You’re Famous!

Everybody loves you!“Watson, I have recently realized that I am famous!” The Effective Detective exclaimed at me as I entered the room.

“Sir,” I began desperately trying to reply without piercing The Detective’s ego, and perhaps starting a major argument, “while I believe we are well received in certain pockets of the Internet, I am hesitant to say that rises to the level of a Seth Godin or a Frank Kern.”

The Detective cast a baleful eye at me as he answered, “Watson, must you be so literal? I’m quite aware that I or even we do not rise to the level of the luminaries you mention. But the fact remains that I am famous, and you should include yourself in that statement.”

“Sir, I am confused. How can you or I be famous, yet by your own admission we do not rise to the level of a Seth Godin, who as a matter of record is famous,” I answered back, actually quite confused.

“Watson, you are confusing the size of the audience with the very existence of an audience, and thus limiting your effectiveness to said audience,” The Detective said, sitting back in his chair to await my reaction.

Unfortunately for me, I was quite dumbfounded by what he had said and just sat there staring with my mouth slightly open.

The Detective took my silence as encouragement to continue and so, did.

“Watson, please close your mouth, you look like a fish. While your ability to have quite brilliant insights has been improving, I see this point has escaped you. Let me explain. A common lamentation I have heard from business people struggling to be noticed is when they look at someone like a Seth Godin or a Frank Kern, they think ‘Well this stuff is easy for them, they are famous!’ The point the complainers miss, and I admit to falling into this trap occasionally myself, is that Seth and Frank weren’t always so famous. They built their audience over time. But, one thing was certain, they were always superstars to the people who agreed to join their audience. Within that group, they were famous! Over time they have grown their tribe, and achieved a high level of celebrity. But the point is as soon as you start to develop an audience to your point of view, you are famous within that group,” The Detective stopped to let me absorb what he had just said.

“Ah, I see your point sir. You can be famous – a celebrity of sorts within a group no matter the size, but how does that make a difference for the smaller marketer?” A thought began to coalesce, but I thought it safe to allow The Detective to finish this discussion. Just in case.

“Think Watson, fame is self-perpetuating – if you allow it to be. If you recognize your fame within a select group, through word of mouth and the tendency of we humans to want to belong to groups we think are worth joining, you can grow that fame. Not only that, but within the group of your fans the ability to do business increases. After all you are a celebrity to them. You need to act like one, and I don’t mean in a rude or insensitive way, but rather an appreciative way. Your fans, followers, whatever you wish to call them, have given you something precious: their attention. Reward them with what they signed up for, you and your wisdom, experience, point of view, whatever it is that makes you, you. Of course where it is appropriate, you can, and indeed should, sell products or services that allow your tribe to leverage even more of what you offer,” The Detective stopped and this looked at me expectantly with his slight smile.

“I think I see sir, I guess not only are we famous, but many of our readers are as well!” I obliged his expectations.

“Precisely, Watson, well said! Now they just need to go out and leverage their fame, one fan at a time,” The Detective agreed and ended the conversation for the day.

Marketing Lessons From Ancient Rome

ostia“Watson, I had the most interesting insight when visiting the former Roman port of Ostia Antica a few days ago,” began The Effective Detective, taking charge of our conversation at the start, as he has done a few times in the past.

“Former port, sir?” I asked, dreadfully ignorant of Roman and Italian history, I had no idea if Ostia Antica had become a former seaport in recent or ancient times.

“Ah, Watson, I see we need to work on your classical education,” The Detective jabbed at me, then continuing on before I could respond, “Ostia Antica was abandoned by the Romans some 1,500 years ago when the path of the river Tiber changed after some particularly bad flooding. Remarkably it has sat relatively undisturbed, and intact for centuries.”

“What caught my eye was one section of the town described as the Piazzale delle Corporazioni or Square of the Guilds. This was where the importers and exporters would ply their trade. Some of course advertising goods they had brought in, some buying goods to transport outside of Rome, and some advertising the transport of such goods. Nothing out of the ordinary you might say, being that Ostia was a port. There were two things that I found interesting and of course a lesson for today,” The Detective paused, obviously hoping I would inquire as to the content of the lesson. As always, I decided not to disappoint.

“So what was the lesson we could learn from the traders of 1,500 years ago?” I asked.

“As I said, two things that I found interesting. The first was the competition, ringing this square were 60 “booths” – for lack of a better name. Imagine slugging it out on a daily basis when your competition was not just in the same town, but physically right next to you trying to entice customers. Those merchants must have been able to express why they were better than the guy next to them with no hemming and hawing. Either you could make a concise and compelling case or your prospect moved over 15 feet to listen to another pitch. They had no choice but to be able to make their case in a matter of seconds, and make a compelling one at that. Today, how often do we hear people who expect you to listen to a message that goes on and on? Definitely something to be learned there.

“The second and even more interesting lesson was the other way that they marketed their products and services. With pictures! They knew that not all of their prospects would be literate, so they not only would spell out what they offered in Latin, but in mosaics inlaid in front of their booths. Of course they sometimes indulged in a small bit of exaggeration: showing their boats protected by Neptune himself or how they can overcome sea monsters, but I imagine like exaggerations today, such things were taken with a grain of salt by the prospective buyers. The point was they made sure that anyone coming into the square no matter what class or level they came from would understand what they offered. Simplicity of message!” The Detective concluded.

“A most fascinating history lesson, sir!” I exclaimed.

“And an exhausting one as well, Watson. It was quite the trek around Ostia. Let us continue our discussion at another time,” The Detective said, ending our conversation for the day.

The Cart Before The Horse

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee /

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / 

“So tell me Watson, what are your views on branding?” said The Effective Detective, beginning a new discussion. I am always wary when a conversation starts out with such a wide open question.

“Branding, sir? I am unsure of my views on the subject. Perhaps you would care to guide me with yours,” I replied, deciding that cowardice was the better part of valor.

The Detective raised an eyebrow, but I also noticed that he couldn’t suppress the slightest of grins; he knew that I knew the game. “Ah Watson, well-played. I’ll start then on what I have found to be yet another topic so often discussed at the wrong time, for lack of a better way to describe it, by some of our marketing brethren.”

“Sir, is there ever a wrong time to discuss marketing?” I exclaimed, worried that perhaps now marketing had become a taboo subject like religion and politics.

“Hmm, let me be a little more specific here Watson to relieve your concerns. By wrong time, I am referring to the order of a discussion of marketing strategies and tactics, rather than a particular time or meeting place. The question is when does branding become a critical part of your marketing strategy? The answer, I fear, is not when many are told, or think.

“You see Watson, a brand, at least the way it seems to be generally thought of, is more of a place-marker. It is a way for people to associate a particular mark, phrase, or even just a name, with you or your product or service,” The Effective Detective said, pausing slightly, which allowed me to jump in with a concern.

“But isn’t that a good thing sir? Giving people an easy way to identify you? I would think that is the heart of marketing.”

“A fair point, Watson,” The Detective conceded, “but, it misses a far broader point,” he finished, prompting a swift reaction from me.

“So branding is bad?” I asked.

“Elementary my dear Watson,” The Detective replied, again with that slight smile telling me he was springing his rhetorical trap.  “I never said that it was a bad thing, merely often misplaced in the order of things that are important to building a business through strong marketing. Yes, a brand will help identify you, however, it does nothing to show people why it is important to pay attention to you, and what the results of working with you or your product are. It does nothing to bring people into your tribe. It is a sign-post indicating that something is available through you, but why should they care? What will happen by engaging you?

“Yet, I see people worrying over their logo, whether they have just the right tag line, and are the colors right on their website, when often they don’t even have a way to capture email addresses on that site! The text of their site talks about them, essentially identifying them rather than what the result of working with them will be. This obsession with trying to get people to associate you with something  is detrimental to the far more important task of getting them to raise their hand. To show an interest in what you are offering.

“The one thing that I do see obsessing over establishing a brand early does for you is that you present a consistent face to the market. However, I think that can be done in the early phases simply by focusing on your niche.

“Once you have an established presence, spending some time on branding makes sense. Ensure that your clients have a consistent way to refer to you when they are referring you. To be able to give them a way to identify that they are part of your tribe, which can catch the attention of others who might raise their hand. But, the single most important thing initially is just to get out there, and give people a reason to raise your hand. Worry about your “brand” later,” The Detective concluded, and waited for anything I might have to add.

“The marketing process can be fraught with twists and turns, sir,” I  concluded.

“Quite, Watson.”