Think Like a Minimalist to Get Your Marketing Message Across

I’m helping a client design a consumer rewards program, with the goal of increasing our competitive advantage and attracting new customers. Because the product mix has excellent margins, we can offer a program that provides high value to the customer. To give you an idea, joining the rewards program includes ALL THESE GREAT BENEFITS:

  • Minimalist Marketing StrategyFree product for signing up
  • Points on every purchase
  • Free product on your birthday
  • Referral rewards

Our marketing challenge is to motivate customers to sign up for the program through on-site signage and online advertising.

Because customers will only give your marketing messages a glance (if you’re lucky!), what they see needs to be arresting. Our marketing strategy for launching the consumer rewards program is to minimize what we tell customers– only try to communicate what the customer needs to know for the next step.

Marketing Communication Strategy

Step 1: Sign Up – Enjoy a free product today for signing up

Step 2: Repeat Purchases – Earn points on every purchase

Step 3: Feel Delighted by Our Brand – Surprise customers with a free product on their birthday

Step 4: Refer a Friend – Earn referral rewards

Although it’s tempting to tell customers all the great reasons they should sign up for this program and the many ways they will benefit, they may be too busy or distracted to notice a list of features. It’s the marketing communication corollary to Steve Yastrow’s sales tip, Don’t Load the Slingshot.

By sharing one compelling benefit at each stage of the customer lifecycle, we’re offering a reward for taking one specific action right away. Minimalist marketing goes against many companies’ instincts, but it matches customer behavior and attention spans perfectly.


Creative and Keepable Business Cards for Your Small Business

Take a look at your business card. If it looks like this, your card is failing at marketing your small business:

Boring Business Card

Custom printing technology has advanced to make many premium elements realistically affordable for small businesses, such as gold foil, rounded corners, double-sided printing and glorious full-color. Take advantage of these possibilities to turn your business card into a marketing asset that customers talk about and keep.

Photographer Laura Northrup of Reflected Spectrum Photography details how her business card design facilitates conversations with prospective clients:

“I use double-sided business cards as a mini-portfolio for my photography business. When I meet a new person who may be interested in my services, I can casually share my photographic style and philosophy through my business cards.  It makes a memorable first impression, yet keeps the conversation fun and friendly.”

Here are samples from three online printers to give you some ideas.

Personalized Pizazz from MOO

With all the design options MOO offers, any small business can craft a meaningful, custom design that speaks to customers. Some of my favorite choices are large-format cards and spot gloss. Find your favorite here.

MOO Business Card

Watercolors and Vintage Style from Zazzle

If MOO has you feeling a bit overwhelmed with choices, here are two interesting styles from Zazzle that draw inspiration from watercolors and vintage designs. View more of their catalog here.

Zazzle Business Card

Zazzle Business Card

Striking Typography and Patterns from Minted

The designs at Minted combine typography and patterns for a modern, artistic effect. Here are two examples (with a little gold foil thrown in). See other designs here.

Minted Business Card

Minted Business Card

Make Your Card Purposefully Creative

Your creative business card design needs to be part of your overall marketing strategy. There are many beautiful designs that won’t encourage customers to buy from you. Be purposefully creative to help customers connect your card with your brand.  Identify these goals before finalizing your business card design:

  • How your business card should be delivered. Do you personally hand it out? Do customers take it from a standalone holder?
  • What you want customers to think when they take your card. Should they think that you’re professional with deep expertise? Maybe a creative problem-solver?
  • What you want customers to do with the card. Hang it on the fridge? Share with a friend? Connect with you on LinkedIn?

Want to improve your business card design? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to me at

Big Businesses Just Don’t Get Customers

Small Business Maintains the Marketing Edge with Customer Engagement

In a recent poll with 58 senior-level retail executives, a mere 10% listed store associates as one of the top factors affecting their brand’s customer engagement.

Instead of the people in their stores, 63% of retail executives chose “Brand image/marketing” as a primary driver of customer engagement. Many of those executives also cited “Product choice/assortment.” Here’s the full graph of all the things big brands think are more important than their retail employees:

Big Businesses Just Don't Get Customers

I’m surprised at how out-of-touch these executives seem. No one engages with marketing communications or product choices, although those are important elements of the overall customer experience. Engagement is two-way communication that is most easily achieved with another living being.

Small business retailers are close enough to their customers to realize that in-store employees are critical to engaging customers by providing service, offering recommendations and selling products. You understand your customers, and that’s one key competitive advantage for small businesses.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Green City Resources designed and installed this beautiful habitat garden on the roof of Macy’s Corporate Headquarters in Cincinnati.

Rose Seeger and I produced a video to help prospective gardeners learn about the five elements needed to grow your own certified wildlife habitat. The video is posted on Green City Resources’ Facebook page.

Macy's Corporate Headquarters Wildlife Habitat Garden

Watch the video: How to Build Your Own Wildlife Habitat

3 Examples of Videos for Small Business Marketing

Small businesses are particularly well suited to video marketing campaigns, as I wrote about in “How Videos Boost Your Small Business Marketing.” Usually, the founder or employees are personable characters, which result in compelling and memorable videos.

To give you inspiration, here are three marketing videos I produced for clients.

Small Business Marketing Video Example

Watch the video: What Happens if You Don’t Winterize Your Sprinkler System

In this video for TriState Water Works, the founder of the company provides a dramatic example of failing to winterize a sprinkler system.

Small Business Marketing Video Example

Watch the video: Make these 2 Easy and Amazing Treats for Your Dog

Marketing videos don’t always need to feature the founder. Often, customer-facing employees make excellent videos that customers really relate to. In Grady Veterinary Hospital’s video, a receptionist shares healthy recipes for dog treats.

Small Business Marketing Video Example

Watch the video: Don’t Let the Wealthy Widows Get Away!

Marti Barletta is a speaker, so she always looks for opportunities to have her keynotes filmed. In this way, we turn a one-time event into an ongoing marketing campaign. In this speech to financial advisors, she shares details about how to earn business from affluent widows.

These three video marketing examples are quite different, but they have something in common: they are each extremely relevant to the organization’s customer target. And because of that focus, they have been very successful elements of my clients’ small business marketing efforts.

How to Make a Commodity Product Interesting

Canned vegetables are certainly a commodity product. They’re cheaper than fresh, and often discredited as less nutritious than frozen vegetables. But if you drive through South Carolina, you’ll encounter a marketing campaign by Glory Foods that makes canned vegetables, well, glorious.

Glory Foods, founded in Columbus, OH, has woven Southern soul into its brand. Each can of blackeye peas, collard greens or green beans is “seasoned southern style.” Billboards drive home this message with cheeky Southern sayings that emphasize the convenience of the product. Here are a few I saw recently:

Commodity Marketing

Commodity marketing

Commodity marketing

Other marketing slogans include:

  • Give peas a chance
  • Flavor and spice and everything nice
  • Southern greatness: yes, you can
  • Open up a can of flavor
  • Soul of the South
  • Hail to the kale!

Glory Foods is successful in marketing a commodity because it gave the product a perspective and personality. The marketing team made canned vegetables memorable in a way that was meaningful to customers– and definitely encourages motorists to try the product.

‘Weird Al’ Takes on Marketing

A good parody makes the audience somewhat uncomfortable, even as they laugh. The humor has to hit close to home to be truly funny. As you watch “Weird Al” Yankovic’s music video for “Mission Statement,” which buzzwords are a little too familiar to you?

To avoid using jargon in your marketing messages, see my tips in “Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate.”

Remember the ‘Social’ in Social Media Marketing

Remember the Social in Social Media MarketingMarketing on social media is great for small businesses because you can connect with customers on a very personal level. Posting content like videos, quizzes and pictures helps customers feel closer to your business and remember you more frequently.

However, publishing content is not enough. Being social is key to success with this marketing strategy. When customers write reviews, comment or share your content, they have opened a conversation with your business. Ignoring their contributions is rude and off-putting. Plan time to check for customer interactions and engage with them.

In a recent related example, I reminded a small business client about the customer sign-up form on their website. They had forgotten about the form, and didn’t have a process to check submissions. When they checked it, there were two new, neglected customers in the system! We setup a process, so that scenario won’t repeat.

For most small businesses, devoting 30 minutes per week to following up with social media comments, reviews, shares, re-tweets and other interactions will ensure customers stay happy and feel like you’re listening to them. Set a goal and start today!

LinkedIn Publishing Platform Yields Lackluster Results

LinkedIn Pulse Publishing Yields Lackluster ResultsLinkedIn is a critical social media tool for networking, while adding significant value to B2B marketing and sales. I recommend that every individual stay active on the network, along with regularly updating your profile. Many businesses should have a LinkedIn strategy, too.

When LinkedIn launched its publishing platform, I was excited to try it out for my clients. Here are the benefits I was hoping would result from publishing on Pulse:

  • Providing content directly to a member’s network would promote more interaction from relevant audiences.
  • Articles would get an SEO boost from being on LinkedIn.

Several months later, and tests of Pulse have yielded lackluster results. Articles of similar theme and content perform better on my clients’ other platforms than on Pulse.

The Drawbacks of Marketing Your Small Business with LinkedIn Pulse

  • Articles from small business seem to be effective only if your subject matter surrounds networking, career advancement or recruiting.
  • Posts are published live. Without the ability to schedule posts, it’s difficult to publish at optimal times for your audience.
  • SEO appears to be less effective on Pulse than other networks.
  • Only three tags can be assigned to any one article.
  • Image size and placement customization are very limited.

LinkedIn Pulse could become a useful platform for marketing your small business. But first it needs to mature by adding features and giving authors more publicity.

A Small Business Marketing Campaign that Understands the Customer

James Free Jewelers is enjoying success with a clever marketing strategy tailored for engaged couples. With any bridal purchase over $5000, customers receive a free 4-day, 3-night honeymoon cruise.

Small business marketing campaign

This offer is much more attention-grabbing and interesting than a straight percentage discount, while still preserving margin for the retailer. A full-price, 4-day Bahamas cruise with Norwegian starts at $658/couple. That’s 13% of a $5000 purchase. Considering the bad PR that cruise lines like Norwegian have received in the recent past, James Free Jewelers probably doesn’t pay full-price for these complimentary cruises, allowing them to preserve even better margins.

Changing the conversation from a 13% discount to a free cruise shifts the purchasing decision away from raw price calculations into a more imaginative realm. You can picture a couple debating about which engagement ring to buy, and one of them says, “That other jeweler may be cheaper, but they don’t offer a cruise!”

Also, the promise of a cruise could push couples to spend more money with James Free Jewelers. They might opt for an engagement ring that’s a bit more expensive to qualify for the promotion. Also, the offer might motivate them to purchase the engagement ring and wedding bands from James Free, instead of shopping around and buying the pieces from various jewelers.

I encourage other small businesses to get creative with their promotions and use James Free’s campaign as inspiration. Think of experiences or benefits that would complement your products and services, like a honeymoon cruise for newlyweds. You’ll give more of a WOW factor and likely end up spending less marketing budget.