Live Your Brand: How to Personify Your Business (recap)

Last week, Leah gave a seminar on Live Your Brand: How to Personify Your Business at the Shasta SBDC. The feedback from the seminar was positive, and some of you had a few questions about some of the content we weren’t able to get into because of time constraints. So, with that, here’s some of the info you’ve requested.

Business Commitment Equals These 3 Things: Knowledge, Passion, Communication


Living your brand starts with knowledge. Knowledge is one of the key factors that sets you apart from your competitors.

Is it enough to know how to install cable or repair a computer? That’s certainly a requirement if that is your job – but what else? Do you stay on top of industry trends locally? Nationally? Globally? Are you aware of changes in the market, new adaptations, better customer advantages? What if there is a way to save your customer money – have you ever considered that part of your knowledge base? Do you share that information with your customers?

All of this is part of what living your brand truly means. You want your customer to not only come to you because they want your product or service – but because you personify that product or service. Striving for more than a mere transaction creates the type of customer that is more inclined to be a repeat customer and more inclined to share with their friends and associates the positive experience they’ve had with you. (Which is also called doing marketing for you!)


Having a passion for what you do allows the world to see things through your eyes. It gives your customers a glimpse into something they may not otherwise understand – and that is very powerful indeed.

Some of you may be familiar with Tony Robbins, the lifestyle guru and motivational speaker. There is an authenticity to how he communicates with his audiences and his clients – would you agree?

Not only does he convey a certain passion in his presentations that is in keeping with the message he is trying to relay – but his own life success stories mirror his philosophy.

Here another one: I’m guessing most of you have heard of Oprah Winfrey. She has a message about connecting with people and guiding them by showcasing the philosophies and methods of her various guests.

What about Richard Branson, of Virgin Records? While he doesn’t go around singing the songs that are part of his music empire, he does seem to embody the lifestyle that goes hand in hand with his early rock & roll roots. He has a drive and ambition to discover the new and try the untested that indicates his passion for life and new experiences.


How do you share your message with your tribe?

Some of you may be shaking your heads right now and saying – “Hey, my business just isn’t the type of thing that people are going to get excited about. I’m a plumber.”

Well, to some degree you’re right – because the customer is only going to be as passionate about your product or service as you are.

How many of you have listened to the Car Talk radio program before? How many of you know nothing about cars? That was my experience the first time I listened to this program on a long road trip. I’m not a car enthusiast – I can barely be bothered to keep my car clean. And yet, I couldn’t get enough of these guys. Their humor and knowledge and passion kept me listening – and tuning in again later! And the form of communication they chose? Radio? While in my car? Perfect. You better believe I started listening to every little sound my car was making as I was driving as they described different problems to listen for.

How do you communicate with your customers? Sure, you may have the same types of marketing channels as many other businesses, but are you tailoring your message so that it exemplifies your brand?

Here are some popular ways to communicate…and ways to do it even better.

Online media – This is one most businesses are using these days, and the one you can most customize on a regular basis to personalize your marketing.  Have you thought about:

  • Transformations. Have you made over a home? A smile? A body? A plot of land? Using photos, time lapse footage, before & after images are all quick examples to personalize your message.
  • Cross promotions. Does your tribe use other products or services or have other interests related to your industry? Do you contribute blog posts or articles to other publications and share those posts and publications with your tribe? Do you offer cross promotions with key partners? Your link on a partners site offers a discount to new customers or referrals from a partner get a freebie? Online marketing makes sharing information meaningful for your business, your customers and your partners.
  • Seemingly random sharing. The ManWolf video we watched? One of my favorites. It inspires me to be bold and to not be afraid to create a message that really speaks to the client in a way that will resonate – and maybe even shock a little. What do you like that you think your customers might appreciate? I’ve used everything from Tom Cruise to the Terminator to share marketing tips.

Horizontal vs. Vertical Segmentation

The topic of horizontal segmentation – highlighted in the Ted Talks video of Malcolm Gladwell – seemed to be of particular interest to many audience members. While it was introduced to the discussion as part of the whole presentation, it is a topic which could have an entire session dedicated specifically to it. With that said, let’s break the idea of horizontal and vertical markets/segmentation down to a simple understanding, and use some examples to clarify the topics.


For the case of this post, let’s simply define each term:

Horizontal Segmentation: Different niche markets within a specific or particular product.

Vertical Market: Complementary businesses/products to the main product. Essentially, vertical segments represent additional market capitalization opportunities related to your business or product.

Great. So what does this mean? Well, in short, there is no one perfect product/good/service. Every product you build or sell will have variations that better resonate with each of your tribes. And for those of you who don’t remember, tribes are the specific audiences for your business (think of iPhone users or vintage VolksWagon Beetle owners – it’s like a community to which you belong, it’s a sense of identity your customers can relate to).


Let’s use the example in the Ted Talk video. Pretend you have a pasta sauce company (Prego was used in the video). Before the idea of horizontal segmentation was introduced, the company had one pasta sauce – their version of traditional.

Initially, they wanted to refine the sauce to make the ultimate, or “best” sauce available. After understanding the idea of the various customer interests, Prego was able to cluster i.e. segment) consumers int ogroups, based on their preferences and create sauces specific to those groups.

The introduction of horizontal segmentation showed the possibilities for developing specific niches within their product line – that’s where the versions like extra cheesy, garlic, Old World traditional, etc. came from. Essentially, these are the different flavors/variations in the product that allow a company to capitalize on specific interests of a given product.

The vertical markets of pasta sauce, by the above definition, would be complementary products/goods/companies. In the case of Prego, some verticals might include pastas, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, ketchup, etc., and each of those can have their own horizontals to build and refine.

Another good example might be Starbucks. The coffee chain’s anchoring product is coffee. With this, let’s look at horizontal/vertical examples:


  • There was one choice of coffee. It was good on average, but it was not great to most people. To appeal to varying consumer palette types, Starbucks developed a variety of blends, bean types, roasts, and derivatives (think Frappuccinos).
  • What else do people like with coffee? The experience of the coffee shop. In addition to the coffee of your choice, you can also purchase mugs, treats, music CDs, coffee grinders, etc. These are affiliated products that complement the main product, coffee.

Horizontals don’t always work

It’s good to experiment with different horizontal variations, but some initial success doesn’t always secure long-term viability. A recent example might be Google. What started out as a search engine has quickly grown to a host of products and services. The company recently announced cutting services like Reader, its free version of Google Apps, and others. While a great many people found these useful, from a financial and business standpoint, they weren’t viable and/or inline with Google’s plans for growth.

You can’t be everything for everyone. So feel free to give new variations and products a shot, but don’t consider them concrete ideas. Your brand must be flexible, and you must be able to keep up with your offerings.

Case in point

There is, as Gladwell points out, no one right sauce (product). There are only right sauces for the right audiences. So as you consider your business, think about your offerings, and use feedback from your customers to think about variations in your products or services that might be more appealing to specific audiences/tribes. You might sell less of more (the long-tail theory), but in the case of Prego, they went on to sell $60M+ of chunky pasta sauce – a variation they never before offered.

Recommended Books & Resources

1. Keith Ferrazzi: Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

This is what’s often called the Networker’s Bible. Ferrazzi, who owns one of the largest marketing firms in the world, gives advice on why you are always marketing yourself and how to be an effective connector. Essentially, it’s one of the guiding principles in living your brand.

2. Guy Kawasaki: The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

The former Apple exec and current small business investor details what it’s like to start a company, but more importantly, what’s required to make it successful.

3. Stefan Mumaw: Chasing the Monster Idea: The Marketer’s Almanac for Predicting Idea Epicness

Think you have a great idea? That’s nice, but how are you going to set about enacting on that idea? What are your next steps? Is the market even ready? Mumaw paints an engaging picture of the difference between the idea and turning the idea into something fruitful.

4. Josh Kaufman: The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

Broken down into 11 theme-driven chapters, this book is more inline with business philosophy ideals – short, digestible quips of business advice and philosophy. Feel free to jump from chapter to chapter as you see fit.

5. Michael Port: Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling

Port details in this book (and his subsequent, Beyond Booked Solid) how to set up systems that will lead to your success. He touches on all aspects of one’s business – from marketing  to websites to consulting, though none too in-depth. It’s a great way to frame your goals for structuring your day-to-day operations.

6. Sarah Lacy:  Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos

It’s a story about how the top 1% of people do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. A great read, with real-world examples of international start-ups making global impact.

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