The 5 Elements of Marketing – Part 4 – Messaging and Competitive Positioning

Brand Messaging

What is competitive positioning?

It is creating a message that will differentiate your company from your competition.  In order to do this, you need to understand what the competitors are saying about themselves as the reason to buy from them.  As a Marketing Consultant, I do this kind of analysis all the time.  It is extremely enlightening.

I am often amazed when looking at the websites of the competitors of a client.  Sometimes, these websites don’t give a single reason to buy from them.  They simply say what they do or what they sell.  I ask myself, do they really get any business from a website like that?  Then there are other competitors that do give a pretty convincing reason to buy from them.  Depending on the industry, the size of the companies that are competitors of my client becomes important.  The larger the competitor, the more likely they are to get their message out to the potential customers of my client.  I need to craft a message to beat all of the competitors (if possible) but particularly the larger competitors.  Most of the time though, we are only going for a subset of the market and we need a message that resonates with the exact group we are trying to sell to.  Just remember that trying to sell on a low price as a small company is not likely to keep you in business very long as it is highly unlikely that you are the lowest cost provider.

Why is it important?

You need your messaging to stand out from the crowd.  You need your messaging to be persuasive.  You need messaging that will resonate with potential customers.

What is messaging?

It is the thing you say that gets the prospective customer to call you and buy from you.

As a Marketing Consultant, I can tell you that competitive positioning and having the right message is essential to success.  Of course, it needs to support your Marketing Strategy.


Bryan B Mason

Apollo Consulting Group, Providence, RI

The 5 Elements of Marketing – Part 3 – Branding

Brand Creation


A brand is, of course, the identifier that distinguishes a company or product from its competitors.  It has five main parts:

Brand Promise – This is the promise you make to consumers and what they can expect.  At Domino’s it is “We GUARANTEE – Fresh hot pizza, delivered in 30 minutes or less, or It’s FREE!” Think Apple with its sleek design and simple operation.  The brand promises not only a great product, but also a great buying experience and a great service experience.

Brand Perception – This is how the customer perceives the product.  Again, Apple is the very epitome of tech cool.  When you buy it and are seen with it, you feel cool and leading edge.

Brand Expectations – With your promise, you set an expectation.  You need to meet that expectation with each and every interaction or the customer will turn away from your product and seek one that does meet their expectations.  Has anyone made use of the Apple “Genius Bar”?  What about Zappos – Powered by Service.  Do you know anyone who had a bad experience with Zappos?

Brand Persona – Brands embody a persona.  Think about a specific person who personifies a brand you like.  What is that person like?  Why are you attracted to it?  Apple and Microsoft have very different personas. Think about it.

Brand Elements – These are the logo, color scheme, design, the tag line and even the packaging.  This is what you always think of when you think of a brand.  Think again about Apple – “Think Different”, etc.


Why is a Brand Important?

Customers will pay more for a branded product.  So you can typically have a higher profit margin.  It is easier to sell products and services when you have a strong brand.  The customers are often pre-sold when the walk in or call.  Customers will come to you!  Wow!  Doesn’t everyone reading this column want customers to come to them?

As a Marketing Consultant, I can tell you that building a brand will reap great benefits over time.

Bryan B Mason

Apollo Consulting Group, Newport, RI

The 5 Elements of Marketing – Part I – Marketing Strategy

marketing consultant

Marketing Strategy

Today I begin a five post series defining the five elements of marketing.

Marketing Strategy

Most of my clients need more customers, or more importantly, more of the right kind of customers.  The first step is to develop an effective marketing strategy.  A marketing strategy is the overall game plan for reaching people and turning them into customers for the product or service the business provides.  It defines the groups of potential customers.  It defines the characteristics of those customers.  The successful execution of a marketing strategy seeks to create the sustainable competitive advantage identified in the business strategy.  A marketing strategy is a critical prerequisite to the development of a successful marketing plan.

To do this properly, there must be sufficient information derived from a review of customer needs, competitors, opportunities, consideration of all of the internal and external environmental factors, identification of constraints (resource and other) and the evaluation of other factors including technological, economic, legal or political.

Marketing strategies can be based on a large range of differentiating factors but they all boil down to what is unique about your offering (product quality, service, location, etc.).

As a Marketing Consultant, I cannot overstate the importance of having a sound marketing strategy.  Next week I will discuss the second element of Marketing – the Unique Selling Proposition.

Bryan B Mason

Apollo Consulting Group

Getting More Customers – Summary of the Journey to Explore Sales Channels

Marketing Consultant

Marketing Channels

So this is the 22nd and last post in this series on getting more customers that I started in June.

In this journey, I have described almost two dozen sales channels that can be used to get more customers.  I have also tried to point out how to use them and what they are best at doing.  So the first step is to go through and select what you think are the three best ideas (channels).  Devise a cheap, easy and fast way to test to see if this will work for each idea.  You need at least 3 ideas to test because you don’t want to take too long to determine the best channel for you.  If you do one at a time, you greatly increase the time it takes to get to the most effective channel.  As a small business consultant, I can tell you that you want to be able to answer the following three questions for each idea at the end of the tests:

  1. What is the cost to get a single customer using the channel?
  2. How many customers are in this channel?
  3. Are the customers you can get in this channel the kind of customers you want?

Remember, the test itself will not likely get the volume of business you need but you want the test to validate the approach.

The last step is to select the best channel and put most or all of your focus on that channel.

If it does not work out, take the lessons learned from the effort and reevaluate the other 2 ideas you tested.  If these seem better now, do one of these.  If none look good, go back to your long list, pick three more and run more tests, etc.  If you are having trouble with all of this, get some help from a marketing consultant.  Good hunting.

Bryan B Mason

Apollo Consulting Group

How to Get More Customers Using Existing Platforms

Marketing Consultant

App Ratings Affect Downloads

Using existing platforms is about leveraging existing web sites, social media platforms and apps to get more customers.  You can get your app in the app stores, build browser extensions for Chrome and Mozilla and get people to sign up and share their experiences through the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Once you have your app in the web stores, to get lots of exposure and downloads you will need top rankings in your category or featured listings.  That of course is easier said than done.  You can use ads to get to a noticeable place in the ranking charts.  The higher your ranking the more people see and download it which pushes you up farther, etc.  Once people start telling their friends how good it is, things can move up rapidly.  To stay up on the rankings you really need to have a compelling app and get rated often.  One way to help this is to add new features (that work and add value) on a regular basis.

Browser extensions are helpful tools you download and attach to your browser to provide functionality.  I have used tools that filter out spam and of course many of you have used some kind of ad blocking tool.  You will need to get good ratings on these tools to maintain momentum.  So take care to have both a compelling tool and one that is unbelievably easy to use and as bug free as possible (Go for zero defects!  It is achievable!  I have done it.)

To sum up, figure out where your potential users hang out and look for gaps.  Then try to fill that gap.  As a small business consultant, I can tell you that generally it is easier to find gaps on up and coming platforms that on established ones.  So consider using existing platforms as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.

Bryan B Mason

Apollo Consulting Group

This is the Time of Year for Small Business Customer Information Capture

Customer Info Capture

This article stresses the importance of capturing key customer information.  This is a point I make all the time.  I believe for most small businesses, the use of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is critically important.  This is how you know how to personalize your marketing, understand the wants, needs and budgets of your customer and so much more.

See the full article at:

Bryan B Mason

Apollo Consulting Group

How to Get More Customers Using Engineering as Marketing

Using Engineering as Marketing

Using engineering as marketing is building tools that people use that lead them to tell others and to become a customer themselves.  I have done this only once before and forgot about this altogether.  So I have to give credit to Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares whose book called “How Any Startup Can Achieve Traction” for reminding me of this and providing some contemporary examples.  While this whole concept seems most appropriate to software companies, it can be used by many companies to develop a useful calculator, widget, or educational website.

My example was to create a calculator that led the user through the process of determining the value of using a customer relationship management (CRM) system.  It asked questions about the value of customers, how many customers went away each year and so on.  It was very helpful in getting potential customers to be able to put some rough numbers around something so intangible.  So if you develop a usefully tool, you can host it on a single purpose site where it is easy to find and use but also has links to your main site to sign up for more.  In a perfect world, you would pick a domain name for the site that includes one or more words people would use to search for such a tool.

Google’s keyword tool is ostensibly about finding out how much traffic a set of keywords might generate as well as to identify more keyword ideas.  But once you use it, you are much more likely to use AdWords to get some traffic going to your site.

Another strategy is to develop a bare bones version of your product and offer it free.  You just need to have enough functionality that it is useful as it is.  But because you have so many more features in the paid version, once users like the bare bones version, you will get a healthy proportion to upgrade to a paid version.

The key lessons here are:

The tool or capability needs to be close or directly related to your core business or product.

Even if free, it has to offer genuine value with no strings or expirations.  As a small business consultant I can tell you that it needs to prove its worth right away before the user looses interest.

So consider using engineering as marketing as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.

How to Get More Customers Using Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagements are good for Marketing Consultants but not for Everyone

Speaking engagements are not for everyone or for every type of company.  If you are seeking to build your credibility and/or you have a relatively complicated message to get out, speaking engagements can be effective.  I have mentioned many uses such as speaking at conferences or holding seminars but there are many more.  So how to you get selected to be a speaker and what kinds of things should you talk about?

Marketing consultant

Speaking Engagements

In order to get selected by event organizers to speak, you first have to get their attention. So if you have a good idea that you can talk about in your area of expertise, you can just pitch it to the event organizer.  After all, they need to get a good lineup of speakers to attract attendees.  While this will include some well known names, new names doing new topics are also needed.  You can also reach out to event organizers and ask them what kinds of topics they want to have a speaker for.  Then you can make a pitch around one of their ideas.

Start with Speaking Engagements at the Local Level

While there are regional, national and even international events, it is usually easier to get into a local event and then build up from there.  You may have to submit your ideas months before the event is actually held so this requires some planning.  I sometimes get invitations to come to events that highlight certain speakers and topics six months or more in advance.  It does not mean that all speakers are signed up by then or that the presentations have been finished but you need to be deliberate.  You can also begin by getting some speaking events at non-profits, business organizations to which you are a member or even co-working sites.  I have been a speaker at all of those types of events as well as doing seminars at the various Chambers of Commerce where I am a member.  I do topics such as how to develop a marketing plan, a business plan or how to connect your business and marketing strategies to your web strategies.  After all what kind of company does not need more customers?  If you do a good job, people in the audience will seek you out to speak at their events.

Provide Insights from Your Experience

When you start to talk, the audience wants to know why you were selected to speak and what you are going to tell them that is worth their time.  You need to tell a story.  Tell them why you are doing this (and say it with passion!) and present insights that they are not getting anywhere else because you are drawing from your experience or expertise.

If you want to do a lot of speaking, come up with a few good topics and get really good at telling your story.  Make it modular so you can do short, medium, or long presentations while just adding or removing slides.  This way, you are preparing only once for each topic.  You can also record your presentation and then make it available.  You can also try to engage your audience real time over social media during the presentation.  Finally have some call to action.  Ask them to sign up for something or take some simple action that will be valuable to them and easy for you to fulfill such as getting them on a mailing list for a newsletter.  As a small business consultant, I can tell you that most importantly, your presentations need to be engaging!  So consider using speaking engagements as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.


PS  My next speaking engagement is going to be at the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce on January 18th. at 12:00 and includes lunch.  It is free and all are welcome and you don’t have to be a chamber member to attend.  The topic is a “Profitability Checkup for Your Small Business”.  Also speaking will be Mark Collins on “How to Get Your Website to Rank in Google on Page 1.

Content Marketing Trends That Will Help Your Small Business Thrive In 2018

Rates of Facebook Post Engagement

This article covers some key marketing trends for 2018.  One of the most important is the movement to personalized content.  Unfortunately, true personalized content requires that you know something about your customers individually and are able address them individually.  This requires at least some basic data.  Many small businesses don’t have this.  What you can do without this data is make your content valuable, relevant and consistent.  This will go a long way to increasing customer engagement.  Content should be a key component of both your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.