Next to a good parking spot and ways to get an extra 5 minutes of sleep in the morning, how to market a business has to be right up there in the list of popular topics. Whether your business is online or strictly brick and mortar, you probably find yourself struggling to come up with ideas on how to market your business. Ironically, most of us are great at looking at someone else’s business and coming up with all kinds of ideas for them.
So with that thought in mind, I thought I’d select a business and use it as a foundation for extrapolating some simple marketing ideas, both based on the business itself and on what it is or could be doing. Hopefully this gives these ideas a bit of real world grounding.
I selected Lands’ End Business Outfitters as our topic business because I thought it would prove an interesting example that many would recognize, and happens to be “just down the road a spell” from Identity Developments. Now, if you haven’t heard of Lands’ End, in their own words, “Lands’ End is a direct merchant of traditionally styled clothing for the family, soft luggage, and products for the home.” I couldn’t have said it any better. Lands’ End Business Outfitters is actually a specialty division that allows customers to have their own logos added to select Lands’ End merchandise. Perhaps your own company has shirts or attaches with your company logo embroidered on them from Lands’ End.
Okay, so now we know a little about Lands’ End and the Business Outfitters division. Of course, the idea of this exercise is that you can select any business to learn from. You probably spend a lot of time thinking about your own business and marketing in general, so it is very easy to get tunnel vision within your own industry and to marketing in general. What’s important to remember here is that we aren’t just looking at what marketing the business is doing, we are actually looking at the business itself. So what can we learn about marketing from this business that you might be able to apply to your own business?
Thinking about opposites is one of the easiest so lets begin there. When you look at the Lands’ End Business Outfitters website, we quickly see there is a focus on business… as if the name “Business Outfitters” wasn’t enough. So, what’s the opposite of “business?” Perhaps you might say “personal” or “non-profit.”
Maybe Business Outfitters should try to find a way to include these groups more within their marketing. In our world of personalization, perhaps I’d just as soon wear a polo shirt with my own little logo or emblem as someone else’s. Is there some way that you could market your product or service to your opposite targets?
You can also think in terms of modifiers. Since we are considering “business” as our base term, maybe we add “big” as a modifier. The opposite of “big business” would be “small business.” Are you currently targeting one of these but not the other? Could you? Think about what you would need to do differently or more importantly, what this target would want or need that might be different than your current target. You may find that it doesn’t make sense or isn’t possible to target these opposites, but you might also find
that a little different positioning or altering your current offering ever so slightly could open up a whole new market.
Event and Role Marketing
Event marketing and “street teams” have become a popular form of marketing for all kinds of businesses and organizations. And of course every organization serves a role and has people in specific roles.
Can you tie into any events? What events might Lands’ End Business Outfitters target for their customers? Trade shows and company picnics or other special events might be something that their customers would find important in having shirts or other products with the company logo or a special logo for the event.
Are there special events that your customers might be involved in that you could specifically market for? Keeping trade shows in mind, could you create special products or even compile product or information for your customers to use at trade shows that would help them market themselves and/or your products?
Or are there events that your business will be involved in that you could market? Can you connect your marketing to a holiday, grand opening, neighborhood or city event?
Approaching marketing from a role perspective is similar to events. It is just another way to think about your or your customer’s business. I would imagine Business Outfitters sell a lot of merchandise geared towards sales people. Being public figures, many businesses would want to put their sales people in shirts that have the company logo on them.
Are there roles that you could target? Can you segment your product, package products or just create special marketing to target specific roles or the roles within your customer’s businesses? Can sales, customer service or marketing roles benefit from special marketing or products? Are there groups or organizations that are related and serve the same customers as you? Serving these other roles or groups could be like adding a whole new sales team to your organization.
Encourage The Middleman
This idea may tie in well with those roles or groups that you identified in the last step. Lands’ End Business Outfitters does this with their “Company E-Store” that enables their customers to create their own company store. This helps simplify the whole process and provides a useful service to their customers. Now, XYZ Company can setup their own store for their employees to purchase approved merchandise to maintain company image and brand integrity, and eliminates the need for someone to try to manage all of the orders.
Are there ways that you can help simplify your customer’s lives? Are there roles or groups you identified above that you might be able to partner with? Creating their own store system like Business Outfitters may not be feasible, but are there other ways you can help, encourage or even partner with target groups to sell with or for you? One extremely popular method online is through establishing affiliate programs. Through an affiliate program, you encourage others to help sell or refer business to you in exchange for an affiliate commission.
This might even be as basic and simple as providing a logo or special linking text that your customers could add to their website. Even without commissions or reward, you may find that your most loyal and satisfied customers are more than happy to refer business to you if you just ask or make it easy for them to do so.
Be The Bigger Picture
Whatever your business, chances are you are just one piece of a much bigger picture. Lands’ End Business Outfitters may be a piece within many different pictures. Let’s take a look at one of those pictures, trade shows. Companies often want to have new shirts with company or special logos made for their employees who will be representing their company at the trade show. This reinforces brand image and builds a team look for the company at trade shows.
For the people who are planning their company’s trade show attendance, selecting and ordering trade show apparel is just one of many tasks. Business Outfitters could simply play their role, or they could boost their role within the bigger picture. Even though they may not provide a solution to any of the other tasks, they could work to become the go to spot for anyone planning trade show (or any other event) attendance for their company.
Their Reminder Service where they email or call you before the event is a great example. They could also create reminder lists of important things to do in planning. They might also include links to recommended sites for things like nametags, lanyards, promotional items or other related items. They might even partner with some of these related but non-competing sites for mutual benefit in sharing traffic. Or solicit best ideas and tips from their own customers or even create a forum on their site for exchanging ideas and advice.
What are the bigger pictures that your business or products are a part of? Can you provide a bigger picture resource for your customers? Can you help your customers interact and assist each other?
Create Smaller Pieces Of The Pie
Lands’ End Business Outfitters is a perfect example of this idea as they are a smaller piece of the pie. Business Outfitters apparently evolved out of customers approaching Lands’ End who wanted to add their own logos to Lands’ End products. How can you segment your existing products? Can you create or service a niche with your existing products or services simply through marketing or making minor adjustments?
Hopefully, those 5 marketing ideas have sparked some ideas on how you can better market your business. More importantly, I hope the exercise of looking at another business, especially one unrelated to yours, is one that you can take away and use as a tool to help you identify entirely new ideas to market and grow your business.