Have you ever seen a brand, small or large, that seemed to stay in business effortlessly? I’m talking about the ones you never see in magazines or on billboards but everyone still knows about. If you have, the business has likely leveraged the power of exclusivity over time – creating demand by keeping their marketing game small.
You may have heard of exclusivity, as the word is used in branding. People like “limited editions,” value heightened by time limits, and other ways to drive demand. That’s one way to use exclusivity to promote products and services, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
Exclusivity can also refer to keeping a business name in relatively few channels, using tried and true techniques. Some may refer to it as anti-marketing, but that phrase may be misconstrued as acts against marketing campaigns. Word-of-mouth-marketing, an easy to use website, and an exceptional customer experience are the building blocks of an exclusive company’s legacy. Staying out of mainstream marketing is not only cost-effective; the absence of a costly campaign can be a form of marketing and a way to initiate ideas, such as:
- Our products speak for themselves
- We don’t want everyone to know about us
- If you know about us, you’re part of a special group
From One Extreme to Another
Think about the last time you walked into a large chain retailer. Were you bombarded by sales associates who were forced to ask you a million times if they could help while reciting their spiel about credit card offers and rewards programs? It’s annoying and can frankly backfire as a strategy. I will often walk out of a store when I feel cornered by a sales associate, and I know I’m not alone.
Today, the marketing game is more complex than ever. Customers don’t purchase from those who hound them. They purchase from companies they believe in and that provide them with a pleasant experience. It’s easy enough to go to the competition if something doesn’t feel right.
While not every business is at this extreme side of marketing, all companies need to consider the message they’re sending and start looking at the long-term effects of their strategies. Some companies can’t remain exclusive because of their market. Others, however, will find the tactic lucrative and long-lasting.
Prime Candidates for Exclusivity
Every company can and should shift their marketing strategies to inform more and sell less, but exclusive businesses have turned the practice into a marketing art. They can be big or small companies that choose to be who they are above all else. By focusing on their culture, experience, and high quality products and services, almost any industry can leverage an exclusive approach. You’re not excluding people, you’re simply eschewing traditional channels of attention-getting.
You may notice the technique most often used by local businesses focuses more on serving the community than rapid growth. Everybody knows about them and trusts them because they are a local institution.
A marketer will rarely ever say you don’t need marketing, and this idea is right. Even the most exclusive brands need marketing. They just go about it differently and take a more strategic, non-marketing approach to marketing. Every company can use these skills to improve their marketing game, but exclusive companies will have mastery over these skills:
For exclusivity to work, you have to be a great networker. You need to have people circulating in the same community activities where your target market is already engaged. Always keep a business card handy, but only speak out when it feels natural. Use your friends and neighbors to help spread the word.
It’s a great advantage if you can work alongside someone who is well known in the local community. A connected person who believes in you can send a lot of business your way. Marketing is almost always more effective when it happens through a 3rd party.
A Simple Online Presence
Next, invest in a great website. Keep it clean, streamlined, and available across platforms. Provide the market with basic information, including social media accounts, business contact information, and an abbreviated or full product/service catalog. On social media, keep your posts simple and highly relevant. Include information about new product lines, lots of photos, and share meaningful posts. The point is to provide a forum for natural engagement, not to push sales.
Have you ever heard that a great product sells itself? This is probably the most important aspect of exclusivity marketing. Research every product you sell or become a thought leader in your service. Every employee you hire should be hand-picked to fit with your culture and mission. Most importantly, the customer should feel welcome and informed when interacting with your business. Store layout, presentation, and music should all support your vision every day.
Also keep in mind that online customer service is often better than in-store service. Any business that can raise its personal interaction level can more effectively ensure customer returns. Simply changing your customer service experience could elevate you above the competition.
Exclusivity is only a long-term strategy. It cannot happen overnight. Every day, a brand must work to maintain its image and reputation in the community. Those successful strike a delicate balance between getting their names into the community while avoiding typical sales language. For instance, an established brand may have quarterly sales. They keep their brand exclusive by not advertising their weekend sales. It won’t take long before word-of-mouth reaches enough individuals to make the sale lucrative. Everyone who engages in the process feels like they are in on a well-kept secret, which in turn inspires loyalty.
Whether you choose to become completely exclusive or to merely tone down your marketing campaign, the traditional marketing methods are starting to shift. Natural and inbound marketing tactics are gaining attraction for their subtle influence in consumers’ lives. Will your business be ahead of the curve or get lost in the thousands of voices that compete for attention every day?
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