Steps To Get "Slightly" Famous
By Steven Van Yoder
A few years ago, Bruce Smith experienced a slowdown in his Salt Lake City-based
travel agency. Airlines had eliminated his sales commissions. The recession
and recent terrorist attacks also took a toll. And because the travel
industry was ultra-competitive, he knew he had to find ways to distinguish
his company from thousands of other travel agencies.
Then, he had a fortunate accident. His wife asked him where they
would celebrate their first wedding anniversary. When he gave her a blank
look, she set about planning a trip-but wouldn't tell him what she was
planning. Because he enjoyed the mystery leading up to the trip, and the
hints his wife gave him, he repackaged his travel service as The Veiled
Voyage, selling "destination unknown" vacations to couples and
Smith's clever branding strategy was a hit. He was featured in newspapers,
magazines and radio programs and was invited to speak at a national travel
conference. A major grocery store chain also heard of The Veiled Voyage,
resulting in a lucrative co-branding relationship that further expanded
The "Slightly" Famous You
Like Smith, some business owners attract clients and customers like magic.
They don't cold call and do not rely on advertising. Yet they're regularly
featured in newspapers and magazines and get invited to speak at conferences.
Everyone knows their name, and they get all the business they can handle.
It's almost as though they were famous.
In fact, they are, but not in the way movie stars and athletes are famous--they're
just slightly famous. Just famous enough to make their names come to mind
when people are looking for a particular product or service. They get
more business-not only more, but the right kind of business-and they don't
have to work so hard to get it.
Want to join them and enjoy this ideal state of affairs, where customers
come to you? You can, but it may require a new way of thinking and a new
marketing strategy. Although their efforts take different forms, underlying
them all are six basic principles.
1. Targeting the best prospects
Slightly famous entrepreneurs focus their marketing to target the best
Alex Fisenko is known in the world of coffee as "the Dean of Beans."
The 60-something coffee expert started his first espresso shop in the
1960s. Since then, he's focused his energies and now sells his expertise
on launching a successful coffee business to aspiring entrepreneurs. Alex
conducts coffee shop seminars and sells a training course called "Espresso
His Web site generates thousands of dollars a month in products sales
and consulting engagements in the United States, Thailand, South Korea,
Belgium, Saudi Arabia, and Barbados. "By targeting the best prospects,
I now make more money through book sales and consultations than when I
ran coffee shops," says Fisenko.
2. Developing a unique market niche
Small businesses with a "slightly famous" strategy establish
themselves within a carefully selected market niche that they can realistically
hope to dominate.
Dan Poynter, for example, is a successful self-publisher who started writing
books about parachuting and hang-gliding over thirty years ago. Though
it might sound as if his audience would be too small to generate significant
sales, he knew his market and where to find them.
Rather than try to fight for attention in general bookstores, he sold
books to skydiving clubs, parachute dealers, and the U.S. Parachute Association.
He developed a reputation in skydiving circles, and has enjoyed steady
sales of his books for more than three decades. Best of all, he has the
market all to himself!
3. Positioning your business as the best solution
Positioning is about identifying a key attribute of your company not offered
by competitors and that is clearly valuable to your target market.
When Harry Shepherd started his bookkeeping service a few years ago, he
realized that he was in competition with dozens of other bookkeepers selling
essentially the same thing. To stand out, he mastered a popular accounting
program and marketed himself as a "QuickBooks Software Training Consultant."
Shepherd went from blending into a sea of look-alike competitors to occupying
a compelling market position. He charged higher fees, and he did not have
to work as hard to get new clients. Word spread fast among accountants
as they referred him to their clients. He even trained other bookkeepers
to use accounting software.
4. Maintaining your visibility
When was the last time your name appeared in print? Yesterday? Last week?
A month ago? Just because you remember doesn't mean a potential customer
will. You need to have your message out there, if not continuously, then
often enough to keep your name alive in customers' minds.
When Bart Baggett decided to make handwriting analysis his career, he
embraced the media, and studied newspapers, magazines, and radio and television
programs to find out what types of guests were in demand, and then looked
for ways to tie his professional abilities to specific media. His strategy
At the height of the O.J. Simpson trial, he sent out a news release about
Simpson's handwriting that resulted in several timely media interviews.
He later appeared on Court TV to discuss Timothy McVey's handwriting,
and was recommended by the director of that program to CNN. A feature
in Biography Magazine led to stories in the London Times, the Dallas Morning
News, and others.
5. Enhancing your credibility
The surest way earn credibility is by establishing yourself as a "recognized"
expert with intimate knowledge of your clients, customers and industry.
Experts out-position their competitors because they are recognized as
Fred Tibbitts, Jr. founded Fred Tibbitts & Associates to help food
and beverage companies reach global markets. He strategically cultivated
a reputation in his industry as a well-connected and knowledgeable global
beverage-marketing expert who is fluent in all the details of his business.
Tibbitts monitors global beverage trends on a daily basis while staying
in contact with account managers at hotels and restaurants. He hosts a
series of special events, "Fred Tibbitts Spring & Autumn Dinners
with Special Friends," in key markets, including Hong Kong, Singapore,
and New York. Tibbitts also contributes a column to Hospitality International
Magazine and numerous industry publications.
6. Establishing your brand and reputation
Slightly famous entrepreneurs use their smallness and specialty in ways
that corporate giants can't touch. They make sure their brands strike
an emotional chord by bringing their business "soul" to the
forefront of their marketing.
When you meet Dave Hirschkop at a trade show, don't expect to shake his
hand. That's because he'll be wearing a straitjacket while standing before
a simulated insane asylum to promote his popular line of "Insanity"
Dave established his brand by making the hottest sauce possible. Instead
of sensual pleasure, he promised pain, even danger. Now, Dave's Gourmet,
Inc. steps to the front of the crowded hot sauce category because he embraced
a humorous branding strategy that resulted in fiercely loyal customers
and great media exposure.
When Dave introduced his Insanity Sauce at the National Fiery Foods Show
in New Mexico, he made attendees sign a release form before tasting from
a bottle that came in a coffin-like box wrapped with yellow police tape.
His best, if unintended, publicity coup happened when a show promoter
had a minor respiratory problem after tasting his sauce, and banned him
from the show.
To enjoy "slightly" famous status, you don't have to be insane.
But, you must cultivate a brand identity that will become the guiding
star of your entire business. It will ensure that all your marketing efforts
pull in the same direction. You'll waste less time, make fewer marketing
mistakes, and stand out an increasing cluttered world.
Steven Van Yoder is author of Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity
in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort. Visit www.getslightlyfamous.com
to read the book and learn about "slightly" famous teleclasses,
workshops, and marketing materials to help small businesses and solo professionals
to attract more business with less effort.
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