Category Archives for "Relational Marketing"


Support Through Endorsements

Last time, I wrote about use of referrals with collaborating businesses.  Endorsements may seem similar but they are not.  They apply between levels 3 and 4 on the Awareness Ladder, where the business owner demonstrates credibility.

Why Use Endorsements?

Referrals are private and endorsements public.  A referral is between two businesses and a prospect.  It is tailored to the needs of the prospect.  As such it sits comfortably at rung 3 of the Awareness Ladder, where the prospect chooses your business.

Endorsements help where the prospect moves to rung 4.  They like what they see but ask how credible is this operation?  An endorsement from a similar business may help establish your business credentials.

Endorsements may help lower down the Awareness Ladder.  For example, an endorsement on your home page might encourage visitors to explore further.  However, they are most powerful where a prospect decides they like the look of your business and seeks reassurance they’ve made the right choice.

Do you trumpet endorsements on your home page, so every visitor sees them or hide them away until the prospect seeks reassurance they have made the right choice?

Pros and Cons

Endorsements transfer credibility from the endorsing business to the endorsed.  This implies the endorsing business is better positioned in terms of reputation.  Is it possible for two businesses of approximately equal reputation to endorse each other?  It’s possible but they need to agree how each uses the endorsement. 

Consider the degree of trust involved.  Do you trust the business you endorse as much as your own?  You do not want to endorse something that generates a poor reputation. 

The endorsing business might endorse businesses complementary to their own offers.  They may readily concede the endorsed business is better at some product or service. 

Endorsements are essentially irreversible.  You could ask the endorsed business to remove mentions of your endorsement from their literature.  However, old leaflets and blog posts may still carry the endorsement.  This is why trust is important.  Endorsements are hard to remove once established and not because the endorsed organisation is being awkward.

There are benefits for both endorsing and endorsed organisations.  The fact one organisation is in a position to endorse others speaks volumes for its reputation.  Indeed, the endorsed organisation is unlikely to display an endorsement from an organisation it believes to be inferior. 

This is where endorsements can backfire.  What happens if the prospect decides the endorsing organisation is more credible? 


Working closely with another business could be seen as endorsement. This may not be a problem where collaboration is private but where it is visible, it can be interpreted as endorsement. Bear that in mind as you consider formal approaches.

You could argue testimonials are a species of endorsement.  Testimonials are from customers, whilst endorsements are from other businesses in the same or a relevant field.  If you provide a service for an established organisation and they offer a testimonial, ask whether you can use it as an endorsement.  Discuss how it might be displayed appropriately.

Normally, where one business endorses another, it allows them to use its logo or branding for certain purposes.  The endorsed organisation should not be permitted to use it in any way they see fit.  Endorsements are usually labelled as such and occupy a certain space on the endorsed business’s website or literature.  You certainly don’t want to look as if you are a part of the endorsing organisation.  Always check that the endorsing organisation is happy with the use you make of its logo.

You can add a link to the endorsing organisation into the logo.  This may draw some prospects to the endorsing organisation.  But if the offer from the endorsed organisation is sufficiently different, this should not be a problem.  Try it and see whether it makes a difference.   If it doesn’t, probably best to leave it be.

There are other things organisations do together and one of those is to help out with one another’s customers.  The topic for next time.

Problem Analysis Solution

Build Collaboration Through Referrals

At rung 3 on the awareness ladder, your prospect becomes aware of your particular offer.  They are close to sitting down and discussing your offer in depth.  How do you move from rung 2 to rung 3? Oddly referrals are a collaborative tool you can use.

Mostly we depend on our own devices.  We have a sales funnel, nurture people in it and encourage more people to join in.  We do this through business networking, following up contacts and online techniques, mainly social media.

One effective route is referrals.  By referrals we mostly mean referrals from customers or prospects in our sales funnel.  But another powerful source is close competitors.  Why on earth would they refer prospects to us and when should we refer ours to them?

Referrals Build Trust

Early sales conversations are an ideal opportunity to turn your prospect’s attention to someone else.  This is not deflecting potential troublemakers to someone else (they should be dropped).  It is seeking what’s best for the prospect.

Where close competitors collaborate, they learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, where they’ve an affinity for particular client needs.  A prospect who approaches you has made an initial judgement that you can help them. 

If you understand their needs you can point them in the right direction.  After all, you know your business better than they do.

Such a referral, well made, pleases both the prospect and your collaborator.  It builds trust with both and encourages either to make referrals to you.

Referrals Deliver Best Service

It’s not solely about trust.  It’s ensuring prospects receive the best possible service.  No-one is better positioned to do this than a group of close collaborators with detailed knowledge of each other’s work.  Matching the prospect to the best provider raises the reputation of not only two businesses but also the trade as a whole.

This is important because the prospect is unlikely to ask for a referral.  They say yes or no to you (and may or may not mean it) but they won’t ask for a referral for fear of causing offence.

For example, some of my prospects are really seeking a copywriter.  I know several excellent local copywriters.  Once I explain my coaching offer, I ask them whether this is what they seek or suggest they might prefer a copywriter.  This is an excellent way to discern whether they are interested in my offer.  Instead they can accept my offer of a referral.  If they say they are interested in my offer, they are more likely to move to a sale. 

Shared Customers

Sometimes collaboration with someone else might be a good solution.  This would not a joint venture, simply a one-off collaboration over one customer.

This is not something to suggest lightly because it may mean you and your collaborator must design something completely new for one customer.  Perhaps if it works out, you have the basis for a more permanent relationship but this may be exceptional. 

There are various ways to arrange this.  Sub-contract to a collaborator, ask them to act as a mentor to you for aspects of the contract where they have expertise or seek full shared responsibility.

With a new initiative, it may be best to discuss arrangements with the collaborator before you make an offer and the prospect may want to meet the collaborator before they make a final decision.  These delays may mean the prospect moves on while they are waiting, which is likely to be frustrating to all concerned.  For this reason, is it worth agreeing basic plans before suggesting such an arrangement to a prospect.

Such arrangements amount to endorsement of your competitors.  Endorsements are in themselves another area of collaboration and we’ll look at that next week.

brochures on table

Positioning Your Offer

So far my focus has been on collaboration over raising awareness of the problem you and your immediate competitors address.  This post covers the next step on the Awareness Ladder, raising awareness that solutions to the problem exist. Positioning is crucial for collaboration to work out.

People live with a problem for years, if they believe there’s no solution to it.  There’s no point raising awareness of your particular offer if your market don’t believe the problem can be solved.  There’s a clear advantage working together with close competitors to demonstrate the problem can be solved.

The big issue at this stage is whoever makes this breakthrough is at a big advantage, by placing their offer before an audience they’ve convinced of the possibility of finding a solution.

However, one powerful argument for collaboration is the number of possible solutions on the market.  If there is only you, it is much harder to make a persuasive argument than if there are half a dozen or so relevant offers on the market.


This is where positioning helps.  If you position your businesses, you segment the market.  Where a prospect has sufficient information, they choose which offer is best for them.

Where you all tackle the same problem, work out what makes your offer different from all the others.  Differences include:

  1. Specifics about your approach to the problem.  Show you have a plan that solves the problem.  Make the plan as distinct from your competitors as possible.
  2. Decisions you make about the market you serve.  Take care with this because you may inadvertently restrict your market.  Also be aware there may be legal constraints, for example about race.  Common decisions might be to primarily serve a specific geographical location or to focus mainly on the needs of one sex.  This decision is about where you choose to focus your marketing, anyone who does not fit your chosen market may be a secondary market.
  3. Your worldview may influence some prospects.  If they know something about your political or religious affiliation, they may choose you over a competitor with similar positioning to yours.  This is the most tenuous of the three approaches to positioning.  It is something that might come over in conversation and not so much in your formal marketing campaign.

Make Distinctions Explicit

Once you decide on positioning, work together to clarify your differences.  Here are a couple of approaches to consider.

For each person list the reasons why someone should choose you.  You might start with “Consider this if you are …” and then a second list “Don’t consider this if you are …”.  If everyone does this, compare the results and tweak to make sure everyone is distinct from all the others, this helps prospects decide who to approach.

However, this may be a lot for prospects to take in, especially if there are a large number of collaborators.  One solution is to build a key.  A key has a tree-like structure.  You ask a question with two possible answers that take the prospect down the tree.  Each question narrows down the number of possible options until only one business is left.

You can do this flat on the page.  If you answer Yes, goto question A or if you answer No, goto question B.  A more compelling approach is to use a quiz.  Thrive themes have a quiz plug-in for example (affiliate link).  Here jumping between questions is done for you.

Joint Brochures

These methods may help a visitor make a decision but some prefer to read details of various offers and make their own decision.  Try a joint brochure that brings everyone’s business into one place and so enables the prospect to decide who to choose.

A brochure could be a website or in print.  If every collaborator has their own website page, you can direct visitors to the home page or to a specific page.  Print brochures may be a powerful statement if they are well-produced.  They could be expensive but if presented to those who are genuinely interested may be cost-effective.  And of course, costs can be shared.

But even with all this help, it’s possible the prospect will make the wrong choice.  As you discuss their needs, you may find the prospect may be better off with one of your collaborators.  What then?


Use Events to Raise Market Awareness Together

Two weeks ago I wrote about collaborating to raise awareness of your market and last week, opportunities to research your market with competitors.  This post looks at events, practical things to try with competitors, to raise awareness of the problem you solve.

Meetings and Conferences

To enrol people to an event, is an effective way to find and educate a market.  Advertise it as a training event or opportunity to find out more about the problem and potential solutions.  If you collaborate, you have a ready pool of potential trainers and speakers.

The main problem is financial and time costs.  The biggest cost is promoting the event and ensuring people sign up and turn out for it.  This is particularly difficult where your market isn’t aware of the problem.

Collaboration saves on costs, the reason many events fail.  It’s also an opportunity to pool ideas and extend networks.

If your event aims to raise awareness, it’s not a good idea to sell direct at the event.  It’s an opportunity to begin relationships that in time lead to sales.  Agree to share a database of contacts or ask people who are interested to sign up with you direct. 


Whilst training events bring people together while generating income, they are not always the best option.  Aim for regular contact to get to know your market.  Networking events allow regular attenders to build relationships over time. 

Collaboration means you share leadership activities.  You share the work to keep track of members, keep them informed and find speakers and activities. 

It’s interesting most network meetings are generic.   Is it worth trying themed networks?  Could you network around marketing, building capacity, finance, financial management, sales or social media?  Build a network of competitors while other businesses pass through as they seek help with your speciality. 

Social Media

Social media is better for raising awareness than it is for sales.  When you plough your own furrow, you move people from support for your thing on social media to your email list.  So, why do few businesses collaborate on social media?

For example, a Facebook Group about some problem might draw attention, especially if supported by several businesses.  They each contribute from their unique perspective and encourage members of the group to contact them, join their lists or attend their meetings. 

Conventional Media

If you share a conference, network or social media point of contact, then promoting it through conventional media is possible.  An article, radio or TV item that promotes the joint work may be effective. 

Conventional media is time limited.  This is less true of online media.  So, you need something people can respond to straight away, somewhere they can go to find out more.  The big advantage is you are likely to reach people who don’t access social media.  Work out how to draw them into your network once they make contact.

Which leads us to the next topic.  Once you raise awareness of the problem, how do you help people understand there are solutions? 

Cartoon woman at desk with piles of books

Research Your Market and its Needs Together

Research is underexplored for collaboration.  There are several reasons.  Research is likely to be costly in time and money.  Collaboration means sharing such costs.  Persuading competitors to invest may be difficult. But there is a lot to do together at minimal or no cost.

Another reason is belief in keeping your research from your competitors.  But confidentiality may not be so important for research into your market and its needs.  Knowledge of your market’s needs allows you to develop your own response to them.

What to Research

Here are two areas for research.  There are other opportunities for research collaboration but these two seem fundamental and I see little reason not to share these costs.

First, research into your market.  Who are they?  Where can we find them?  Their habits and worldviews.  Many business owners are vague about their market and so good quality information is really valuable.  The more you know about your market, the more likely you are to find a niche that positions your business away from your competitors.

The second area is needs analysis.  What is a need?  Define what is ideal for your market.  What do they want?  Then compare the ideal with reality, as your market experiences it.  What do they need to move from reality towards the ideal?  The market defines the ideal, while you offer what they need.  What assistance do they need?

Comparing Notes

It is possible the research you need is already in the public domain.  It may need interpretation and gaps may need filling but why spend time actively researching when you can meet your needs through desk work?

Get together with competitors and compare notes.  What do you need to know and what do you already know?  Go beyond assertions based on belief.  Does anyone have evidence?  As you talk, take note of the main areas where you need research or to verify information. 

Then give everyone a topic and ask them to research it online.  Meet later to share results.  Then decide whether you need further research.

Surveys and Questionnaires

This is perhaps the easiest research to do together.  Use an application such as Survey Monkey.  It helps if someone among you knows about survey design.  Also consider the time to devote to analysing responses.  Tick box answers are fairly easy to collate.  Answers in prose take much longer!

Ask your lists to answer the survey.  Each business mails their own list.  You may have social media options too.  This is an effective way to get reasonably reliable results, if you all put the survey in front of relevant people.

Analysis of results takes far longer than you think.   If someone volunteers, consider paying.  The results may be immensely valuable to all concerned but getting them into a usable format is a chore.

Research Projects

Finally, ask someone to do research for you.  The drawback here is costs.  However, if you have pooled knowledge and know what you need, investing in professional research may not be so daunting.  I don’t expect most small businesses follow this route but with collaboration and shared costs it may be realistic for a few businesses who wouldn’t otherwise consider it.

If you collaborate over deepening understanding of your market, then there may be scope for further collaboration for marketing.  Next time I’ll look at how to pool resources for marketing to prospects who are not aware of their problem.

Eyes shielded

Raising Awareness: Creating a Market

This is the third post in my sequence about collaboration. Last time I suggested that collaboration between competitors can be rewarding. This post, about raising awareness, is based on the first rung of the Awareness Ladder.  Remember, the lower the rung on the ladder, the harder it is to move to the next rung.

If your market has no idea it has the problem, your task is to persuade them they do in fact have it.

Your Differences Don’t Matter

If your prospects don’t know they have the problem your business solves, it doesn’t matter what your solution is.  Your prospects don’t care about your solution or your competitors’ solutions because they don’t recognise the problem as theirs.

This makes raising awareness together mutually beneficial.  Any business offering solutions to a problem most people don’t believe they have, faces an uphill struggle.  Why should anyone believe you?

Furthermore, if you do persuade someone they have the problem, what’s to stop them looking around for a solution elsewhere and finding a competitor? 

Collaboration therefore means you can work together to find creative approaches to explaining the problem without fearing you’re going to lose out to your competitors.

An Example

I used to be obese.  To look at me now, you would find it hard to believe! 

I didn’t think I had a problem.  My image of an obese person was someone of gargantuan proportions.  I was clinically obese, which means I met the clinical definition of obesity. 

Did it matter?  Yes it did.  I told myself it was encroaching old age that led to my lack of energy.  I had high blood pressure and developed Type II Diabetes.  It was that diagnosis that led to me accepting I had a problem and seeking a solution. The fact that I did not acknowledge the problem cost me my health.

I lost about one third of my body weight, once I understood I had a problem and took it seriously. 

If you had a solution to the problem of obesity, how would you persuade obese people they have the problem? They won’t buy if they don’t see the benefit.

Similar difficulties face people who sell financial advice, prepare wills, life insurance, trusts, etc.  Many people need these businesses to solve a problem they are not aware of.  The problem is real, the problem is lack of awareness.

Raising Awareness for Mutual Benefit

Whenever I promote my business and especially the problem it solves, I benefit other people in similar businesses to mine.  Similarly when they raise awareness of similar issues, I may benefit from their marketing.

Ah, yes you may be thinking.  If you promote your own solution at the same time as you raise awareness of the problem, then surely you have an advantage?  Perhaps that is true but remember, the next step on the Awareness Ladder is to increase awareness that the problem can be solved.  And then people don’t always buy solely on the quality of the solution.

I shall address these steps in future posts but there are other possibilities for collaboration at this bottom rung of the Awareness Ladder and I’ll cover these first and so next time I explore “Research”.

End on view on runners in race

Collaboration Between Competitors

Last time, I wrote about collaboration between businesses that are very different.  Such collaboration seems safe but the benefits are likely minimal.  It’s always worth exploring collaboration with businesses that deliver something a long way from your offer; it’s always possible you’ll stumble on something viable.  But your competitors, those with offers uncomfortably close to yours, may offer greater opportunities for collaboration.


One big untruth about business is, businesses have competitors.  This belief leads to competition and divides businesses that otherwise benefit from collaboration.

If two businesses have similar aims, there are more opportunities for collaboration.  Successful businesses collaborate.  There are stories of cutthroat competition but mostly successful business owners see opportunities for collaboration with close competitors. 

I’ll explore this in more detail in future posts in this sequence.  But at this stage, understand there are opportunities at every stage in your sales funnel, from raising awareness of the problem you both address through to joint ventures.  


Positioning is key to understanding collaboration between similar businesses.  Say you’re a business coach.  You have common interest with other coaches in increasing awareness of the advantages of business coaching generally.  Indeed, if you cannot find any competition, what evidence do you have that you have a market?  Opportunities for collaboration correlate with market size.

Look at it this way.  If you want to increase public confidence in business coaching generally, then you need to make sure you match prospects with the best coach to meet their needs.  A poor match might discredit the coach and also the principle of business coaching.  The better you know your competitors, the more likely you’ll guide prospects to the best match for them.

The challenge is to find ways to help prospects decide between you and your competitors. Everyone benefits if they make good decisions.

How to Position Your Business

  • Geography.  You offer exactly the same services as someone based in another city.  It may be convenient to serve people who live locally. If you network locally, you’re likely to find local prospects.  You won’t reject customers from outside your area but they’re not your target market.  As your business grows, you may find your reach goes further but you may equally find people seek you because you are local.
  • The problem you solve.  You may be an all-round business coach but chances are you specialise in solving some specific problem.  This may be the easiest criterion for collaborators to understand.  Prospects seek you for your reputation in some specialist area, even though you are a good all-round business coach.
  • How you solve the problem, using some technique or approach, separates you from competitors.   Customers express a preference for the approach you use.  
  • Demographics are mostly your choice.  Quite a few coaches market to women only.  They’re not necessarily saying they never work with men.  There may be legal constraints to how you market to specific groups, so seek advice if you are unsure.
  • Your worldview may be relevant.  You need not target customers who share your worldview, the fact that people know about it may cause them to self-select.   

Of these, the problem you solve is most likely common ground.  Competitors understand the problem in different ways or use different solutions.  I explore this in detail next week.

Four cartoon people's heads

Collaboration Between Businesses

I attended a speed networking event recently.  About 20 of us spoke one-to-one with everyone in about one hour.  A minute each way for each meeting.  I’m not sure how effective this approach is – I’ll see if any collaboration builds from it. 

We weren’t expecting this and so we all invented our own approaches.  I promoted Telling Stories: Making Business.   I collected business cards with a note of those who expressed interest.  I’ve written to these new contacts and will see how effective this was in due course.

Speed networking means we have brief encounters and ask whether they’re interested.  There’s no time to dig deeper.  Indeed the pressure is to think of reasons why not to go further, simply because there’s so many potential opportunities.


Does speed networking reinforce the idea that the purpose of business networking is to sell?  Obviously sales happen, I’ve made a few purchases from people who I’ve got to know through networking.  But making a purchase is fairly rare. I decide I need something and look for someone I know who can supply it.  A direct sales pitch is unlikely to work, especially from someone I have not met before. 

One person I met at the same meeting with whom I had a longer one-to-one, sells personal financial advice.  I already have a financial advisor and so I explained I’m not currently in the market.  I offered some ideas about why selling financial advice is difficult.  Most people don’t understand the need for it.  I wish I’d talked to an advisor earlier – why didn’t I? 

We edged closer to a better understanding of the purpose of networking.  It is not primarily to sell.  It is mostly about collaboration or inspirational support.  How can I help this business owner, even if I have no interest in their business? 

If we seek inspiration, we’re likely to find it in unexpected places, with businesses different from our own.

Creative Collaboration

Even where a business is different, there may be opportunities for creative thinking.  Imagine a 10 minute conversation where you work out an offer you could make together.  What sort of offer could someone in property make with someone who offers massage for sports injury?

Maybe none.  But the majority of ideas come to nothing.  The aim is not to come up with something revolutionary and viable.  It is to look at what I do from a fresh perspective.  There’s no pressure to take it further but you never know, until you make the effort.

So far, I’ve assumed two very different businesses.  But what happens when you ask the question of a business similar to your own?  This opens up a world of new possibilities for collaboration.  More next time.

sailing ship on stormy sea

The Myth of the Rational Consumer

You may think your clients make rational decisions; show them how you solve their problem and they immediately decide to buy!  If only the rational consumer existed!

The Rational Consumer

Right-wing economists who believe economics is a science, developed an imaginary construct, the rational consumer.  Assume thousands of consumers all behave in their own best interests and you can model the economy.

The political implications are catastrophic.  Some politicians genuinely believe the economy works in this way.  More than that they claim their madcap schemes are the will of the rational consumer.

Experienced marketers are aware the rational consumer is a myth.  Most people do not act in their own self-interest because they do not know what their self-interest is.

Why do people not act in their self-interest?  They have in effect two brains.  Their emotional brain is fast and overwhelming.  Their rational brain is slow and logical.  Often they act on their emotional brain before their rational brain kicks in.

This is not to say the emotional brain is necessarily wrong.  Marketers sometimes encounter buyer’s remorse, where following a good purchase the rational brain kicks in and finds reasons to regret the purchase.

Good marketers engage with both brains, using the urgency of the emotional brain and the logic of the rational so their client feels comfortable with their purchase.  Motivate your client to take full advantage of their purchase. This is especially important for coaches.

Behavioural Economics

  1. How does your behaviour vary from the profit-maximising rational behaviour classical economists insist upon. This may help you understand the reasons for your clients’ behaviour.
  2. How much choice do you offer your prospects? Remember too much choice can be counter-productive.
  3. How do you position your offers to guide prospects to your best offer?

Slow Down Your Thinking

There is value in thinking about your own thinking.  Too often we rush to a decision without giving it proper thought.

Take time when you make an important decision.  It is easy to get stuck in a narrow definition of the problem.  Try to see the problem in its wider context.  The problem as it initially presents itself is transformed when viewed from another perspective.  Consider using a coach or mentor to help with decisions.

You sometimes find another perspective by taking time out and allowing your mind scope to reflect.  Walking is an opportunity to do this and a good night’s sleep is also effective.  Even turning to another problem allows your mind space to find another perspective.

Beware of Premature Solutions

Beware of the solution that presents itself as a problem.  A prospect who presents with a request for help with their website is presenting a solution.  They may be right and have already done the thinking for themselves.  Still, it is worth finding out: what is the problem the website solves?  Once you know what the problem is, you can assess the proposed solution.  Sometimes a well-defined problem goes most of the way to solving it.

This is a really important point.  The costs of solutions masquerading as problems is immense.  An example of this, now in vogue is Brexit.  There is no agreement about what the problem is that Brexit is meant to solve.  Is it immigration or sovereignty?  Both these problems are poorly defined.  Worse the real problem may have nothing to do with Europe and everything to do with how we make decisions in the UK.  A referendum takes power away from representative government.  It disables opposition, which means the government is no longer held to account or able to receive feedback on its legislation.

Always find out what the problem is first! Sometimes clients resist this and insist on their solution.  If you can help them understand their problem, they are likely to see their problem in an entirely different light.

Following this thirty-ninth and final post in this series to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Usability Testing and the Small Business

Why are medicinal drugs so expensive?  The big pharmaceutical companies argue that we all need safe drugs.  Rigorous safety testing is costly and so the companies have to be compensated for the time and money they spend.  Does the small business have a similar claim about usability testing?

Usability Testing

Usability testing is costly.  Most of us are likely to hear about it through websites.  It is true websites are much improved by usability testing.  Some people design a website and then ask several people to use it, while they watch how they use it.

A great deal can be done more economically using AB testing.  Here you set up two versions of your site.  You randomly assign one version to each visitor to the site and see which over time is most likely to meet the response you seek.

With these tests, you get results within a few days, so long as your site receives sufficient traffic.  And of course, most of us don’t!

You can see how these methods can be costly in terms of money and time.  A large company can afford them but they want compensation through pricing.

The interesting thing is maybe small businesses are better able to bear these costs.

Always be Wrong

  1. Where are the edges you can dance on?
  2. What would you invent if you knew it was going to fail and wanted to see how it failed?
  3. How do you test your edges?


Imagine three concentric circles.  You and your business occupy the innermost circle.  This is the comfortable place to be.  Everyone else is in this circle and they all offer similar products and services to the same market. It feels safe but is actually the place of most competition.

The outermost circle marks the fringes.  Beyond here things are too chaotic to make sense to you or any credible market.

The interesting place is the circle in-between.  This marks the edge between the comfort zone and the fringes.  The secret about this circle is it is not a circle.  It is a polygon with many edges.

If you find your way to one of these edges, you have a small enthusiastic market.  You will not compete with anyone else for that market.  Perhaps this is another way of describing the early adopters in the innovation diffusion model.

The fabled Brick Rabbit is a good example.  It was a restaurant without food.  You brought your own, cooked it on the premises and ate it with friends.  It failed.

What Doesn’t Fail?

Mostly, businesses on the edge fail.  They fail because the costs of trying something new are greater than the likely returns.


But if it works, it can be brilliant.  Things to bear in mind:

  • The edge is not a compromise. In a market where people sell big things and little things, selling medium things does not count as an edge.
  • You are not seeking difference so much as to take something to an extreme.
  • So extreme, it is remarkable and gets people talking.
  • It will also get some other people walking away.

Pete Atkin nails it in this song.  There is a clear and small market (drummers) for a wristwatch that is truly remarkable.  How would you design a wristwatch for a drummer in the days of the mobile phone?

Following this thirty-eighth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

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