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Fame Foundry seeks out bold brands that wish to engage their public in sincere, evocative ways.

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Platforms for racing in the 21st century.

Fame Foundry puts the racing experience in front of millions of fans, steering motorsports to the modern age.

“Fame Foundry created something never seen before, allowing members to interact in new ways and providing them a central location to call their own. It also provides more value to our sponsors than we have ever had before.”

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Technology on the track.

Providing more than just web software, our management systems enhance and reinforce a variety of services by different racing organizations which work to evolve the speed, efficiency, and safety measures, aiding their process from lab to checkered flag.

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Setting the pace across 44 states.

With over 1100 locations, thousands of products, and millions of transactions, Shoe Show creates a substantial retail footprint in shoe sales.

The sole of superior choice.

With over 1100 locations, thousands of products, and millions of transactions, Shoe Show creates a substantial retail footprint in shoe sales.

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The contemporary online pharmacy.

Medichest sets a new standard, bringing the boutique experience to the drug store.

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All the extensive opportunities for public engagement are made easily definable and effortlessly automated.

Scheduled promotions, sales, and campaigns, all precisely targeted for specific demographics within the whole of the Medichest audience.

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Home Design & Decor Magazine offers readers superior content on designer home trends on any device.

  • By selectively curating the very best from their individual markets, each localized catalog comes to exhibit the trending, pertinent visual flavors specific to each region.

  • Beside the swaths of inspirational home photography spreads, Home Design & Decor provides exhaustive articles and advice by proven professionals in home design.

  • The art of home ingenuity always dances between the timeless and the experimental. The very best in these intersecting principles offer consistent sources of modern innovation.

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  • Post a need on behalf of yourself, a family member or your community group, whether you need volunteers or funds to support your cause.

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  • Start your own Neighborhood or Group Page and create a virtual hub where you can connect and converse about the things that matter most to you.

December 2016
By Kimberly Barnes

Going the Distance: Four Ways to Build a Better Customer Loyalty Program for Your Brand

Loyalty programs are no longer a novelty. That means that yesterday’s strategies won’t work moving forward, so look for ways to rise above the noise, setting yourself apart from the cloying drone of countless other cookie-cutter programs.
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Going the Distance: Four Ways to Build a Better Customer Loyalty Program for Your Brand

article-thedistance-lg It’s easy enough for a customer to join your loyalty program, especially when you’re offering an incentive such as discounts. All your customer has to do is give out some basic information, and voila! They’re in the fold, a brand new loyalty member with your company. From there, it’s happily ever after. You offer the perks; they stand solidly by you, bringing you their continued business. Simple. Or is it? In reality, just how many of those customers are act ively participating in your loyalty program? Do you know? Sure, loyalty program memberships are on the rise according to market research company eMarketer, having jumped 25 percent in the space of just two years. However, that figure may be a bit misleading. The truth is that, while loyalty program sign-ups may be more numerous, active participation in such programs is actually in decline. At the time of the study, the average US household had memberships in 29 loyalty programs; yet consumers were only active in 12 of those. That’s just 41 percent. And even that meager figure represents a drop of 2 percentage points per year over each of the preceding four years, according to a study by loyalty-marketing research company COLLOQUY.

When discounts just aren’t enough

So what’s a brand to do? How can you make your loyalty program worth your customer’s while—as well as your own? After all, gaining a new loyalty member doesn’t mean much if your customer isn’t actively participating in your program. Consider this: Does your customer loyalty program offer members anything different from what your competitors are offering? Chances are your program includes discounts. That’s a given. And what customer doesn’t appreciate a good discount? But when every other company out there is providing this staple benefit in comparable amounts, it becomes less and less likely that customers will remain loyal to any one particular brand. Frankly, it’s all too easy for customers to get lost in a sea of loyalty member discounts. They’re everywhere. In fact, just under half of internet users perceive that all rewards programs are alike, according to a 2015 eMarketer survey. The key to success, then, is to differentiate your business from the crowd. If you can offer your customers something unique and valuable beyond the usual discount, chances are they’ll be more likely to stick with your brand. Here’s some inspiration from companies who get it.

Virgin: Reward more purchases with more benefits.

That’s not to say you need to get rid of discounts entirely. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Customers still love a good discount. The goal is to be creative in terms of the loyalty perks you offer. Take the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, for example. As part of its loyalty program, the airline allows members to earn miles and tier points. Members are inducted at the Club Red tier, from which they can move up to Club Silver and then Club Gold. Here, it’s not just a discount. It’s status. And people respond to feeling important, elite. Still, even where the rewards themselves are concerned, Virgin is motivating loyalty customers with some pretty attractive offers. At the Club Red tier, members earn flight miles and receive discounts on rental cars, airport parking, hotels and holiday flights. But as members rise in tiers, they get even more. At the Club Silver tier, members earn 50 percent more points on flights, access to expedited check-in, and priority standby seating. And once they reach the top, Club Gold members receive double miles, priority boarding and access to exclusive clubhouses where they can get a drink or a massage before their flight. Now that’s some serious incentive to keep coming back for more. Discounts are still part of the equation – but they are designed with innovation and personal value in mind, elevating them to more than just savings.

Amazon Prime: Pay upfront and become a VIP.

What if your customers only had to pay a one-time upfront fee to get a year’s worth of substantial benefits? It may not sound like the smartest business idea at first glance. But take a closer look. Amazon Prime users pay a nominal $99 a year to gain free, two-day shipping on millions of products with no minimum purchase. And that’s just one benefit of going Prime. It’s true that Amazon loses $1-2 billion a year on Prime. This comes as no surprise given the incredible value the program offers. But get this: Amazon makes up for its losses in markedly higher transaction frequency. Specifically, Prime members spend an average of $1,500 a year on Amazon.com, compared with $625 spent by non-Prime users, a ccording to a 2015 report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

Patagonia: Cater to customer values.

Sometimes, the draw for consumers isn’t saving money or getting a great deal. The eco-friendly outdoor clothing company Patagonia figured this out back in 2011, when it partnered with eBay to launch its Common Threads Initiative: a program that allows customers to resell their used Patagonia clothing via the company’s website. Why is this program important to customers? And how does it benefit Patagonia? The company’s brand embraces environmental and social responsibility, so it was only fitting that they create a platform for essentially recycling old clothing rather than merely throwing it away. The Common Threads Initiative helps Patagonia build a memorable brand and fierce loyalty by offering its customers a cause that aligns with deep personal values. OK, so their customers get to make a little money, too. Everybody wins.

American Airlines: Gamify your loyalty program.

If you’re going to offer your customers a loyalty program, why not make it f un? After all, engagement is key to building a strong relationship with your customer. And what better way to achieve that goal than making a game of it. American Airlines had this very thing in mind when it created its AAdvantage Passport Challenge following its merger with USAirways. The goal: find a new way to engage customers as big changes were underway. Using a custom Facebook application, American Airlines created a virtual passport to increase brand awareness while offering members a chance to earn bonus points. Customers earned these rewards through a variety of game-like activities, from answering trivia questions to tracking travel through a personalized dashboard. In the end, participants earned more than 70 percent more stamps than expected – and the airline saw a ROI of more than 500 percent. The takeaway: people like games.

Stand out from the crowd.

Your approach to your customer loyalty program should align with your overall marketing approach. Effective branding is about standing out, not blending it. Being memorable is key. To this end, keep in mind that loyalty programs are no longer a novelty. That means that yesterday’s strategies won’t work moving forward, so look for ways to rise above the noise, setting yourself apart from the cloying drone of countless other cookie-cutter programs.

481 Designing influence

Great design put prospective customers in the palm of your hand.

June 2016
By Jeremy Girard

Small Changes, Big Impact: 5 Things You Can (and Should!) Do Today to Boost Your Website’s Performance

There’s no time like the present to implement these quick fixes and reap the rewards for months to come.
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Small Changes, Big Impact: 5 Things You Can (and Should!) Do Today to Boost Your Website’s Performance

artice-smallchanges-lg Every spring it happens like clockwork: the temperatures get warmer, the days get longer and everything in nature becomes more vibrant and colorful. Along with these changes in the great outdoors comes the irresistible urge to clean house and embrace a fresh start. Why not keep that motivational momentum going and apply it to your business – and, more specifically, to your website – as well? After all, there’s no time like the present to sweep away the old and outdated and bring in fresh new ideas and technologies. But you don’t necessarily need to dive head-first into a full redesign and all of the time and expense that entails to reap measurable results. Instead, here are five small steps you can – and should! – take today to ensure that your site is up-to-date, relevant and doing all it can to bring you new customers and grow the community around your brand:

1. Reposition your contact form.

For most website owners – especially those in service-based businesses such as law, accounting, consulting, real estate, etc. – the key “win” for their site is when it motivates a visitor to request more information or schedule a meeting. Contact forms are a ubiquitous website staple intended to provide a convenient – and highly measurable – avenue to initiate communication between an interested prospect and a company. However, perhaps because they are so commonplace, all too often these forms are given little strategic thought, resulting in a cookie-cutter name/email address/phone number format that yields more bogus spam submissions than legitimate new business opportunities. However, there is one simple change you can make that has been shown to get better results: reposition your standard “Contact us” form as an “Ask our experts” feature. By doing so, you shift the focus of the form to providing your visitors with an opportunity to submit a question that is specific to their needs and concerns. Rather than feeling like they are opening themselves up to an endless barrage of solicitation calls and emails, your visitors will sense that they are initiating a dialogue with an expert who will help them solve their particular problem. Make sure to respond to all inquiries within 24 hours, provide helpful advice that is free of charge and tailored to your prospect’s situation, and leave the door open to continue the conversation in a future meeting or phone call. By doing so, you will establish an important foundation of trust and confidence with your potential new client that will make them more inclined to engage your professional services. expert I have personally seen the submission rates on these types of forms increase dramatically. On one site where this small change was implemented, form submissions jumped from one or two per week to one or two per day – all legitimate business opportunities that were sparked simply by repositioning the focus of the form.

2. Productize your offering.

Another challenge that professional services organizations face in creating a website that works as an effective customer conversion engine is that they do not sell a specific product but rather a suite of services that can be customized to each client’s specific needs. This makes it terribly hard to market to visitors who come to their site and simply want to know “What exactly does this company sell, and how much does it cost?”. Because there are so many variables to the company’s offerings, there is not a quick and easy answer to these questions. If this challenge sounds familiar to you, one approach you can try is to “productize” what you have to offer. Create a bundle of services with a fixed price, and market that package on your site in a simple, straightforward manner that makes your offering easy to understand and helps visitors feel like doing business with your company is as simple as buying a product off the shelf at a store. package This is exactly what my company did with some of the technology consulting services that we offer. Instead of only listing the array of services we provide, we also created a product that representing a very specific offering. This made it so much easier to answer the “What do you sell?” question, and it gave us something tangible to promote in our marketing campaigns. In reality, this approach in no way limited the range of services we are able to offer our clients; rather, it merely served as a vehicle to open doors to new opportunities and made it easier to start conversations with new customers for whom we could ultimately provide a custom-tailored solution. Examine the services that you offer, and work with your marketing team to create an appealing package that you can market – understanding all the while that this “product” is really just a means for you to connect with customers and begin the sales process with something tangible that they can easily understand.

3. Lose your home page carousel.

One simple change that I have seen many websites make in the past year or so is to remove animated image carousels from their home pages. These carousels have long been a popular fixture of website design, but the reality is that they can sometimes do more harm than good. Home page carousels typically feature giant, screen-spanning images which carry with them heavy download requirements both for the images and for the scripts that power the animation sequences, thereby creating a potential stumbling block in performance for users on mobile devices or with slower connections. Additionally, studies have shown that click-through rates on animated carousels are extremely low, and they drop significantly from the first slide to the subsequent ones. This is why many companies are replacing rotating carousels with a singular static message instead. This one change can greatly reduce a page’s download size (when my company did this on our home page, its file size decreased by 75 percent) while having little to no effect on actual user engagement or click-through. In fact, because the page now loads more quickly, many sites actually see an uptick in user engagement because fewer people are abandoning a site due to poor performance. image Do you have a carousel on your website? If so, do you know whether or not it is working well for you? Your marketing team may be able to do some A/B testing between a version of your site with this animation feature and one without it to see which performs better. Since carousels do work well for some sites (like news organizations or sites with lots of frequently updated content), having this data can help you determine whether or not it’s time to ditch the carousel.

4. Update your image(s).

Stock photography is something of a necessary evil of website design, as more often than not, companies don’t have the budget to execute a full-fledged custom professional photo shoot. However, not all stock images are created equal. Stock photos that are overused or that look so obviously staged that they scream of their “stockiness” can cheapen a site’s design and leave visitors with a negative overall impression of the site. Replacing those images can make a big difference in a site’s visual appeal. If your site’s imagery is stale, you can make some simple image swaps to freshen it up. If you are going to change out old stock images for new stock images, make sure to seek out photos that feel fresh and that are not terribly overused (most stock photo sites will tell you how many times an image has been downloaded). An even better option is to try to add some unique imagery to your site. This could be photographs that you hire a professional to take or – in keeping with one of this year’s hottest trends – custom illustrations that you commission from an artist. illustration If your budget is tight, incorporating even just one or two such one-of-a-kind images in key spots on your site can really boost its visual impact. For instance, if you lose that aforementioned carousel on the home page and replace it with one truly compelling static image and message, it can make a really powerful first impression on your visitors.

5. Publish less.

Most experts agree that publishing original, value-add content on your site on a regular basis is key to optimizing its success – both from a sales and marketing standpoint and as an advantage in the never-ending battle of SEO. While I agree with this approach in principal, for many companies, the drive to publish regularly has resulted in putting out mediocre content simply to meet an inflexible standard of frequency. This is often an entirely counterproductive effort, as content that lacks in quality, original thought or value for the reader reflects poorly on the organization and its perceived level of expertise. Publishing original content to your site on a regular basis is still a best practice, but that content must offer value for it to succeed. Let’s say a visitor comes to your site and is impressed to find that you publish new articles weekly or monthly; however, once they click through the headline to see what they can glean from your writing, if what they find is mediocre at best, what motivation do they have to return to your site again in the future, let alone entrust you with their hard-earned dollars? If, on the other hand, you publish new content less frequently, but everything you produce is of the highest quality, then that same visitor will know that the time they spend on your site will always be worth their while, and they will look forward to the next time you post something new. Re-examine your current content marketing strategy, and ask yourself whether you are focused on quality or frequency. If it’s the latter, commit instead to writing less but to improving the quality of what you offer on your site. While this change may not have an immediate impact, it will absolutely yield long-term results that your visitors will appreciate and respond positively to.

In closing

Eventually, your website will need a redesign, but in the meantime you can make small, strategic, surgical changes that will pay immediate dividends in your site’s success. This approach of implementing gradual but regular modifications will also benefit you when it does come time for that full redesign. By making intelligent improvements over time, you will ultimately be closer to your end goal, leaving less to accomplish with the redesign and thereby paving the way for a smoother and less costly project.
January 2018
Noted By Carey Arvin

Laws of UX

'Laws of UX' is a collection of the maxims and principles that designers can consider when building user interfaces. It was created by Jon Yablonski, Design Lead at Vectorform, creator of the Web Field Manual, and contributor to Storytelling.design.
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September 2014
By Jeremy Girard

Five Tips to Fuel Your Next Launch From the Coolest Cooler's Record-Shattering Kickstarter Campaign

Don't be fooled by its name: the Coolest Cooler is on fire – far surpassing all previous Kickstarter campaigns. Here are five takeaways from this red-hot start-up that you can use to ignite your next product launch or marketing campaign.
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Five Tips to Fuel Your Next Launch From the Coolest Cooler's Record-Shattering Kickstarter Campaign

cooler 62,64 backers. $13,285,226 dollars. 26,570% of the fundraising goal met. By any count, these are staggering figures – even more so when you discover that they all pertain to a cooler. Specifically, we’re talking about inventor Ryan Grepper’s Coolest Cooler, a high-tech party-on-wheels that boasts fun-inducing features such as a built-in blender, speakers, USB charger and much more. It has also surpassed other headline-grabbing Kickstarter campaigns, including the Pebble smartwatch and the Veronica Mars Movie Project, to become the site’s most funded campaign ever. Kickstarter Perhaps the most surprising fact about this record-smashing campaign, however, is that Grepper’s first attempt at funding the Coolest Cooler through Kickstarter failed less than 12 months ago. So what were the sparks that set the second campaign ablaze? And how can you apply these lessons to ignite your next marketing campaign or product launch? Let’s take a look:

What was different this time around?

Before we look at the exact lessons that this campaign can teach us, it is helpful to consider what was done differently on this second, wildly successful campaign versus the first one which did not meet its funding goal.
  • The campaign was launched during the summer months, rather than the winter.
  • The design of the Coolest was revamped and updated.
  • The funding goal was lowered.
In addition to these changes, the second campaign also benefited from supporters who backed the idea the first time around. That first campaign fell short of its goal of $125,000, but it did generate $102,188 in pledges from 279 supporters – and those supporters were first in line when the second campaign launched. So what lessons do these changes, and the success resulting from those changes, teach us?

1. Timing is key.

The first time this campaign was run, it was in December. This time, it was done in the summer, when trips to the beach and having an amazing cooler are much more in people’s minds. As the Coolest’s inventor told Geekwire in a recent interview, “launching a product when backers are most likely to be receptive makes a difference.” This same principal holds true for any marketing campaign. You need to launch your campaign when the time is right. For instance, take the week of Thanksgiving. The company that I work for does no marketing pushes during that week. This is because we are a B2B company, and the customers we work with are either off during the week of the Thanksgiving holiday or, if they are in the office, their mind is certainly not on making new business technology decisions or purchases. For a B2B company, this holiday week is not good timing for a campaign. If, however, you are a B2C business, this week is golden! The day after Thanksgiving, commonly known as Black Friday, is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, followed a few days later by the similarly popular Cyber Monday. This entire holiday weekend is filled with ads and promotions for B2C companies, because their customers are in the mindset to buy during that time. Timing is important, and the exact timing that will work for you may be different than what will work for other companies. You need to think about your audience and what their mindset is and you need to consider your product and whether or not there is a specific time when it will most resonate with potential buyers. You likely even have some offerings that make sense at certain parts of the year and others that are most suited to different time periods. Kicking off a campaign at the right time can be the different between success and failure, as shown in the two different campaigns for the Coolest Cooler.

2. Design matters.

Another change that was made to the Coolest for this second campaign was the product’s design. The new design is much more vibrant and exciting than the first. With sleeker lines and a bold, orange color that really stands out, as well as better integration of the component parts, the improvements to the design of this product played an important role in the amazing success that it has seen on this second go around. Design is important; yet it is often one of the first things to be compromised on when budgets are being reviewed. Using pre-built templates as opposed to hiring a design professional to craft a look and feel unique to your needs and ideas is an option that too many companies bypass in order to save some money, but as we have seen with the Coolest, design absolutely matters. Skimping on design is the same as skimping on success. If you are going to launch a campaign, do it right and give it the best chance to succeed by investing in design.

3. Set a realistic bar for success.

Whenever you initiate any kind of marketing or sales campaign, you will have a goal that you are trying to achieve. If you are promoting an event, you will have a certain number of attendees you hope to attract. If you are selling a product, you will have a set number of units you may seek to move. In the case of Kickstarter, there is a “funding goal” that is trying to be reached. While the Coolest’s first campaign came close to that funding goal, the organizers of this campaign decided to drastically lower their goal on the second go-around, from $125,000 to $50,000. For crowdfunded campaigns, there is wisdom in having a lower threshold for success. Backers are often more likely to contribute to a project if it is close to meeting its goal or if it has already met that goal, which guarantees that the project will move forward. The backers who pledge to a project that does not meet its goal are not charged their pledge amount, so it is not like they are out any money if a campaign fails, but people who back a crowd funded campaign are likely to be excited about that campaign and the “rewards” that their pledge will bring them. If they know that the success of a campaign is all but guaranteed, they are apt to jump in and join the fun instead of waiting by to see what happens. By lowering your threshold for success, you actually encourage people to contribute earlier in the campaign! In business, having a realistic measurement for success means that a campaign can be seen as positive – and if a campaign yields positive results, it is more likely that you will be able to do other campaigns in the future! On the flip side, if you are unrealistic in your goals for what a campaign will produce, you will be disappointed when the results fall shy of what you were aiming for, even if the numbers you end up with are totally respectable. Set a realistic bar for success and give yourself the momentum to kick off future campaigns that can build on that success!

4. Passionate customers are like gold.

When the second campaign for the Coolest was kicked off, it already had a few hundred passionate supporters – those who had supported the first campaign. These backers helped spread the word on the Coolest, and coupled with the lower funding goal, positive results were seen very quickly (the funding goal was reached in less than 36 hours)! The passion of those initial backers was contagious, and once the campaign started rolling, the success was amazing, and it all started with help from some passionate and vocal supporters. Having customers who are passionate about your company is one of the best ways to help spread the word on what you have to offer. You can promote your offerings on social media as much as you want, but it often just comes across as a company pitching their products. When a person who is not connected to your company does this, it is received very differently. Customers who love your company and evangelize to others in their social circles hold weight with their connections that you do not possess. If a company says that they have “the best prime rib in the state”, that is seen as marketing copy, but if a friend of yours updates from a restaurant that they “just has the best steak I’ve ever had!”, you view that message much differently. It is not seen as marketing, it is seen as a recommendation from a trusted source, a friend whose opinion you may value. While the marketing speak may not get you to try that restaurant, your friend’s recommendation likely will. This is why passionate customers are like gold. They will help spread the word on your business to people who trust them. In turn, you then have the chance to “wow” new customers and create new referral sources that can result in amazing business success, just like what we see with the Coolest campaign.

5. Ask for help.

The final item we will point out actually happens at the end of the video introducing the Coolest. Not content to hope that people will share the information on the campaign with other in their social circle, the video ends will an actual request for those share. Arrows point to the social sharing button on the page, directly underneath the video, prompting viewers to click a link and share that video. Over 350,000 share of that video have been done on Facebook alone (compared to a little over 700 on the first video/campaign). Yes, part of this success in social sharing comes from the overall success of the campaign itself, but you cannot discount the power of asking people for help! Making social sharing buttons available is step 1, but if you want people to use them, ask them to do so! Sometime, making a simple request is the difference between a person clicking that link, and sharing your content, and bypassing that option altogether.

In summary

The campaign for the Coolest is obviously not typical. You should expect to achieve the same, incredible level of success (remember, set those realistic expectations!), but by following some of the principals that we see at play in this products second campaign versus its first one, we can absolutely find more success in our own campaigns and online initiatives.
October 2009
By The Author

Put Away the Smoke and Mirrors

Stop wasting your time and money creating the illusion of value and start making good on your promises.
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Put Away the Smoke and Mirrors

“Smoke and mirrors.” “Dog and pony show.” “Image is everything.” These phrases, which are deeply embedded in the vernacular and philosophy of old-school marketing firms, may appear on the surface as nothing more than harmless – if hackneyed – corporate speak. However, these seemingly innocuous clichés actually betray one of traditional marketing's dirtiest secrets. Once the clever headlines, catchy taglines and glamorous images are stripped away, all that’s left at the core is fluff, spin, deception and the art of inventing meaning where there is none. Even they don’t believe their own hype. Yet these are the very same people to whom business owners and decision makers have entrusted their livelihood for decades. Who’s to say the interactions you have with your followers can’t be meaningful?At its heart, your business shares the same goal with every other: to grow, thrive and compete successfully in your market niche. In order to do this, you must engage your customers and build a community around your brand. With old marketing, the relationship between seller and consumer has always taken place at arm’s length, using traditional media channels that rely on flash and frequency, that require a tremendous investment to outshine and outspend the competition. However, who’s to say your relationships with your customers can’t be personal? Who’s to say the interactions you have with your followers can’t be meaningful? The answer: No one who values your success over their own bottom line.

Leading by example

We tend to take established brands for granted, assuming the secret to their success lies in their ability to pour unlimited resources into every available advertising medium to broadcast slick, highly polished messages of self-promotion. However, a closer look at some of today’s most recognizable names reveals a different story. Let’s start with Amazon. If you think about it, there is nothing inherently glamorous about an online bookstore. Yet Amazon has managed to create a following so pervasive that it catapulted from an upstart dot-com to one of the world’s most powerful e-commerce megabrands, all without ever relying on pricey TV and magazine ads. “Advertising is the tax you pay for unremarkable thinking.” How did they do it? The answer is not smoke and mirrors. They did not trick anyone into drinking the Amazon Kool-Aid. Rather they committed themselves and their budget to creating a better shopping experience by developing more intuitive technology, stronger distribution networks and more competitive shipping deals. These are genuine and distinct advantages from which their customers benefit each and every time they interact with the brand, thus solidifying Amazon’s reputation for ease of use, low prices and quality service. Another brand that has risen to the top of its category by flying in the face of traditional marketing wisdom is Geek Squad. As founder Robert Stephens explained at Advertising Age’s 2007 IDEA Conference, “Advertising is the tax you pay for unremarkable thinking.” Instead, by taking a creative approach to what he himself calls an innately “boring business,” he has transformed his one-man show into a corporation that employs more than 17,000 nationwide. In an interview with Inc. magazine, Stephens explained his low-budget strategy:
Without spending any money on marketing, we were able to get people talking about Geek Squad by tapping into themes and archetypes people already understood. We embraced the fact that we were geeks, and we dressed all of our employees like 1960s NASA technicians, since NASA is a symbol of problem solving, teamwork and impossible tasks…In our early years, we found that more than 90 percent of people found us through word of mouth.
In fact, he credits his initial lack of monetary resources with forcing him to work harder, to be more innovative, to dig deeper, to develop an original and authentic approach that has differentiated Geek Squad from all other competitors: Stephen Roberts

At the crossroads of marketing and meaning

So where do these two concepts intersect for you? It lies in the fundamentals. Your business – let alone your category – would not exist if there were not a legitimate need for your product or service among some segment of the population. There is a community out there that is receptive to your message, that is waiting to be wowed with a newer, better way of doing things. Furthermore, your company would not be here today if at some time someone somewhere hadn’t felt passionately enough about whatever it is you do to risk everything to get that company off the ground. It’s time to reignite that passion and convey it in a way that inspires others. Make a conscious decision to be better, to be different. Resolve to enhance your usefulness; commit yourself to unrelenting innovation; make sure you are delivering a premium experience to your customer; then tell people about it in a genuine and compelling way. And that’s where you’ll need help. But you don’t need just any old traditional agency; you need a partner who shares your belief in what you have to offer and your passion for why you do what you do better than anyone else. You need experts that can show you how to communicate this to your audience in a real and honest way, using available technologies to build community among your customers and keep them actively engaged to the point where they include you as part of their identity. When you have something meaningful to say, and you say it with conviction, people will listen. No smoke and mirrors required.