It is not enough to put your product out there on Amazon, HSN, Walmart, or any other retail store. Those who spend at least 10% of their capital on brand promotion are guaranteed to sell more and increase their brand’s overall acquirable value. The key is to get your message out through a platform and resonate with your audience. Your goal as an entrepreneur should not just be focused on make a single sale per client, but to transform them into fans of your brand who will constantly hanker for more of what you have to offer. Let them know the story behind your brand, and how your products or services can benefit them when consistently churning out high-quality useful content like blogs, videocasts, or podcasts. Get started on building a brand promotional strategy and a public relations plan that converts your target audience into paying customers.
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This is Promote the Heck Out of It. This is one of the most important things that you can do to get sales. It’s highly overlooked and many people think that, “If I just put it up on HSN or get it on Walmart shelves, everything’s going to be fine,” or even putting it on Amazon and Amazon’s going to promote it. When you look at all of that process, what I see as extreme difference between those that spend even 10% of their overall sales on a promotion plan and those that spend nothing. There’s a huge difference in the amount of sales, the boost, the amount of traction, their brand gains, and the amount of overall acquirable value they build for their brand. It’s a huge difference, so it’s not something you can leave up to wherever it’s put up at. It’s definitely something you have to do.
If you’re doing your own eCommerce site, if you only are shopping within your site or you have a Shopify site, then it’s even more critically important that you spend money, and I say 25% is probably rock bottom you want to be spending in terms of 25% of sales being rolled back into marketing and promotions that you might do. This is a place at which in today’s world with so many products and so many things vying for our attention, you cannot skip. It’s unfortunate because that’s obviously not always your core competence if you’re product people and your brand builders and you just care a lot about the product and features and all of those things. You have to shift yourself and start thinking about getting your message out, getting your product to resonate in the marketplace.
It’s not about pushing your product out. It’s about pushing the benefit out so what’s it going to do for me to buy your product? How am I going to feel? How is my life going to be better by using your product? That’s what it’s all about. It’s about promoting the story behind your product, the story of what your product is going to do for your customer, or for me in this case. I want you to spend money on this. I want you to, but not all over the place. I don’t want you to spread yourself too thin. I want you to spend money in smart test like we did in the market proof stage. Spend small amounts of money, test to see if they convert, see if it’s working for you. Make sure you’re talking to others. Join marketing groups. There are so many amazing private label groups and they’re all talking about how to get reviews, how to market products, how to do the ad placements within Amazon and other things like that. You can learn so much from there.
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Join groups where there are direct response marketing programs. Those are doing amazingly well with products that require a longer tail sale or more complication in the sale process, so they have lots of features. They need to be shown how to use them. You need not only to attract them into buying the product, but you also maybe want to attract them into your site afterwards for ongoing training. Maybe you’re making a fitness product and it isn’t selling the fitness product, but it’s also selling how to use that fitness product and how to be successful using that and you want them to come to your site or come to your YouTube channel and get training videos. These are all things where it’s definitely a direct response model. A funnel, perhaps if you haven’t heard that term, you should get to know it. All of those things might be key in developing a great marketing plan.
I’m going to touch about promotion and PR as we know it and it’s an old-world way of saying that, public relations. We’re going to talk about how it’s changed a little bit in the digital world and how you can use it to your benefit, but for the most part, what I’m talking about is direct to consumer marketing. I’m talking about making sure that they know your brand, they know what you stand for, they know what you can do for them and it’s not all about the product.
I wrote an article for my Inc. Magazine column and in that column, we talked about Facebook pages and how difficult it is if you’re a product company and you have maybe a product. In this particular case of the article called Brand is Out and Social Community Building is In, it was a company that made these very cool, very blingy belt buckles that were country Western style, and they were cool and they were amazing products, but if they started a Facebook page that was all about these belt buckles, how many people are going to like that page and become a fan of it? Very few because what are they going to do? They’re going to constantly send me messages about their products that are out. “Do I need that?” That’s like opting into advertisement. Most people would never do that and that’s the mistake that most product companies make, most product brands make. It is that they go in and they straight make a page that is about their corporate brand instead of about what they’re about.
The very smart marketing advisor to this company said, “If I do that, I can achieve the goals that you have for making any sales over this, but if I develop a page called Country Strong, that’s the name of this Facebook page. I pretty much guarantee if you were to look at it, you’d realize that a quarter of your friends or fans on Facebook already know about this page because they got more than a million followers.” It is a page at which for the first 30,000 likes that they receive for the first 30,000 fans, all they did was posted out information about country music and country western stars and what they were wearing and fun inspirational quotes about what Dolly Parton said last week or what Taylor Swift said yesterday and information about that and then they got fans. After about 30,000, they started to get fans who share stuff to their page and share it to the other group.
Then it started to expand and grow exponentially at that point until it hit a million followers. Between the 30,000 on a million followers, about once or twice a week, occasionally someone would post someone wearing their belt buckle or their belt with the buckle showing, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a famous star, but it would be someone on the street. It looked like it was a paparazzi shot. They would post that and they would not put a link to where to buy it. Instead they would wait and in the comments, they would eventually put the link to where to buy it from. They would do that on occasion, but they weren’t doing it regularly, so it was no ads, no push, just a visual, and then wait for somebody to ask, “Where did you get that?” It was cool marketing strategy that has worked extremely well and is still working well.
Many other companies are doing that around their particular area and the ones that are topic-based that are gathering the right profile customer, who can benefit, so if you’ve got a fitness product, the ones that are huge fans, bodybuilders or other things. They have sites that they gather around. That’s where they’re building. They’re building these Facebook pages that have fans of locating around one topic and when they go to push a sale eventually to it, it converts. They’ve done that without paying for more than getting ads to fans to like the page. They do pay for ads to get more fans to the page to get visibility of it in the early days. They don’t have to pay as much as you go forward and you find that the ad rate is very low so and it will end up being 10% or less of your sales, but it’s effective rate is so high.
For those of you who are Amazon sellers, if your sale is coming from Facebook and then into Amazon or coming from your site into Amazon, from any one of those places, you’re also making 4% affiliate on the backend at least, and so you’re getting that boost of a slight kickback and return on your investment in that marketing and advertising. It’s paying you back a little bit. These are some of the most effective ways to get high product listings, go far in them.
I’m not going to touch on reviews for Amazon because these are not the best ways for you to go about getting reviews and other things like that. Reviews on your product are essential, but the whole algorithm and the whole system is stacked against everyone and those who have been even avid review writers on Amazon are sick of the emails and sick of the whole review process and they’ve abandoned it as well, so it’s extremely hard to get that. It is important for you to have a program for it, but I’m going to leave that all up to you to find people who are specialists in there and go out and talk to them, go out and participate in their marketing groups and hear what they have to say. There are lots of podcasts about that, supporting sellers and other places like that. Go out there and get those advanced techniques on doing reviews. They are important and so that’s why they also do need to be a portion of your promotion budget plan.
Another question I get all the time is, “Why do you need a website, a platform, if you’re selling on Amazon, on Jet.com, or any of these places? Or if you’re selling, “Why do I need more than informational? Here’s my brand and here I am. Why do I need more than that?” The real reason is because you have to give someone a sense of who you are. They have to know that this is more than you being in it for the money. Are you here to make their life better? Are you going to be building more products that are going to be helping them? Do you care about them? People want to see that. One of the best ways to do that is to build a power platform. We build that all the time for all businesses, service-related businesses, speakers, authors, and product businesses. We build out platforms where you have a website, social platforms, social media sites, the ones that are relevant to your audience, and then we have ways to get influencers. These are ways which might get product reviews or high-level endorsements of your product, so we want those three things.
Think of it like building a stage or a platform by which your product is featured on top of, and when you do that, and it has a way to grow, and how can it grow? It needs more messages and needs more content. That’s where a blogging strategy, a podcasting strategy, a video casting, a live streaming strategy, or a public relations program might work for you.
Any of those things are going to help that platform grow taller so your product can be tall and seen above all the others. That’s what we look at that. We call that a power platform and we want you to set the stage for it to sell. We want you to be able to do this so that’s manageable and low cost for you. One of the best ways is for you to be out there talking. That’s why I love podcasting. It’s one of the ways that we build blogs on our site. It’s what you will be hearing in our membership group, so Tim Bush and I both have podcast running on there. You have Product Launch Hazzards and you have On The Shelf, and they’re both running within the membership groups. You can get them pushed to your phone, you can get them straight from the membership site, and you can listen to them. We constantly have new information to you there that we couldn’t talk about, we couldn’t possibly build into this course. There would be too much information for you. You can possibly consume it all.
It gives us a way to give a feedback loop. What’s going on in the marketplace? What are the challenges that are being faced? It gives you relevant information. That’s the same thing that your customers want from you and the same reason that you need to have a way to send them messages, “I’m here. I care about what you care about. I have new information for you. I want to share with you what we’re doing, how we’re doing, and what our story is about, who our people are, how people are using our product and using it successfully?” All of those things matter and make for good content generation both on social media and on your website and in reaching new influencers, new people to review your products and/or endorse those products. That’s a great way and it sets the stage for everything, so you should start that, especially if you want to build a big acquirable brand. The best way you can do that is to make sure that you’re also building a membership list, people who have bought your product.
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You don’t want to leave the authority and all of the membership for that and all the people that have bought your product. You don’t want to leave it at Amazon, leave it at Walmart, leave it at Target, or leave it at Costco. You need to draw them in to coming back to you because the long-term value of making sure that they constantly recommend your brand, that they recognize it, that they’ll buy from you again and again is to add future value to them. That makes you a way more valuable brand at the end of the day because not only did you have people who bought your product, but you have people who bought into you as a brand as well that makes you very valuable and it gives you a higher valuation level.
Those are ways. That’s why a lot of people are also using direct response marketing and other ways of warranty cards which do have a low conversion rate on them. 1% or 2% people will send back warranty cards and things like that, but if you have good reasons for them to come back, if you’re offering them more things, if you have inserts in your box, you must of course comply with all of the retailers rules and regulations around what you can say in those things, but if it’s often, and there are very good reasons for them to come to your site and they’re getting lots of free resources and interesting stories, blogs, and podcasts and all of these things, they’re much more likely to stick around and see what you have next to offer them. It’s a good long-term brand-building strategy because it’s hard to get one customer but keeping them and keeping them happy is a great way for you to build that without as much effort.
Lastly, let’s talk about PR, public relations, influential reviews, all of that. Traditionally you would hire a PR firm and they would put out a press release saying, “This brand A launched a new product and it’s so great and here’re all these things,” but nobody picks it up. Not today. Nobody picks it up because it’s like a glorified sales sheet. As a writer myself, I see it all the time. I get these messages pushed out to me and trying to get me to write an article about this product. The reality is unless you have a story behind that product, it’s not going to work.
An example of that is a PR firm came to me and said, “This isn’t in your category but I was wondering if you could take a look at what’s wrong with my pitch.” He was pitching a company that gathered all kinds of bulletproof vests and all kinds of gear for deployed military that maybe they didn’t have. He had a friend who had died because he didn’t have a bulletproof vest because there wasn’t enough deployed out into his region, and so he didn’t want that to happen to another soldier. This guy went out and started gathering them, started gathering donations, started buying equipment and replacing equipment because equipment gets damaged, and that was part of his mission. He decided to expand into police officers in rural regions who don’t have good equipment as well. He did not understand why no one was picking up the story on the police officer’s region with the exception of the fact that it’s in the news all the time and so he thought it would be a good story. The reality is there’s no story there. It was an expansion of this business that had to do with, “This is similar to what we offered before and we can make money here. Let’s put this out and let’s offer these additional services or products,” and there wasn’t that personal connection of the story of him losing his buddy that way and why it spawned the idea for the brand and for the product in the first place.
That’s what reporters are looking for. That’s what writers are looking for. They’re looking for those stories and those ideas about why you did it, why you’re so passionate about it, what you care about. When you pitch that, you’re pitching you. That’s why you better have that platform underneath you because it’s a random story and there’s no good place to send that reporter for that reporter to check on you and who you are and what your brand is. Is your brand new? Is it established? Has it been there for a while? If there’s none of that, then they won’t pick up the article either.
Here are my rules. I have a bunch of PR tips for you and these are do-it-yourself PR tips. You don’t need a PR firm to do them. These are ways for you to go out there and get influential reviews and/or get articles written about you. These are some of the ways that people have gotten me to write articles about them, and so doing it very personally, writing me an email, doing all of those things yourself is a good strategy nowadays. It gets that personal level that’s required, but there’s a bunch of tips there. One of them is that you want to find yourself the right audience, so you want to make sure that you’re a match for whatever the publication is. You shouldn’t want the Inc.com name or the Inc.com logo on your site saying, “We were in Inc.” If you are doing products for women, you should want Elle magazine. You should want Vogue. You should want different places that match the audience, so make sure that you’re matching that. That’s my number one rule.
The second thing that I want you to do and consider is that make sure you’ve got your story down and make sure it matches how the writer already writes. Sometimes writers write only listicles, only tips and hope articles. Make sure whatever you pitch to them matches that. The third thing is timing. Do not write something and say, “I need you to publish this in the next three weeks because I have a Kickstarter.” No one will write for you. These are some of the techniques. Please go to the membership site and get those PR tips and promote the heck out of your product.
- Tracy Hazzard’s Inc. Magazine column
- Article Mentioned: Brand is Out and Social Community Building is In
- Tim Bush
- On The Shelf
- Membership site for Product Launch Hazzards
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