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I remember an old footie coach of mine saying to a group of us before we went for a representative trial with hundreds of would-be Freddie Fitlers, “Make sure you wear a standout jumper and different socks if you want to get noticed – those selectors wouldn't have a clue!”.
He added, “The stunt will backfire if you play like a fairy”.

I actually wore a South Sydney second grade jumper which was too big for me. The bloke I swapped it with said it was Graeme Stevens jumper, who was the brother of Souths legend, Gary Stevens.

(For the purists, I gave up a Randwick jumper said to have been worn by Dick O'Callaghan who later played for the St George Dragons. I suspect I horse-traded badly.)

Enough football memoirs, what's the business story? Well, just as in life, standing out from the crowd is the name of the game, that is if you are into starring in not only your own autobiography but also others.

Sydney business thinker, Max Hitchins of Hitchins Marketing put out a little booklet entitled Zebra Marketing in 1996.

The opening paragraph states the basic proposition that all small businesses or all would-be stars of life have to understand. It goes like this: “Visualise animals gazing in the leafy plains of Africa. The Zebra is easy to see because of its stripes. We focus on the Zebra, we remember the Zebra, we easily recall the Zebra.”

I guess you get the picture. Max proceeds to tell you how to market yourself and the simple facts are that many winners are not the best businesses, the best teachers, the best students or best sports people but they are invariably the best at making themselves noticed.

Winning businesses market themselves so effectively such that when I think of sports stores only one comes to mind, at first. By racking the brain, more are there but it takes effort and the people who test us in business and in life prefer to do things effortlessly. Test yourself on any product and odds are you will always come up with the same name first.

Of course, all of this can, like the fancy footie jumper tactic, backfire.

Some time ago, a very prominent linen service company – in fact, the first one I used to think of before this incident – threatened my life.

A linen service business is not generally intimidating, but when you are backing into a car parking space and you see a dirty great van bearing down on you, there are two things you think of before they swerve to the other side of the road to overtake you at 80 kilometres an hour.

The first is – whiplash neck here I come. The second is – what's the name on the side of the truck? I'll report that lunatic.

Mankind universally and nearly weekly makes this promise, but few go through with the threat. However, many of us do resolve to never do business with companies that give us grief.

When I was at uni, I used to do deliveries for my dad's business. Some of the publicly silly things I did to finish or to get there on time were typical of delivery people.

But my old man was smart and was wise to my youthful impatience. He never had the name of his business on my ute – though he did have it on his.

Work on your business, not in it. To learn how, book a complimentary business assessment today with a Switzer Business Coach.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Tuesday, March 09, 2010

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