product’s market space, and – a link to Amazon where your product can be bought and fulfilled.

The Website should have the following:
·      About the Product
·      Link to Amazon under “Buy the Product”
·      FAQs about the Product
·      Kudos and Testimonials
·      Blogs and video blogs
·      Third-party research about the product (if appropriate)
·      A “News” section with
o   News about the product
o   Press releases you sent out
o   Press coverage you got
o   News about the industry or market space
·      About the company (optional, but potentially helpful)
·      Links to Social Media
·      Sign-up page for an e-Newsletter (which you should then create) – this is a way of capturing email information from prospective or ongoing clients

Two Keys to Social Networking Success:  People look for two things from Social Networking – content (new information) and conversation (humanizing and connecting on a personal level).  Both are important. Content draws them in, and conversation puts a human face on your product.  Anybody who posts a message to a blog (comment), Facebook post or Tweet, you should be sure to respond, and not in a “form letter” fashion.  This doesn’t mean you have to become pen pals, or be driven into endless debates – but it does mean you should be “social” (hence the name, “social media”).

Your goal should be to become a “Subject Matter Expert” (someone others turn to for information) or even a “Thought Leader” (someone others turn to for direction and advice).  To do this requires consistent high-quality content supported by at least the illusion of personal relationships.

Blogs, Video Blogs and “Content:” You can extend your reach by creating a Blogger Blog-Site (its free, and since Google owns Blogger, it gets scanned right away) about the product and its market space.  Write about the product. Invite users to write about their experiences with the product.  Write about research or other news in the product’s market space.  Keep writing.

Blogs can be as short as 250 words and as long as 1,250 words.  In writing and publishing blogs, frequency is more important than length – if it’s too long, break it down. I recently wrote one blog for a client, then broke it down into four blogs before we published it … and got roughly four times the mileage.
When you reprint these blogs on your website and on your Facebook page, change the headline and the first paragraph (this is for SEO reasons).

White Papers and Case Studies:  Longer content can be published as “white papers” and as “case studies” – these can be helpful, and should be reprinted or downloadable from your website. These should focus on research behind your product, or examples of successful use, or other useful content.

Others’ Blogs:  Also, seek out others’ blogs (on their own blogsites) and comment on them. This is considered an ethical and effective way to attract this other blogger’s audience to your blogsite.  Do one of two things:
·      Agree with the blog and respectfully add one or two additional points to the author’s message; or,

·      Respectfully disagree with the blog, then very respectfully offer two or three points for readers to consider.
In either case, be sure to add your own blogsite, website or Facebook site (but only one, not three) to your signature at the end of your comment.  And if you’ve also blogged on this subject, provide a link to your blog on that same topic.  Remember, be respectful, be helpful, be part of a conversation (never a confrontation) and it will help you attract people to your site.
Chat Rooms:  Participating in Chat Rooms is like commenting on others’ blogs, but in real time. If you’ve got the time (or can find students or others to make the time on your behalf), and if the chat rooms are “topical” to your product, this can help.  Or, like Twitter, it can become a vast time-sink, that offers no measurable return but takes up time that could be more profitably used posting to groups or finding other ways to invest your marketing time.
Books and eBooks:  Come up with a title for a book related to your product. Then, for each blog you write, indicate that it is taken from “the forthcoming book – Title.” This will give your blogs added credibility, and when you’ve got 20 or 30 or 50 blogs published, go ahead and pull them together into an eBook and publish it (free) on Amazon.  You will make money on it (not much), but you’ll also gain huge credibility with customers and the news media as a real “author.”
Video blogs:  These should be about the same topics as the written blogs, but they should NOT be spoken from a script – and they don’t need highly professional production standards. If a video blog looks over-produced, it will be deemed “commercial” and actually lose credibility.  Video blogs can run from 90 seconds to three minutes (five if you’ve really got something to say). If you need to go longer, it’s no longer a video blog – it’s a video (subtle difference).

Video blogs should go on your website, on YouTube, and with links, on Facebook and other social media. 

Facebook: You’ll want to put up a Facebook page about the product.  However, the rules about “corporate” pages on Facebook seem to change daily, so to keep from being obsolete, I’ll assume you either know how to do this or know a 15-year-old who can teach you how.  On this page, which will include a link to your product page on Amazon, you can post copies of product reviews that appear on Amazon, as well as comments from satisfied consumers, news about the product and its industry, copies of press releases and blogs and … well, you get the idea.  It becomes your Social Networking hub.

Paid Promotion On Facebook:  Facebook is now pushing paid promotion of your posts on Facebook.  They’ll offer it at a price, but the price is always negotiable. Do this rarely but occasionally, and only for the most important posts you’ve got (such as a new packaging or new feature for your product).  Don’t fall prey to them on every post, or you’ll be spending more than it’s worth.

FB Groups:  Also on Facebook, beyond your friends, you can join “groups” and post things on the groups.  Typically (though not always), groups frown on blatantly-commercial posts.  Start by getting yourself known on the group, by posting three-to-five new threads or comments that are directly relevant to the group (topically). Then you can start with “hey, look what I just found” … followed by the occasional research-based comment.  Also, this is a great place to enlist your family-and-friends network, getting them to join groups and post, too.

Does this work?  Yes! For one web-based client, I joined 200 topically-appropriate groups, reaching well over 100,000 total members (of course, not all members pay attention to each post, but that’s your “universe”) and, in the course of two months, we drove the unique users from under 3,000 to over 10,000, with an average of 3.5 visits per month and 40 page-views per visit.  Those, for a web-based business, are great numbers.

Provide a link to each new e-Newsletter you create, and invite “friends” to sign up (this way you capture their email info, not just their Facebook contact info).

Twitter:  You pretty much have to be on Twitter, if only because it’s expected of you.  Here are a few tips:
·      Tweet links to your Facebook page announcing new blogs and other new content. 

·      Write at least three times per week (and as often as 18 times per week) helpful brief information based around your product.

·      This comes to three per day on business days, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.

·      Vary the times of day to reach the maximum number of your followers.

·      Use Hootsuite to write and pre-post a month’s worth of Tweets to help you avoid having to come up with something new each day.

·      Always respond to anyone who writes to you on Twitter, if only a thank-you or acknowledgment

·      If news breaks in your field, search for relevant “hashtag” trends and post your comments about this news.

·      Frequently (but not always) post tiny-url links back to your website or Facebook site

  Create a “Network” on YouTube (it’s free) and post all your video blogs, longer videos, TV news coverage about your product or its market space, customer video testimonials, etc.  The rest of what you can do on YouTube is covered under “Video Blogs” (above).

The Rest of the “Also-Ran” Social Media Sites (Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, etc.):
  These all have some merit, and all take some time. Use them as you deem appropriate to your product, your time and your interest level.  However, don’t go into one of these halfway – either commit to it or steer clear.

Packaging:  In your product packaging, put in information about your website, your Facebook page and other sites – Amazon won’t give you the name of the customers who buy your product, but if you include information in your packaging, you’ll still reach them.

eBay:  While Amazon does offer fulfillment (which is valuable for those who don’t want to spend their lives in the basement or garage, packaging orders for shipment – and because of the volume shipping deals they can negotiate, it actually costs less than DIY), there is still value in putting your product on eBay, not as an auction item, but as a “Buy it Now” item.

You can set your own shipping price (to cover your hard costs, at least).  The value here is to make sure you reach people who you’d miss on Amazon.  This is not an alternative to Amazon, but a useful add-on, to make sure you don’t miss out on business.

Measuring and Tracking:  To the best of your ability, figure out what promotion works – then focus all your efforts there. Not all marketing works immediately, but if you give it time, and after a fair trial, if an approach doesn’t seem to work – cut it and focus on what does work.


Amazon is a remarkable resource for the start-up retail entrepreneur. Do it right and, if you picked the right product, you’ll be amazed at what you can generate in terms of income.  But the keys are:
·      Pick the right product

·      Do the right marketing

·      Cash the checks
Good luck!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Numbers Are The Beast

The factoids in that YouTube video (see link below), which were presented to the Board of Sony in 2008, include:

To be 1 in a million in China means there are 1,300 people in China just like you.

China is the #1 English-speaking country in the world

Top 25% (by IQ) in India is a group larger than the entire US population

There are more honors kids in India than kids in US

The top-10 in-demand jobs today did not exist in 2004

We are currently preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist, using technology that has not yet been invented in order to solve problems that (today) we don’t even know are problems

Today’s students will have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38

1 in 4 employees today have been with their employer less than a year – half have been with their employer less than 5 years

1 in 8 US couples who were married in 2008 met online

There were (in 2008) 200 million users on MySpace

If MySpace was a country, it would be the world’s 5th largest (between Indonesia and Brazil)

#1 Broadband-use (per capita) country in world is Bermuda – US is #19 and Japan is #22

In 2008, there were 31 billion searches on Google every month – in 2006, that number was 2.7 billion (where did people go before Google to find information?)

First text message was sent in 1992 – in 2008, on every day in 2008, there were more text messages sent than there are people alive on earth (roughly 6 billion)

Technology is penetrating the population at a greater rate than ever before. To reach 50 million in a market audience:

Radio took 38 years
TV took 13 years
Internet took 04 years
iPod took 03 years
Facebook took 02 years

In 1984 there were 1 thousand Internet devices
In 1992 there were 1 million Internet devices
In 2008, there were 1 billion internet devices

Today there are 540,000 words in the English language
In Shakespeare’s time, there were just 100,000 words in English

One week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than an 18th Century human would encounter in his entire life

4 extabytes of unique information (that’s 4x1019th) will be generated this year. That is more than all the unique bytes of information generated in the previous 5,000 years.

New technology information is doubling every 2 years – so for Tech students, half of what they learn in year-one will be outdated by year-three

NTT Japan has developed a new fiber optic cable that can push 14 Trillion bits/second – that’s 2,660 CDs or 210 million phone calls/second

This cable capacity is tripling every six months and will do so for the next 20 years

By 2013, a supercomputer will be built that will have more computational ability than the human brain.

By 2049, a single computer selling for about $1,000 will exceed the current combined computational ability of the entire human species (about 6 billion brains)

Every five minutes in 2008:

67 US babies are born
274 Chinese babies are born
395 Indian babies are born
694,000 songs are illegally downloaded

As fascinating as these facts are, they are two years out of date, and about as relevant as the newspaper headlines in Milwaukee on January 24, 1922. Still, they indicate the direction we’re all going.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Future of Agencies

A Guest blog by Jeffrey Cole, an ally and associate of long standing

The conversation or idea - what's the future of the agency in the digital age - is not new. For the past five years traditional and interactive agencies have sought to truly create an integrated solution for their clients. A few have succeeded. Though many seem to continue to struggle with shift that the consumer is now in control of the brand conversation. God forbid you aren't listening and the conversation is not good, Unfortunately, those who have been listening cannot shift their own strategic thinking paradigm in order to innovate around the old stale strategies of the past.

Metrics and Analytics is key. Coining an old term from Ghostbusters, "Agencies must be the key-master." Understanding how to apply behavioral, conversational and traditional metrics to a brand strategy is no longer relegated to the MBA who performs the most accurate Linear Regression. Through the old Flow Marketing principal out the window. It is past time for the new math. The only successful integrated marketing team will:

• Collect the most up-to-date and relevant information about the customer(s)
• "Listen," "Hear" and "Apply" all of their relevant conversations, reactions, and responses, and
• Innovate beyond even what is traditionally and digitally available right at this moment to engage and motivate consumers toward ACTION.

We as marketing professionals must continue to not only navigate but circumvent the turbulence brought on by digital technology, the social web and changing consumer behavior.

It is a new world defined by technology and consumer control.

• Consumers today have a complex relationship with media: it poses challenges as to how and where to engage with them. And, it is different for every brand, product and service. Agencies cannot recommend only from their respective "bag-of-tricks" simply because it is "what they do best." Successful strategists do not limit themselves only to the familiar or the most "cash positive" path for agency revenue. They use everything in the global arsenal.

• Consumers trust consumers (Or friends, followers and fans) more than they trust brands: it means we need to mobilize fans and followers to evangelize on behalf of the brand

• The Groundswell has gone mainstream: the consumer is now a creator/sharer/sales associate and distributor; brands must learn to harness and inspire these new roles.

• SWOM (Social Word of Mouth) reigns: content and the experiences agencies create must stimulate it

• 3.5 billion brand conversations happen every day, all of them VERY public: time to master the art of listening.

Consumers hate most advertising
• Only 5 % agree with advertising claims: brands must start being honest and authentic
• 50 % say brands don’t live up to advertising promises: No kidding! Brands must start being honest and authentic
• 67 % complain there is too much advertising: forget messages carrying all the weight, create experiences and conversation

Adaptive marketing is the new model
• Everything is powered by digital: hire digital, think digital, learn digital or die
• Real time response, as in political advertising, is the future of marketing: monitor social media regularly and change as the conversation changes.
• It’s all about pull not push: the formula is SEO plus value equal traffic
• Addressability is here: you should be thinking versioning, and customizating options
• Intelligence and analytics will drive everything: make it part of your strategy before and after creative development

Media needs to combine paid, owned and earned
• Paid: for scale and reach and speed: social can’t do everything, reach, scale and speed come from paid
• Owned: for content, relationships, listening and co-creation: open source opportunities are everywhere so create great content, utility and apps
• Earned: social, SWOM, PR, bloggers, influencers: paid can’t do everything; you need a social and conversation strategy, not simply a presence on Facebook.

Successful agencies will move well beyond campaigns
• Build campaigns PLUS platforms: you need both, Nike-plus without a brand behind has no plus
• Stop thinking in terms of audience and think about a community of participants: a brand’s consumers may be your best creative resource, or at least your best medium
• Undo unbundling: unbundled won’t work anymore: agencies need to find ways to integrate; become curators; and learn co-creation, curation, and crowd-sourcing
• Embrace and master new technologies quickly: you are working on the re-invention of print ads on the iPad, right?

Clients will look for three things
• Ideas: note this does not mean messages or ads
• Interaction: engagement, connection, community, media
• Intelligence, as in you need to collect, report, analyze and predict: if you don’t have robust analytics, and the brilliant minds to apply the findings – you’re in big trouble!

Jeffrey Cole
Three Point Ventures, LLC

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Advice on Marketing a Natural/Alternative Cancer Clinic in Central America

By Ned Barnett

I was asked by a colleague for advice on how to get publicity for a cancer treatment center in Central America that uses a natural/alternative form of therapy. This represents several challenges - the medical establishment, a lack of a specific news hook, and indifference from the mainstream consumer media. My recommendations are based on my significant experience in this market, and can be applied to any alternative therapy product or treatment.


You’re going up against the medical establishment, and that’s not easy. After more than two decades working for conventional medicine (hospitals, MDs, etc.) I branched out in ’94 and began working with natural and alternative healthcare providers (including the makers of supplements). I was PR director for Citizens for Health – among other things (in the last days before email), we put two million letters on Congressmen and Senators’ desks in two weeks – each individually written (these weren’t form letters) and got the Health Freedom Act of 1994 passed and signed – that’s the law that allows you to function today with alternative health treatment based on natural herbs. I also launched HealthWorld Online – then and now the largest natural and alternative healthcare site on the Internet. I’ve worked with a number of other natural and alternative health clients. I mention all that to mention this: my advice to you is based on more than 15 years of experience in this general marketplace.

First, the national mainstream media is predisposed to stand in opposition to you. They credit American-born (or at least American-trained) MD medical doctors (even osteopathic DOs are suspect, although they have the same license to practice as allopathic MDs) at the expense of all others. Central American cancer cures and cancer clinics are especially the butt of scorn and bad jokes – you may not remember Laetrile (made from apricot pits) that in the late 60s and early/mid 70s offered hope and early graves to thousands of late-stage terminal cancer patients, but the media remembers.

So understand going in that you’re fighting an up-hill battle; a guerilla battle to set yourself apart from other natural/alternative healthcare solutions (because yours works), and to do that, before you can even fight the battle, you have to create the weapons.

Try this:

First, get as much coverage as you possibly can from the natural and alternative healthcare publications, websites and other media (there are some natural/alterative healthcare and lifestyle radio stations or programs, too). In that coverage, do everything you can to emphasize the German tie-in and minimize the Central American tie-in. There will be a time (see below) when you can leverage these clips into coverage.

Network out with the Whole Life Expo crowd (speaking engagements and booths at shows) to gain further credibility; when you’re there, see if you can get LOCAL interviews on radio, local TV or in local newspapers – the “local” hook (and the fact that Whole Life Expos and similar events are also often advertisers) will get you the first clips from the mainstream. If you do radio or TV, capture those digitally so you can later use them in your client’s website press room – and get screen-captures of the clips, as the local media won’t keep them online forever, but you can.

Next, to begin to reach out to the mainstream media, create news. They don’t care that you claim an improbable (to them) cancer treatment – but they’ll cover newsworthy events (maybe).

To do this, stage events that bring together satisfied (survivor) clients with those suffering from or fearful of cancer – in a format where the satisfied former patients can give their personal testimonials (believe me, they’ll love to do that – this has changed their lives, and they can’t help it any more than a reformed smoker can help being a self-righteous PITA around still-smokers). You can have an “alter call” at the end, a time when those looking for hope, help and a change in their prognosis can come forward and sign up for appointments for pre-qualifying exams. Shoot straight – let them know what’s involved, and you’ll have people flocking to you. Example: For a dentist client who wanted to do nothing but dental implants, I created the Mid-Cumberland Dental Implant Society (the Nashville area is known as the Mid-Cumberland, having to do with the Cumberland River that flows through Nashville). Every patient he’d ever had was automatically a member-for-life, and many of them would show up at meetings for potential patients to give their personal testimony. There’d be nurses and the dentist there, too, and here’s what we’d tell those potential patients:

“Dental implants are not covered by health insurance – a full set will cost you about $22,000. Dental implant surgery is painful – you’re going to hurt, and there’s a limited amount that we can do to mitigate the pain while you’re healing. However, when you’re healed and the implants are in place, you’ll be able to eat anything you like – apples, steaks – anything at all.” Our approach was a cross between educational seminar and tent revival meeting. Our target was people with money and dentures, and after they’d heard the testimonials, after they’d been told several times that it was both expensive and painful (facts which created trust), we had an alter call, and we only needed one of these events each quarter to keep that dentist’s practice full. You couldn’t beat them away with a stick – the hope of being able to eat something other than soup, ice-cream and baby food was irresistible.

Now, think about how much more important being healed of cancer is than being able to eat apples or steaks. Then hold these seminars, and invite the press. Record them on video, so the press doesn’t have to show up, but can still see the testimonials from real people (who’ll consent to interviews). You may have to do these a while before you get someone to actually cover you – but since these are great marketing tools that will bring in paying clients, you can probably afford the wait.

One more thing. Get someone to ghost-write under your client’s byline a book – “New Hope for Cancer Sufferers …” or something like that (I ghost-wrote a book called “New Hope for Cancer … (something)” about 22 years ago for a cancer surgeon who’d been a professor in a major New Jersey teaching hospital before moving to South Florida to practice medicine and practice golf – it was very helpful for his practice, so I know this works). People with cancer are desperate for hope – in spite of all the medical advances, the Big C is still seen as a death-sentence, and who among us hasn’t had loved ones or close friends die from cancer after enduring the most humiliating and painful treatments – radical mastectomies (or other ectomies), radiation and chemo that leave them wasted and thin, bald and hurting, vulnerable to other infections (including nosocomial infections, the ones you get while you’re in the hospital – which kill about 9% of all the people who die in hospitals). So hope for something that’s holistic and WORKS, something that lets you heal while vacationing in a tropical paradise … it doesn’t get better than that. And of course, books and authors can be promoted and the media will pay attention in a different way than they do about the treatment itself. Stage book-signing events that will also draw press coverage.

OK – so you’ve got lots of natural/alternative healthcare coverage, and a fair amount of local media coverage, you’ve got book reviews and the credibility of a (hopefully) best-selling author, and finally, you’ve got newsworthy events. With all of this, you’ll be as well-positioned as possible for generating mainstream media coverage. Absent this (or FDA approval – and I wouldn’t hold my breath, no matter what your client hopes), there’s not much reason for the media to cover you. With this, you’ll be hard to ignore.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Penetrating the US Hispanic Business Market (tips that apply to penetrating any minority market

By Ned Barnett - (c) 2008

I just received a vitally-important, strategic question from a Miami-based, Cuban-born American small business-owner client: "How can I best penetrate the U.S. Hispanic business market without having to make presentations in Spanish?"

This reflects a larger issue - how can any American business penetrate the huge - and fast-growing - Hispanic market in the U.S.? Setting aside the issue of legal vs. illegal immigrants, the undifferentiated Hispanic market in the US (made up of Cubans, Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean-area natives, as well as Mexicans, Central Americans, Latin Americans and Americans of direct Spanish descent) is now larger than the African-American market AND larger than the entire Canadian market - both in terms of raw population numbers and the size of the economy (i.e., there are more dollars in the U.S. Hispanic market than there are in the Canadian market). And this growth will continue to increase - at least through the year 2050 - because of births, legal immigration and other sources.

So the question my Hispanic-heritage (but fully American) client is: How do I penetrate this fast-growing market without sacrificing my strong foothold in the larger (i.e., "Anglo") American business market? This becomes more acute (and focused) a question for him because, while his heritage is Cuban and he does speak Spanish, his language-of-choice is English - having grown up in Miami, he's far more comfortable with his adopted nation's language than he is with the language his parents grew up with.

To address the language issue, the way to handle this is to consistently take the bold position:

If you want to penetrate the larger U.S. market, you have to do business in English, which is the language of business in America.”

In this way, no matter who you’re speaking to, you’ll speak in English (except when you’re talking to Spanish-language American media, such as Univision, in which case - especially if this is a broadcast media outlet - you'll need to be fluent in Spanish). This came up some years ago when I was promoting a former Deputy Drug Czar from the Reagan/Bush administrations, a Puerto Rican/American named Diaz, who had to pass on a Univision interview because he literally didn't speak Spanish (as far as he was concerned, he was a New Yorker and an American).

Beyond that issue of language, to penetrate the American Hispanic market, you’ve got to make news among the business news media who reach into this market, and you've got to position yourself as an expert on an issue (or more than one issue, but let’s start with one) that matters both to the media and to your target audience.

This is a fact: Given a choice, people prefer to do business with people - and businesses - that they’ve heard of. And, given a choice among those they’ve already heard of, people prefer to do business with acknowledged experts. There is a bit of a “thrill” associated with doing business with someone who’s seen as an expert (even if that person is not an “expert” in what you hire them for) – especially if that “expertise” has been anointed by the media.

A very personal example, I’ve been featured in eight different History Channel programs since late 2000 (none about PR or marketing). Since these programs began to air, I’ve had clients “brag on me” – telling their friends, families, as well as their own clients, that they’re doing business with “that guy on History Channel.” I used to have one client – a night-owl/insomniac like me – who used to see me on the History Channel (and it's affiliated Military Channel) in late-night reruns … and he never failed to tell me about it via emails that were waiting for me when I got into the office the next morning. He (a CEO of a micro-cap public company) even introduced me to his board as “that guy on the History Channel.” This happens a lot – a lot more than I’d have ever dreamed possible – and it seems to really matter, in a positive way, to some clients that I’m “that guy on the History Channel.”

What that means for someone wanting to penetrate the U.S.-based Hispanic market is this: The more you can generate positive coverage in the U.S. Hispanic business media (even if you’re not talking about your core business), the more likely it is that you’ll be positively viewed by clients and, (in this case, more important), prospects. To succeed, you need to figure out hooks you can use to generate positive business coverage featuring you – even if it’s not about your business – that will position you as a role-model leader in the Hispanic market.

Another factor that’s common among all “minority” groups striving to assimilate into the U.S. business mainstream – success, by their members, in that mainstream is highly regarded by those who’ve not yet achieved a measure of mainstream-market success. Consistently - and common among all identifiable minority business groups - those who’ve already met this goal, who have successfully penetrated the mainstream U.S. business market, are respected - and they are sought out for advice and guidance by those who have not yet gotten out of their core market niche.

Yet a third factor is this: there’s an increasing awareness among members of the mainstream business market (and the mainstream business media that serves this market) who want to figure out how to penetrate what they correctly see as the fast-growing U.S. Hispanic market. They’re just starting to “get it” that the Hispanic market in the U.S., as noted above, is not only larger than the American Black market – but that the U.S. Hispanic market is larger than the entire Canadian market! That remarkable business fact has still not widely “sunk in,” but as awareness grows, demand grows for experts (and you could be one of those experts) who can coach and guide those in the mainstream U.S. business market to enter and cash in on the fast-growing U.S. Hispanic market.

One key to your success could come about by melding these three factors – by not only being seen as a U.S. Hispanic businessman who’s achieved significant success in the larger U.S. Business marketplace, you’ll be respected (and ultimately, sought out) by your target Hispanic-owned business market; and, by being seen as a gateway/guide into the Hispanic market, you’ll raise your reputation among mainstream businesses - and sought out by the mainstream business media.

In the mainstream, that three-in-one score is called a "hat trick" - but the last time I was in Hialeah, that success-times-three was called a “trifecta.”

To do this, you want to position yourself in several different ways.

1. Position yourself with the business media (both the Hispanic business media and the mainstream business media) as an expert in helping/coaching businesses to make the transition from the comfortably-safe (but limited) niche of the Hispanic business market and into the larger (and more challenging – but ultimately more rewarding) mainstream U.S. business market

2. ALSO position yourself with the mainstream business media as someone who can guide/coach mainstream businesses in cashing in on the fast-growing Hispanic market.

3. Position yourself with Hispanic businesses (the potential clients you want to reach) as an expert who’s made the transition from narrow-focus Hispanic Market to broad-focus (without leaving behind the core Hispanic market).

4. Finally, position yourself with Mainstream businesses (other potential clients you also want to reach) as an expert who can help/guide/coach them in penetrating the narrow-focused but fast-growing Hispanic market.

Getting in front of the media (points one and two, above) is relatively easy if you are a living example (i.e. a Hispanic business leader who's successfully penetrated the larger mainstream U.S. business market) of the messages you’d want to convey – you need to reach out to decision-makers in these media and position yourself as a “talking head” expert – a go-to guy they can consult whenever they need your specific angle. This can be done pro-actively – positioning yourself in advance; and it can be done responsively or retrospectively – positioning yourself as an expert when “breaking news” can be made to tie in with your media positions. It can also be done by “creating news” – by conducting online research surveys that can be used to generate press coverage (this approach is easy, and it always works).

Beyond that, you’ll need to have some programs or activities that will generate news – these will give the media yet one more reason to bring you into their discussions – and, in the process, positioning you with your two target audiences. These programs or activities can include (but not be limited to):

a. FIRST – understand this: In each of the ideas below, you will use examples and illustrations from your own business (to subtly remind target audiences of what you do that made you an expert to begin with) – including your clients. While the ideas below aren’t about your business, they’re all based on the lessons you learned while making your business a success – which is what gives you the credibility to be an expert

b. Write articles for both Hispanic and mainstream business media markets (publications, e-zines, etc.) about your core issues - in this case, how Hispanics can penetrate the mainstream business market, and/or how mainstream businesses can cash in on the growth and profit potential inherent in the Hispanic business market)

c. Create a blog or web-zine to be used as a platform for presenting these views. For example, see my blogs on marketing, on PR and on book/author promotion – I use these to put forth positioning ideas and find them useful in creating new business, and you can, too.

d. Begin the development of a book (for your purposes here, you don’t even have to finish it – though finishing and publishing one would be very useful), “(Your Name's) Guide to Going from the Hispanic Market to Mainstream Success (and vice-versa)” – a book that would position you as an expert. (HINT: I’ve ghost-written two of my nine business books – if you’re really interested in this, I can help)

e. Solicit “positioning” speaking engagements with – at least initially – Hispanic business organizations (Hispanic chambers of commerce, seminar producers, etc.) on the topic noted above (the book title)

f. Develop a for-profit seminar, in conjunction, perhaps, with a local college or university - or on your own, or with some other group – to present this “guide” to prospective clients who want to emulate your success

g. Videotape that seminar – or create a made-for DVD/video around a 30-60-90-minute presentation (with audio-only version for those who listen in cars)

h. Develop a subscription-based e-newsletter on the topic noted above – this gives you ongoing visibility and credibility with prospects (and members of the media) and keeps you fresh and top-of-mind

i. With all of these under your belt, begin to solicit “paid” speaking engagements (keynote addresses at business conventions, etc.) – these should be paid gigs that will also help you promote your business (subtly, by weaving your business through your talks as examples of how to succeed). I had one client who literally made 43% of his revenue from paid speaking engagements – and, after a year, he wound up generating roughly 72% of his new clients from among those who’d seen him speak – and you can do this, too.

j. Promote each of these heavily to the targeted media noted above – each of these not only gives them yet one more reason to write about you, but each of these also positions you as a “go-to-guy” expert they can call on to comment on and “position” the news that’s breaking as it relates to cross-cultural business development

Once the media understands what you have to offer, they’ll want to cover you (and to use you as an “expert” when they cover cross-cultural business news). Through them – and directly (there are other ways of reaching out) – once the markets see what you can deliver, they’ll want to do business with you – EVEN (and this is surprising, but true) if you never really focus on the core elements of your own business. It’s enough that you are seen as an expert, one worth emulating – and people will come to you, if only to have the “bragging rights” (or because they think you’re better at what you do) that comes from working with a media-acknowledged expert.

There are a lot of other strategies and tactics that can be done – totally different approaches, as well as refinements of the “initial thoughts” I’ve shared here. However, this is a strong, we'll-proven place to start.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hobby Shop Marketing Ideas

Ned Barnett (c) 2008

Here are a number of ideas that I believe will work to build traffic and volume for a hobby store in Nevada (this blog is based on an actual plan for a real bricks-and-mortar store). These are based on my 35-plus years of experience in PR and marketing, as well as my (somewhat more limited) experience in promoting hobby shops.

1. Have after-hours (after hobby club meeting) open-houses for the IPMS and other local hobby clubs (car club, model railroad club, RC club, etc.)

a. Invite them over after their regular club-meeting sessions

i. Offer them some soft-drink hospitality

ii. Offer them the chance to buy the latest kits (or rare old kits) and other modeling supplies at even bigger-than-normal discounts.

o Hold out some “just released” kits for sale-debut at these events – so members can be “the first on their block” to get the latest new release from Eduard or whatever

o Set aside some kits (old kits you bought cheap, that are rare and out-of-production) for extra-discount sales

o Invite members to bring by their own “old kits” they want to sell or swap (it’s not money in your pocket, but it will bring them out)

o Invite members to bring display kits, and offer an award or trophy for the best built model to show up at each event – then offer these winners a “pride of place” special display in the store, until next month (or longer).

b. Do this for all hobby clubs – not just IPMS – and include railroad modelers, RC car and plane clubs, auto modelers, etc.

c. Invite human-interest-story reporters to come by and see the “real story”

2. More effectively promote your club-member discount (to all clubs, not just IPMS)

a. Ask for their member lists so you can promote directly, or …

b. Offer to pay postage etc. to them to do the promotions directly to their members on your behalf (make a contribution to the club – maybe a kit to raffle off, instead of hard cash)

3. Set up an additional club-member discount for large purchases; for instance:

a. Purchases retailing at over $100

b. Purchases retailing at more than $250

c. Purchases retailing at more than $500

This will encourage high-ticket purchases from your most likely high-volume local customers

4. Set up a store-specific website for recognition

a. Find a local modeler who’s a web-geek to set it up and keep it up for you (barter?)

b. Keep the website current on all the events listed here and other store activities

c. List details of special sales and deals

d. Announce the arrival of new and hard-to-find items that will bring people into the store

e. Invite local modelers to submit photos of models (or even articles on how they created those models) and post these online

f. Link to the local and national IPMS sites, and to other non-commercial (i.e., non-competing) websites – make your site a portal to other modeling sites

g. Create a “blog” linked to the site where you can (and where your customers can) talk about important elements of the hobby

h. Create an online bulletin board where visitors can ask questions or offer answers, or just “talk” about modeling

i. See the SMML list, which is similar and sponsored by a hobby shop in Australia

ii. Be sure to moderate the list (i.e., approve posts before they go online) to avoid harsh/nasty comments or promotion of competitors

5. Create a sign-up sheet for customers – capture their emails for use in very low-cost direct marketing

a. Use the email lists to announce new items in the store – create a quick pitch in the email, then provide details via a link to your website for details

b. Use the email lists to announce special events (items in this plan) – include a quick pitch and a link back to the website

c. Ask the local clubs to provide you their member lists and contact information (including emails) to beef up this email contact list

6. Put an ad in directory in the back Fine Scale Modeler

a. The ad won’t help all that much with the locals – though it will reach modelers among Las Vegas’ never-ending stream of newcomers

b. The ad will help a whole lot with out-of-town visitors

c. Offer special discounts to out-of-town visitors and new residents (put that in the FSM ad listing if you can, as well as on your website) to encourage first-time visits

7. Compete with the direct-order hobby suppliers

a. Prominently offer to direct-order items, including hard-to-find items (after-market parts, for instance, or relatively rare kits and such)

b. Offer a big discount – 20% or 25% – off retail for pre-paid direct orders

8. Encourage experienced local modelers to "hang out" at the store

a. Put some chairs in a corner, with a coffeepot and a small coke machine – every successful shop I know has such a group

b. Have an interesting video playing on one of those self-contained TV/DVD/VHS machines

9. Before Christmas (i.e.., as soon as possible) create a one-day 25% off sale day for club members only

a. Have people from the clubs there, on hand, to sign up new members so interested walk-ins can also get that 25% discount.

b. Alternatively, offer that special discount (maybe only 20%, but maybe 25%) from now until Christmas –

c. Have sign-up materials there so YOU can sign people up for the clubs (making the clubs grateful) and give any interested customer the discount.

10. You have a tremendous potential asset in your attached “storage space” – you can use at least some of this space for a variety of business-building purposes, which could include:

a. Provide a layout space for one or more local model railroad clubs

i. They used to have space at A local competitor – which I arranged for –

ii. However, A local competitor is moving locations right now and might not have space in the new location (I just don’t know)

b. Create a well-lit, well-ventilated “work bench” space, where modelers (railroad, radio control, plastic) could come and build kits, individually or in groups on scheduled “work nights” or “work Saturdays”

i. This would prove helpful, as more modelers than ever before are living in apartments or small homes that don’t afford them the space to work – or where they can’t work with modeling chemicals – from resin to CA or model airplane glue

ii. This would also allow “master modelers” to hold, on their own, self-sponsored informal how-to workshops for their less skilled brethren

c. Create and promote store-sponsored “master modeler” training/demo sessions –

i. Invite local master modelers to stage these store-sponsored events

ii. Invite hobby manufacturers and distributors to do “master modeler” product demos

iii. Invite out-of-town master modelers (who’ll be in Vegas for other reasons – hey, everybody wants to come to Vegas, eh?) to do skills/techniques demos while they’re in town

iv. Promote these through the appropriate local model clubs

v. Get a local modeler who’s also a web geek to set up a web-cam to conduct these master modeler demos online as webinars (there is very little cost to this)

vi. Promote these master-modeler webinars/seminars nationally through member-societies (IPMS, NMRA, etc.)

vii. List these demo programs (especially, but not limited to, webinars) in hobby publication coming events calendars

viii. Invite the local media to “cover” one of these master modeler training sessions as a “human interest” story

ix. Arrange with local TV to do brief on-camera master modeler demos of models or modeling techniques (or radio control car models) with the demonstrators representing your store

d. Create a “safe” airbrush spray booth, vented to the outside with a spark-free vent fan (and hood) where modelers who don’t have spray-areas in their homes could come and spray.

i. Sell disposable breathing masks, and require all who use this to either buy from you or bring their own.

ii. You might even charge a nominal hourly rental fee for this, though that’s a judgment call – is it better to attract more people or better to increase revenue

iii. You could set up a compressor/air tank with standard fittings and people could bring their own airbrush … or you could rent them an airbrush the way The Gun Store will – for those who want to use their range – rent shooters a gun (or they can bring their own)

iv. This should increase your sales – people could buy their paint and supplies as they need them

e. Work with local kids’ charities (St. Jude’s Ranch) and scouts, etc. – and with local hobby clubs – to have hands-on basic modeling (or other hobby) guided construction demos

i. Promote these via the local media as well as through the hobby clubs and the charities.

ii. This works! I used to do training/building sessions at a local orphanage, with the backing of my local IPMS club

iii. A local hobby store provided basic, low-cost (Matchbox 1/72nd in those days) kits for the kids to build

iv. You can offer all your customers the chance to contribute to the charity –

1. Tell your customers that X% percentage of each sale

2. You can offer to customers the opportunity to contribute an extra amount ($1, $5, $20, etc.) toward buying – at cost – models and supplies (some people would prefer to actually contribute)

v. We got some nice local TV coverage and press play)