6 Steps To Get "Slightly" Famous
A few years ago, Bruce Smith experienced a slowdown in his Salt
Lake City-based travel agency. Airlines had eliminated his sales
commissions. The recession and recent terrorist attacks also took
a toll. And because the travel industry was ultra-competitive, he
knew he had to find ways to distinguish his company from thousands
of other travel agencies.
Then, he had a fortunate accident. His wife asked him where they
would celebrate their first wedding anniversary. When he gave her
a blank look, she set about planning a trip—but wouldn't tell him
what she was planning. Because he enjoyed the mystery leading up
to the trip, and the hints his wife gave him, he repackaged his
travel service as The Veiled Voyage, selling "destination unknown"
vacations to couples and others.
Smith's clever branding strategy was a hit. He was featured in
newspapers, magazines and radio programs and was invited to speak
at a national travel conference. A major grocery store chain also
heard of The Veiled Voyage, resulting in a lucrative co-branding
relationship that further expanded his company.
The "Slightly" Famous You
Like Smith, some business owners attract clients and customers
like magic. They don't cold call and do not rely on advertising.
Yet they're regularly featured in newspapers and magazines and get
invited to speak at conferences. Everyone knows their name, and
they get all the business they can handle.
It's almost as though they were famous. In fact, they are, but
not in the way movie stars and athletes are famous--they're just
Just famous enough to make their names come to mind when people
are looking for a particular product or service. They get more business—not
only more, but the right kind of business—and they don’t have to
work so hard to get it.
Want to join them and enjoy this ideal state of affairs, where
customers come to you? You can, but it may require a new way of
thinking and a new marketing strategy. Although their efforts take
different forms, underlying them all are six basic principles.
1. Targeting the best prospects
Slightly famous entrepreneurs focus their marketing to target the
Alex Fisenko is known in the world of coffee as "the Dean of Beans."
The 60-something coffee expert started his first espresso shop in
the 1960s. Since then, he's focused his energies and now sells his
expertise on launching a successful coffee business to aspiring
entrepreneurs. Alex conducts coffee shop seminars and sells a training
course called "Espresso Business Success."
His Web site, www.espressobusiness.com, generates thousands of
dollars a month in products sales and consulting engagements in
the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Belgium, Saudi Arabia,
and Barbados. "By targeting the best prospects, I now make more
money through book sales and consultations than when I ran coffee
shops," says Fisenko.
2. Developing a unique market niche
Small businesses with a "slightly famous" strategy establish themselves
within a carefully selected market niche that they can realistically
hope to dominate.
Dan Poynter, for example, is a successful self-publisher who started
writing books about parachuting and hang-gliding over thirty years
ago. Though it might sound as if his audience would be too small
to generate significant sales, he knew his market and where to find
Rather than try to fight for attention in general bookstores, he
sold books to skydiving clubs, parachute dealers, and the U.S. Parachute
Association. He developed a reputation in skydiving circles, and
has enjoyed steady sales of his books for more than three decades.
Best of all, he has the market all to himself!
3. Positioning your business as the best solution
Positioning is about identifying a key attribute of your company
not offered by competitors and that is clearly valuable to your
When Harry Shepherd started his bookkeeping service a few years
ago, he realized that he was in competition with dozens of other
bookkeepers selling essentially the same thing. To stand out, he
mastered a popular accounting program and marketed himself as a
"QuickBooks Software Training Consultant."
Shepherd went from blending into a sea of look-alike competitors
to occupying a compelling market position. He charged higher fees,
and he did not have to work as hard to get new clients. Word spread
fast among accountants as they referred him to their clients. He
even trained other bookkeepers to use accounting software.
4. Maintaining your visibility
When was the last time your name appeared in print? Yesterday?
Last week? A month ago? Just because you remember doesn't mean a
potential customer will. You need to have your message out there,
if not continuously, then often enough to keep your name alive in
When Bart Baggett decided to make handwriting analysis his career,
he embraced the media, and studied newspapers, magazines, and radio
and television programs to find out what types of guests were in
demand, and then looked for ways to tie his professional abilities
to specific media. His strategy paid off.
At the height of the O.J. Simpson trial, he sent out a news release
about Simpson’s handwriting that resulted in several timely media
interviews. He later appeared on Court TV to discuss Timothy McVey’s
handwriting, and was recommended by the director of that program
to CNN. A feature in Biography Magazine led to stories in the London
Times, the Dallas Morning News, and others.
5. Enhancing your credibility
The surest way earn credibility is by establishing yourself as
a "recognized" expert with intimate knowledge of your clients, customers
and industry. Experts out-position their competitors because they
are recognized as knowing more.
Fred Tibbitts, Jr. founded Fred Tibbitts & Associates to help food
and beverage companies reach global markets. He strategically cultivated
a reputation in his industry as a well-connected and knowledgeable
global beverage-marketing expert who is fluent in all the details
of his business.
Tibbitts monitors global beverage trends on a daily basis while
staying in contact with account managers at hotels and restaurants.
He hosts a series of special events, "Fred Tibbitts Spring & Autumn
Dinners with Special Friends," in key markets, including Hong Kong,
Singapore, and New York. Tibbitts also contributes a column to Hospitality
International Magazine and numerous industry publications.
6. Establishing your brand and reputation
Slightly famous entrepreneurs use their smallness and specialty
in ways that corporate giants can't touch. They make sure their
brands strike an emotional chord by bringing their business "soul"
to the forefront of their marketing.
When you meet Dave Hirschkop at a trade show, don't expect to
shake his hand. That's because he'll be wearing a straitjacket while
standing before a simulated insane asylum to promote his popular
line of "Insanity" hot sauces.
Dave established his brand by making the hottest sauce possible.
Instead of sensual pleasure, he promised pain, even danger. Now,
Dave's Gourmet, Inc. steps to the front of the crowded hot sauce
category because he embraced a humorous branding strategy that resulted
in fiercely loyal customers and great media exposure.
When Dave introduced his Insanity Sauce at the National Fiery Foods
Show in New Mexico, he made attendees sign a release form before
tasting from a bottle that came in a coffin-like box wrapped with
yellow police tape. His best, if unintended, publicity coup happened
when a show promoter had a minor respiratory problem after tasting
his sauce, and banned him from the show.
To enjoy "slightly" famous status, you don't have to be insane.
But, you must cultivate a brand identity that will become the guiding
star of your entire business. It will ensure that all your marketing
efforts pull in the same direction. You'll waste less time, make
fewer marketing mistakes, and stand out an increasing cluttered
Steven Van Yoder is author of Get Slightly Famous: Become
an Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort.
to read the book and learn about "slightly" famous teleclasses,
workshops, and marketing materials to help small businesses and
solo professionals to attract more business with less effort.