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.”

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.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Precise language is one of my joys. It’s exhilarating to find exactly the right word that communicates in the best way possible.

Which is why it pains me to admit that accuracy isn’t all that important if it’s boring. For marketing communications, you must be interesting first and precise second. To catch a customer’s attention, it’s best to spark their curiosity with memorable content.

Words become boring through overuse. When a word is ubiquitous in the culture, customers start to overlook it, like static in the background. Sometimes, these words are useful descriptors of what your company does, but it doesn’t matter if customers have grown accustomed to ignoring them.

Instead, choose words that are easily understood but unique in the context of your business. Compare these two marketing campaign approaches from Mosquito Joe and JH Mosquito Control Services. Mosquito Joe takes a friendly approach that is much more interesting and memorable than JH’s technical description of its service special.

Mosquito Joe – Outside is fun again.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

JH Mosquito Control Services – Mosquito Control Special!

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Some Terms that Might be Accurate, but are Terribly Boring:

  • Solutions
  • Collaborative
  • Communication
  • Service
  • Special
  • Alignment
  • Outside the box
  • Cutting edge
  • Turnkey
  • Innovative
  • Expert

Perfection is Illusive, but Keep Working on It!

True marketing magic happens when you find precisely the right words that also perfectly describe what you do and why customers should buy from you. I advocate striving for that goal!

In the meantime, though, you have to keep marketing and selling. “Don’t let perfection become the enemy of good,” is a powerful business adage. As you move forward, infuse more interesting and unique language into your marketing. You’ll attract customers’ attention, and they will allow you more time to explain accurately what you do.

Your Receptionist May Be Your Most Important Employee

In Small Business Marketing, Receptionists Are on the Front Line

Your Receptionist Might Be Your Most Important EmployeeReceptionist positions are often considered entry-level with high turnover. Small businesses don’t spend much time training the receptionist, sometimes just giving her an admonition to be friendly and punctual.

But from your customer’s perspective, your receptionist just might be your small business’s most important employee! An effective receptionist:

  • Is a customer’s first impression of your company
  • Develops meaningful customer relationships
  • Keeps customers happy
  • Is a key source of business intelligence

Everytime the phone rings or someone walks through the door, your receptionist is the spokesperson for your business. Customers will evaluate your business based on their interactions with the receptionist. More often than anyone else, she is in a position to execute your marketing strategies.

Receptionists are also in a position to uncover important business intelligence that should inform your small business marketing strategies. They talk to customers all day long. Through skillful conversation, they can identify how customers learned about you, what competitors they evaluated and problem areas in your products or services.

Does your receptionist know how important she is to your small business? Help her understand her professional role, and you’ll welcome a new, valuable member to your marketing team.

Avoid the ‘Alphabet Soup’ Product Naming Approach

Naming products and services is an incredibly important element to your branding strategy and marketing plan. Ideal product names are clearly descriptive, motivating to customers and memorable.

Or, you could take LG’s example and go with the alphabet soup approach:

Avoid the Alphabet Soup Product Naming Approach

The LG G Pad F 8.0 (don’t forget it’s trademarked!) is a real product. Try to imagine a customer talking about their new LG G Pad F 8.0 to a friend. Do you think they could even remember the full model name? Perhaps this clunky name is partially to blame for LG having to offer this tablet for $0.99– not exactly a high-margin sale.

LG’s product name is a prime example of naming a product from a production team’s perspective instead a customer’s. To the LG engineers, I’m sure this is a perfectly logical model name. But it doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of a simple, clear product name like iPad.

When naming your next product or service, try to be more like Apple and less like LG.

How to Plan Small Business Marketing Campaigns

Let’s say you have a great idea for marketing your small business– building a vibrant Twitter following, partnering with a local civic organization to host community events or offering a compelling referral program to customers.

Now what? How do you make sure your campaign is successful and meets your goals?

You need a small business marketing campaign brief.

A campaign brief helps you solidify your strategy, think through implementation and gives you an at-a-glance view of what needs to be accomplished. It’s an organizational tool that removes doubt and helps campaigns run smoothly and successfully.

Here’s a Sample Small Business Marketing Campaign Brief, similar to what I create for my clients:

How to Plan Small Business Marketing Campaigns

Have questions about how campaign briefs could work for your small business marketing? Send me an email, and let’s talk – amanda@zooinajungle.com

The Creepiest Marketing Strategy

Here’s a cautionary tale and follow-up to last week’s defense of marketing implementation. Be wary of implementing any marketing communication without an effective strategy. Marketing strategy is really important!

Check out this startling example of bad marketing implementation I stumbled across while Googling ‘hallway lighting:’

The Creepiest Marketing Strategy

After reading, “Lighting So You’re Not Clutching the Walls at Night,” I quickly navigated away to the relative safety of Lowe’s and Home Depot’s lighting selections. The big box stores might not be incredibly innovative, but at least they aren’t creepy.

Engaging in marketing tactics without a strategy is dangerous! Understand your customers and understand your business, then launch your marketing campaigns.

 

‘Tactical’ is Not a Dirty Word

In the world of marketing, strategy development gets all the glory. The role of implementing marketing strategies is often considered a menial task (or at least dreadfully boring). Doing tactical work just isn’t as glamorous as developing the knock-your-socks-off strategy behind the work.

Tactical is Not a Dirty Word

But here’s an important reality. Marketing implementation is critical, and it’s something that needs to happen every day. Marketing strategy without implementation will never make sales, influence customers or grow your business. (Similarly, unplanned tactical marketing not based on a sound marketing strategy won’t work, either!)

I believe marketing professionals need to develop more respect for tactical marketing and realize how much creativity, critical thinking and ingenuity this role requires. Personally, there’s nothing I enjoy more than developing a marketing strategy for a client, then implementing that strategy and creating actual results for clients. This full-service marketing approach is truly needed in the marketplace.

When Competitors Copy You

If your small business is at the leading edge of your industry, chances are competitors regularly copy everything you do. From innovative products to customer service standards to something as simple as the headline of an advertisement. Here’s one blatant example I found while flipping through Cincinnati Magazine of a competitor copying my client, Paramount Lawn + Landscape.

When a Competitor Copies You

How do you feel when you find instances like this? Maybe you feel frustrated, indignant or cheated. That makes sense. But what you should really be feeling is excited and validated.

If a competitor copied you, that means you’re doing something right. Something that works. You understand the market in a way the “other guy” doesn’t. That other guy can’t think of anything better, so he will always be one step behind you.

But you can’t rest on your laurels.

When competitors copy you, it becomes harder for customers to tell you apart. Perhaps customers can’t tell who will “Light Up Your Night!” best. It’s time to implement an even better marketing strategy and leave your competition, once again, in your dust. Until they copy you again, that is…