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Ever wish you had one of those million-dollar ideas? Some commercials and
marketing campaigns may drive you crazy (think “ShamWow! You’ll be saying WOW!
every time”), but that’s the point. Millions of dollars are made every day by
companies that have mediocre products but tremendous marketing.

While I’d never suggest that you try to become the next Billy Mays (the
pitchman who told us about OxyClean) or Ron Popeil (remember the Pocket Fisherman?),
these pitchmen are examples of framing a good, easily understood and compelling
message that sticks in customers’ heads. Solution providers often have great
products and technologies, but poor messaging and marketing.

Many successful businesses may not have a clearly differentiated product,
but they have great marketing, and the message—not the product—is what drives
in their customers. It goes without saying that you must have a good product
first, but when all features are equal, it comes down to how you package the
product that drives customers to you versus your competition. Combine your
message with current events, and the result can be very successful.

Here are some examples of combining marketing with hot topics that may have
nothing to do with the products themselves.

Pink Slip Programs
Virgin Mobile announced a Pink Slip Protection plan that waives as many as
three months of wireless phone charges if a customer is laid off. While
wireless plans are all comparable, Virgin stands apart by offering peace of
mind to those who fear losing their phones while looking for their next job.
You also need a car to get to those job interviews, so Ford, General Motors and
Hyundai earlier this year launched payment protection plans, either allowing
out-of-work customers to return their cars or have their payments covered.
Ford, for instance, will cover car payments up to $700 a month for a full year
for drivers who lose their jobs.

Celebrity Aliens Among Us
Who cannot repeat a Hulu ad they have seen in the last three months? Sure,
television is bad for you. Hulu celebrity spokespeople (er, actually aliens
from outer space) agree with you. But they encourage you to watch more (it will
soften your brain) and to watch wherever you are. There is no direct mention of
you leaving your television or DVR, but you understand that you are no longer
tied to one location. And what may seem “out of this world” actually is the tag
line “because we are aliens.” Hulu never shares they are a joint venture of Fox
and NBC, they also do not highlight their products. They just market the
spokesperson and the alien food. (Besides, we’ve all thought that Alex Baldwin
is from another planet; this is just confirmation.)

Girls Go
Everyone can think of five or more companies that offer domain and hosting
services. But say GoDaddy and everyone thinks of a milder version of Girls Gone
Wild. Sure, the girls and commercials have nothing to do with hosting or domain
services. In fact, you never learn who offers the lowest domain services or if
the hosting is comparable or even superior. You just know GoDaddy girls are
those girls, and the name sticks with you.

While these are examples of marketing initiatives by major corporations,
your business can employ similar techniques. If you are offering services to
assist companies offer more for less, consider your marketing messages as they
tie to saving money in a down economy. In the age of YouTube and Twitter,
there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from donning a microphone, stepping in
front of the camera and detailing your plans for world domination by using your
new-fangled switch or notebook. The trick is to get people to think about your
brand and come to you first for the answers. Try it and, just like Vince from
ShamWow!, you’ll be saying “Wow” every time.

Channel Insider is interested in how you are differentiating your company.
Please share your success stories with me at