Be unreasonable to develop good marketing concepts

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“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”  – George Bernard Shaw

Anyone who’s decided to take the plunge to start a business or work without a net through self-employment usually has a little bit of crazy in them.

Reasonable, of course, is a matter of perspective, but there are times in my life when my behavior was definitely unreasonable. Sometimes it works according to plan, but more often, it wends through possibilities I hadn’t considered that turn out to be better options and opportunities.

The above quote is a great one from a writer. Some of the best strategic marketing and copy writing I’ve seen breaks the rules. A big part of this often stems from wanting to make the world a better place – or at least easier for the visionary to live in. Of course, that requires knowing what the rules first.

Marketing concepts are only limited by your imagination

It’s exciting to be living in a world where expression is so much easier to broadcast across the globe. Finding those gems is a lot harder with the clutter. Still, it creates opportunities that were never available historically for those serving a niche market. If something goes viral, there’s no telling what your returns may be.

This is great news for entrepreneurs too. If you’re offering a product or service that can be delivered to a remote location with limited cost (shipping a desk or painting building facades is tougher to do overseas than providing an electronic file or signage design that can now be printed at the client location instead of the vendor site).

I suppose this could be classified as an internet marketing blog, but there’s too much (bad) competition and that’s certainly not how this site is being positioned. Instead, the goal is to convey old-school (unreasonable by most modern accounts). It’s working. When’s the last time you saw Courier typeface? If you’re paying attention, it’s on the masthead of the home page here. Feels different, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s a bit more warm and cozy?

Most of my career has been spent doing the unexpected in the marketing industry. Memorable doesn’t work very well if you’re copying what everyone else is doing.

With unlimited reach and the ability to get tighter with a niche product or service as borders disappear, it makes sense to get crazy creative sometimes with how you communicate.

Just because you can broadcast to the world, though, should you?

There’s a benefit in tight focus with your messages and marketing concepts. Even if you’re in a niche with a very limited audience, it doesn’t always make sense to put efforts toward getting the most eyeballs. Every day I see celebrated success stories of social media authorities that are going broke. Sure, they may be industry names, but for all the time spend on reach, they haven’t figured out how to get any of those people to buy. I’d rather have 200 passionate referral agents than 2 million Likes.

Horse Sense and Cents® strategic marketing example

The Horse Sense and Cents® blog is certainly an example of a tight niche audience. Not only are equestrians limited in number around the world, but we made an early decision to stand by some strong principles and controversial opinions, which further reduced the number of likely prospects. In fact, we’ve alienated some large pockets with our stance on customized training programs – calling to task the concept of natural horsemanship as it’s being taught today. Most saw this as a bad move (this is one of the most lucrative areas of the industry, filled with fiercely loyal fans). Curiously, we found a world full of people who were equally passionate about the problems these approaches were creating and more vocal about sharing an alternative perspective. These are visitors who buy.

It’s been interesting to see this all play out (the blog associated with the site was started in 2009).

Surprisingly, a large majority of people coming to the site are looking for insight on alpha horses. Actually, it’s not so shocking in retrospect. These are the horses most likely to get dramatic and/or violent when put through the paces of the typical regimented training approach.

Those coming for young horse training tips (still a big percentage) were targeted and expected.

Visitors and buyers are extremely loyal. Many are from the UK (another unexpected development). Horse training material (and training services – not something we anticipated getting a lot of referral business on from the site, but it’s been happening) are selling well. The career products are not.

The strategic marketing approach has been rather targeted.

There are a lot of people who find the site through organic search, but we haven’t done any paid online advertising nor applied any thoughtful SEO tactics. A limited amount of print advertising and article placements in trade publications has helped drive traffic and purchases in the US and CA. A lot of time has been spent finding and developing relationships with centers-of-influence already talking to our market. This has been an extremely effective outreach strategy. A Facebook Page set up about a year ago has been limping along, but this has resulted in a good number of sales (we do not sell there). Affiliate marketing has been a total bust.

We don’t spam Linked In groups with pointers to our site or products, but do participate with useful suggestions when appropriate. This has generated sales. When we put Twitter feeds on autopilot (3 per day culling from the blog archives), sales and sign ups improved (contrary to conventional wisdom). Facebook hasn’t proven to be a very good place for us, sans traffic coming in from the Page. It’s interesting to note that a large number of equine industry businesses are putting majority time there. The ones I’ve spoken to haven’t been effective at monetizing that effort.

Be unreasonable – it’s more fun anyway

If the question, ‘how to sell?’ is running through your mind, set reasonable aside to start for a more interesting perspective. Often the wacky, non-traditional, unexpected and contrary marketing concepts work better than the tested results that everyone else is applying. Usually, if you’re laughing out loud as you develop a message to go out to your prospects, they’ll have as much fun with it as you did. That makes you memorable.

8 responses to “Be unreasonable to develop good marketing concepts”

    • Thanks, Minette. Funny, I never would have thought I’d be embracing putting yourself out there as a feature of the past decades ago. Of course, it depends on how you do it and what you’re marketing, but with the huge Baby Boomer market in the U.S., many companies going out of their way to appeal to this market are seeing great success.

  1. “Anyone who’s decided to take the plunge to start a business or work without a net through self-employment usually has a little bit of crazy in them.” That made me chuckle! I think it’s more than a little bit – I know in my case it’s a healthy dose of insane…
    As I go through my online journey, I’ve discovered a few things
    1. Don’t listen to Internet marketers who’s only focus is Internet marketing (which is most of them)
    2. You don’t know what works till you try it
    3. New school is just like old school only faster!
    I really enoyed reading through your example for Horse Sense and Cents, how people put various strategies into action always gets me thinking.
    You mentioned affiliate marketing – was that selling your own products via affiliates, or other peoples products for commission?

    • Or internet marketers who’s only focus is pushing their get rich overnight in a box products :-). Oh – and speak for yourself on that ‘only faster’ conviction. Some days I’m ready to pull out my old Smith Corona, which only needs ribbons changed to keep it working. Thanks for your comment, Jan. Good stiff to think about.

    • Sorry – forgot to answer your affiliate marketing question, Jan. We’ve done very little with both our products and those of others, but neither has resulted in sales. Granted, it may be more the choice of product than the process, but my suspicion is the industry isn’t a great one for this type of promoting – at least not yet.

  2. Interesting post.
    I like where you say, “just because you can broadcast to the world, should you?” Ya… there are also many people who start out and justkinda fizzle out.

    Marketing is an interesting beast and as we progress we tend to do ‘what’s best’ and what the book asks or advises us to do. Know, however, as we ‘wend our way through the possibilities’ it become an instinctive or gut/intuitive thing which must be followed.


    • Yes, I do see a lot of people who have a good idea, start, but don’t have the determination to stick with it long enough. Most business ventures take about two years before a good deal of referral business starts coming in. Thanks for commenting, Laura.

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