Lesson 4: Marketing

You can have the most amazing products ever conceived, but unless someone knows about you and your wares, you’ll end up eating a lot of your own creations. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to find your people.




Other Ideas to Consider

You don’t need to rob a bank to mount an effective marketing campaign, and certainly, you don’t have to do it all at once. Marketing is a long-term play, and you want to build awareness of your company and your products over time. Some of the following strategies require a bit more sweat equity, but they will help you build awareness, brand equity, and sales.

As noted, selling products is a relationship business. Take advantage of local networking opportunities, such as chamber events, after-hours, networking organizers and fundraisers. Get your face and name out in the community so people start to associate a face with your product. Donating some of your products for a community auction is an excellent way to build awareness. You get exposure, and you help raise funds for a good cause.

Sponsor something
You don’t need to spend a lot on a sponsorship, but in exchange for being a sponsor, you often get a free space for your booth or table and mentions in publicity. You may also be able to arrange a bit of a trade, offering to provide some of your products for the volunteer area so volunteers can get a snack and a drink. Donating something as a raffle prize is another good strategy. Of course, you’ll want to wear your company shirt when you receive recognition for your support.

Public relations
Getting media coverage is more complicated than it used to be, partly because there are fewer newspapers and locally owned TV stations. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it now and then, especially if you’re sponsoring something, will be at a local market for the first time or have won an award. With the growth in local news websites, this may be your best bet in reaching your target audience.

Blog up a storm
Blogging is a great way to share your journey and build an audience. It can be a video blog on TikTok or something you write for your website and then share on social media. Depending on your interests, it can be about starting a small business in your home, cooking or baking tips, holiday ideas or decorating tips. The idea is to build an audience that is or may become customers. Make sure your readers can subscribe to your blog. Yes, more relationship building.


Telling Your Story

No one knows your story better than you. It may be tough to talk about yourself or brag about what a whiz you are in the kitchen, but you must shed the shyness. Your competitors are out there being loud and proud, but most can’t back up their bravado. It’s the nature of the beast. The people who are best at what they do aren’t necessarily the biggest braggarts.

Like the proverbial tree in the forest, no one will hear what you have to say if 1) you don’t say it yourself and 2) you don’t find an audience that wants to hear it.

This may take some practice. If you’re not a great writer, you may want to ask someone to help you with your story. That said, nothing beats an authentic story from the person telling it. People can overlook a grammatical issue or two if the story is authentic.

As humans, we are story machines. More than 60% of all communications are stories – stories we tell others and stories we tell to ourselves. It’s been that way for thousands of years. Our brains are hardwired for stories. MRI research has even proven it.

Getting your story to be heard is the more significant challenge. Thanks to the Internet, our brains are handling millions of pieces of data every day. We sort through the data like a computer – relevant/irrelevant. Almost 99% of all this data ends up in the discard pile. The rest is tagged for further attention. This 1% is more than likely stories. Your brain says this information is of interest because it helps your brain understand the world around you and your place in the world. That is, after all, the purpose of stories and why your brain is wired that way.

Let’s go through a basic story arc. If you’ve read a book or seen a movie, this may look very familiar. It certainly will the next time. It’s called the Hero’s Journey.

    • As the story begins, the central character’s life is in relative balance regarding a core value (think happiness/sadness, love/hate, hungry/satiated, etc.).

The hero is wildly in love with the perfect man.

    • Something happens that upsets this balance and changes the core value from one side of the coin to the other. This is known as the inciting incident.

One day, she gets a call and is told that he is being held for ransom.

    • Balance has to be restored, so the character acts out of self-interest to return to a balanced state.

Unknown to anyone, she is actually a trained operative and sets off to rescue her love. Along the way, she faces numerous obstacles and near death. At one point, things look hopeless.

    • As a result, everything is in a balanced state again. All is well until the next inciting incident or, in movie terms, the sequel.

But she overcomes it all and, at the last minute, swoops in and saves the love of her life.

This is how every good story works. There are lots of bad stories out there, primarily because they don’t follow this basic formula that has been the foundation of storytelling since cave dwellers carved drawings on their walls.

Here’s another example of a story that has a business angle.

    • As the story begins, the new homeowner (central character) is so excited (core value) that he is having a housewarming party.
    • The night before, the oven that came with the house starts smoking (the inciting incident). The homeowner freaks out because his 20 guests are expecting appetizers.
    • He doesn’t want to cancel the party. Everyone was looking forward to it.
    • So he goes online and searches for someone to save the day. He finds you, a Cottage Food business owner (the hero of the story) who is a savant when it comes to appetizers. He calls you to see if you have time in your schedule to whip up an order.
    • You don’t really have the time, but who wants to turn down a big order? So you cancel your plans that evening and get to work.
    • The next day, you arrive before the party, hand off the order, let the owner take the credit for the fantastic munchies, and return to the next thing on your list.
    • Everyone knows the host is not that great of a cook, so he comes clean and shares your contact information with all his guests.

That’s your story. A customer’s life spun out of control; you arrived to save the day and restore the balance of the universe, well, at least the balance of his housewarming.

As you well know, the marketplace is filled with sales pitches, promises and noise. We’ve all heard endless stories about how one product is better than another or that a low-priced product will work miracles. Most of this goes in one ear and out the other.

What sticks is a personal story that others can identify with. They can see themselves in a similar situation, either in the past or in the future, and they think about how you could save them, staving off failure or judgment. That is your Hero’s Journey. That is what makes you unique.

If you want to totally geek out on story and how to use it in business, check out Robert McKee’s Storynomics book, available at Amazon and local booksellers.


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