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Fresh Thinking

Category Archives: Strategy

Counterintuity Marketing: Step I, Make a Plan; Step II, Improvise

Step I, Make a Plan; Step II, Improvise

By | Strategy | No Comments

Great marketing agencies rely on equal parts preparation and improvisation to execute sales-driving initiatives. Without a positioning statement, marketing budget, and clearly identified goals, your marketing doesn’t have a starting point, and therefore really can’t start (at least, not on the best possible footing). On the other hand, without the ability to analyze results, react to trends in your market, generate new ideas, and learn from both mistakes and successes, unattended marketing can become stagnant – and, in the digital age, quickly irrelevant.

This is the first of two articles that you can consider before embarking on your own outbound marketing (or before engaging a creative agency such as Counterintuity). And if you’re having trouble addressing these items? We can help – that’s precisely what our custom Strategy Sessions are designed to do.


Positioning Statement

What does your business do and why do you exist? What’s the product or service that you provide and why is it important that you provide it? What is the mission of your business and what makes you unique in your field? (For more about the importance of your business uniqueness, check out our last post.) You may operate an ice cream shop or a manufacturing plant or an attorney’s office – but why?

Entrepreneurs: Why did you start this business in the first place?

Small business managers: You have marketable skills, so what keeps you engaged  at this company right now?

The answers to these questions, distilled into 3 or 4 pithy sentences, are the heart from which all of your marketing will stem.

Marketing Budget

How do you set a marketing budget? That can be a complicated question to answer, and depends upon what you’re trying to achieve, and how, and in what timeframe. All sorts of numbers get thrown out, and it’s not uncommon to hear that marketing “should be” 20% of your budget. After more than a decade in business helping clients set marketing budgets, we can say this about that: sometimes yes, sometimes no. Every business has its own opportunities, and has to evaluate them individually.

One thing we recommend unequivocally: Budgeted marketing dollars should be attached to expected results. If you’re not getting an ROI on your marketing, either your marketing or your marketing budget needs to change.


Setting reasonable goals can be tricky, especially with your business’s first foray into marketing. Whether it’s digital advertising you’re doing, or social media, SEO campaigns, or other strategic initiatives, there’s always a learning curve. Aside from the obvious mission to “get more sales” or, even better, “generate as many sales as possible,” we’d encourage your first-ever marketing plan to factor in these the achievements of generating awareness and solidifying your online positioning.

Awareness Within Your Industry

Even if you’re not closing deals left and right, the more your peers and colleagues are aware of your work (and your uniqueness!), the better poised you will be for greater success. There are many methods of increasing your supporter base:  From a social following to a built-up email list to event attendees, the more your ideal customers know you and what you do, the more likely you are to be hired, referred and considered.

Solidify Online Positioning

Search engine optimization is real! The more real links, press articles, legit blog posts, and backlinks there are that connect your business to your potential customers, the more likely you are to be found on the World Wide Web.

Of course, you want to sell – and we want to sell for you – but establishing a base in these critical areas will set you up for future success! Check back in a few weeks for our take on how to Improvise Within Your Marketing Plan.

Need help preparing to grow?
Drop us a line. We’ll break down our specially-designed small business marketing process. 


The greatest strength of your small business: you, exactly who you are

By | Strategy | One Comment

“Today you are you!
That is truer than true!
There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

     – Dr. Seuss

Sure it’s inspirational. Sure it’s even a little fluffy, but it also happens unequivocally to be true:

the greatest asset that your small business has is what makes you unique:  what you do, and how you do it, and who you are.

Counterintuity clients are used to a certain set of questions when we start working on their project, whether it’s a new website or anything else.

  • What are your services?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • Which of your services are rare, highly thought of, or specialized?

These questions help us identify your uniqueness – that singular thing that gives your business value above your competitors. That uniqueness can take any number of forms, ranging from a highly specialized set of skills (like MKL who specialize in brokering the sale and purchase of insurance agencies – not a lot of folks even do that) to extraordinary ability (such as the Pasadena POPS, who can sport the international icon Michael Feinstein as their music director).

Sometimes that uniqueness is more nuanced—it could be a process, or a worldview, or a core value. If you are a plastic surgeon and you choose to use images of “real people” instead of photoshopped super models on your website because you believe in establishing reasonable expectations for your patients, you’re going to stand out from competitors who are happy to settle for the industry standard, despite its misleading pretense. More importantly, by establishing your uniqueness as informed by your core values, you’re going to speak loudest to clients who share in your beliefs and value your approach.

If clients value you, they will hire you and stay with you. (And we’re living proof.)

In a world of Amazon.com, outsourced services, and infinite price matching – it’s impossible for even the most highly skilled small business to compete purely on price. Small businesses need to compete on expertise, customer service, and core values. And the more specific your business is in expressing your uniqueness and core values, and then following through with your clients’ needs, the more successful you will be.

What is your uniqueness? How do you talk about it? We can help you figure it out.

Contact us for a complimentary 14-minute consultation. 


The 37 Doors of Indecision

By | Strategy | No Comments

Sometimes, when it’s hard to know what to do and you’re confronted with many options, you try doing a little bit of everything. That’s like being in a hallway with 37 doors. The problem isn’t that you don’t have time to go through all 37 doors. The problem is that all of them send you back to the hallway – because you already know you’ve got lots of other options to pick from. And so…

You never get out of the hallway.

In my 25 years of working with clients, I’ve seen a lot of that. And I understand the allure. It’s hard not to ask yourself, “Wait! Let me just see what was behind that door.” And you check, and find it doesn’t lead anywhere useful, so then you’re back in the hallway, again wondering, “Well… maybe if I check just one more door…..”

And you wind up back in the hallway. And never make an actual decision.

What’s the opposite of endless options? Focus. And what is the number one thing that most very successful people say led them to real success? Focus.

Focused people still face just as many options as the rest of us. (Often more.) The difference is, they’re not opening each and every door to see where it might take them. They already know where they want to go, so it’s easy to rule out most of the doors because they lead someplace else. They’re good at listening for sounds coming through the door before they open it, and ruling it out if it doesn’t sound like where they’re heading. They may wind up trying a few doors to see if they lead to the right place – to their goal, that glorious place they can envision – but they’re not going to try all of them.

Sometimes, indecision is a symptom of bad decision-making. But more often, it’s a reflection of lack of focus. You don’t know where you want to go, so you try all 37 doors to see which room looks more alluring. The better way is to focus on what you’re trying to achieve, and to remove everything you can that’s in the way.

And then open the appropriate door.

Quit Clickbaiting, Start Chatbotting: 5 Lessons Marketers Learned in 2017

Quit Clickbaiting, Start Chatbotting: 5 Lessons Marketers Learned in 2017

By | Branding, Content Marketing, Digital advertising, Social Marketing, Strategy | No Comments

Now that the holiday hustle is nearly over, our marketing team has some time to reflect on the past year – what worked, what didn’t and what we want to try in the future – because even us pros have a lot to learn.

  1. Millennials are no longer brands’ first priority. Another key demographic has come of age: Generation Z, otherwise known as those born during or after 1995. With close to $44 billion in purchasing power (according to Forbes), their attitude toward social media (they like more privacy) and advertising (they’re resistant) will shape the future of both.
  1. Influencer marketing is bigger than ever. People always follow the popular kids – and these days, they follow those kids on Instagram. Engaging pillars of social media for brand recognition/profit is a strategy that’s steadily gaining traction; a 2017 study determined this marketing tactic got the second-highest ROI of all.
  1. Clickbait isn’t fooling anyone. Hooking customers by declaring that an article or product will “Literally Change Your Entire Life Forever” is suspicious and, let’s face it, dishonest. (Unless you’ve invented a workable method of teleportation, in which case please contact us immediately because that would literally change our entire lives forever.) Rather than leading with hyperbole, test out longer, Inc.-recommended headlines.
  1. Chatbots are the new liaisons. More than ever, computerized customer service reps are connecting companies with customers. While the technology isn’t perfect, chatbots are getting smarter every day; and according to Grand View Research, the global market is predicted to reach $1.23 billion by 2025.
  1. Video content is exploding. Content is always crucial, and that content is increasingly being delivered through video. Forbes estimates half a billion people are watching a video on Facebook every day. Pro tip from Buffer: Square videos not only command 78 percent more space on a mobile news feed, they also get more engagement.

Bonus lesson: We take epic group photos.

Quit Clickbaiting, Start Chatbotting: 5 Lessons Marketers Learned in 2017

What was your most valuable 2017 takeaway? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Ways to Nail Local SEO

5 Ways to Nail Local SEO

By | SEO, Strategy | No Comments

Let’s say you own a local business, and a potential customer is searching for one just like it. What’s her first step? If she’s like 4 out of 5 consumers (according to Bruce Clay, Inc.), she’ll be plugging those keywords into Google. The first page of results is where she’ll find her match – whether it’s your business or another. And you definitely want it to be yours.


According to a Google study:
Half of local smartphone searches lead to a store visit in less than a day (not to mention 34 percent of computer/tablet searches), and 18 percent of those visits lead to a purchase.

That’s payoff you can’t write off.

But in order for your customer to find you, your SEO’s gotta be on point. Here’s a handy list of ten things that’ll raise your rank:

  1. Branding. Make a name for yourself through happy customers and quality services. Google pays attention to positive reviews, and how your business is perceived by its community can make a difference.
  2. Content. As always, you’re only as good as your content creation. Having a variety of informative, regularly updated content gives your site more opportunities to rank higher, as it can appear on vertical search engines like Google Images or YouTube.
  3. Link building. Did you know that anchor (i.e. clickable) text actually sends signals to search engines? The keywords you use in anchor text can affect your ranking as well, so choose wisely.
  4. Social mentions. Are people praising your brand online? Even if they don’t include links, such mentions can boost awareness of and drive traffic to your site. (Social media is 2017’s word of mouth, after all.)
  5. Google My Business (GMB). This is crucial for any place of business – and it’s free! Optimize your GMB listing here with a concise description, high resolution image, phone number, and correct business hours.

Following these tips should get you well on your way to super SEO. Want five more? Or ten more? We just so happen to have an expert in house – contact us today!

Make that Pokémon-ey: Monetizing the World’s Pokémon Go Obsession

Make that Pokémon-ey: Monetizing the World’s Pokémon Go Obsession

By | Culture, Economy, Fun, Sales, Strategy | No Comments

“Have you played Pokémon Go?”

Unless you’ve spent the two weeks hiding under a rock (which is a totally legitimate pastime, of course), someone has asked you this question by now. Released on July 6th, the tremendously popular app has already been downloaded at least 15 million times [Heavy] and is worth approximately $29 billion [MoneyNation]. There’s no doubt that Pokémon has been a financial success for its developer, Niantic, and rumor has it that McDonald’s is already preparing to pounce on this marketing opportunity [Gizmodo]. But what about the rest of us? Is there a way for small business owners to get in on the game that so quickly made its way to the top?

Turns out, there are several – and most of them are free!

  • Pick a side. If you haven’t already played Pokémon Go, the basic premise is this: 1) Create your trainer (i.e. avatar), 2) Choose one of three teams: Team Instinct (yellow), Team Valor (red) or Team Mystic (blue), and 3) Scurry about collecting and training Pokémon in various locations. Once you’ve picked your team, you can get in on the fun by providing corresponding deals to other “team members.”
  • Buy a lure. Purchasable in-game, lure modules last 30 minutes each and attract a bevy of “wild” Pokémon to a specified location. As many business owners have already discovered, they’re also a great method of enticing patrons. Inc estimated that it only costs $1.19/hour to keep the lures (and the humans that follow them) coming all day – and you can bet you’ll make that money back in no time!
  • Connect with millennials. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to appeal to marketing-wary millennials by actually playing the game, sharing your finds on social media, and offering discounts on products to people who’ve caught certain valuable Pokémon. Your younger audiences will appreciate the fun vibe!
  • Work that Pokéstop. If you’re fortunate enough to have a storefront near a landmark, monument or other prominent building in your town, advertise it. People flock to these spots in order to restock in-game items, and if you happen to be nearby…well, you just found yourself a whole bunch of potential customers.

We don’t know exactly when this idea might be implemented, but Niantic CEO John Hanke has already expressed interest in further monetizing the app with sponsored locations. “Pay us to be locations within the virtual game board – the premise being that it is an inducement that drives foot traffic” [Financial Times]. In the meantime, let the above suggestions keep you busy.

Happy hunting!

Make that Pokémon-ey: Monetizing the World’s Pokémon Go Obsession


#Lemonade: A Lesson in Guerrilla Marketing

#Lemonade: A Lesson in Marketing

By | Email Marketing, Strategy, Twitter | No Comments

We could all learn a few things (about marketing/branding/life) from Beyoncé.

For instance: how to grab the attention of an entire nation, become the top trending topic on Twitter, and essentially claim ownership of yet another emoji.

Maybe your product doesn’t have the flowing mane of a majestic unicorn or the body of a warrior princess – you can still adopt the main idea behind Queen Bey’s proven tactics to awe your audience.

What is that, you ask?

It’s simple: Take risks.

Beyoncé’s latest couple projects have set more than just the Beyhive abuzz due to a radical marketing approach – i.e., forgoing the usual press tour/single releases/interviews for a surprise! album release. You don’t have to revolutionize the music industry to take this same approach with your own business – all you have to do is think outside the box. If you have an awesome unorthodox idea, go for it. People are drawn to the innovative, the exciting, the never-been-done-before. If the answer to WWBD is “Do it,” then go ahead – do it!

And if you’re still struggling to make Lemonade, just contact us – we’re quite well-versed in the counterintuitive, ourselves.

#Lemonade: A Lesson in Marketing

The Kardashians: Capitalizing the ‘K’ in Marketing

The Kardashians: Capitalizing the ‘K’ in Marketing

By | Content Marketing, Social Marketing, Strategy | No Comments

The past decade has been permeated with a pop culture phenomenon unlike any other: the Kardashians. Since 2007, the Kardashian/Jenner family has captivated audiences around the world by doing…well, the verdict is still out on exactly what they all do, but suffice to say it’s been enough to consistently entertain, appall, and otherwise engage millions of people for going on 11 years. So what’s the big secret? Is Kris Jenner a marketing genius? (Probably.) Are we all simply mesmerized by the mind-bending amount of beauty and booty in the K/J gene pool? (Definitely.) Regardless of the questionable tactics and unquestionable body parts that have kept them on top all this time, there are a few things we marketers can learn from the Kardashians – even if we can’t keep up with them.

  1. Never surrender. Say what you will about this family, but they don’t back down from a challenge. Someone leaks your sex tape? Turn it into a reality show. Get both married and divorced within the span of one year? Brush it off and proceed to marry someone infinitely more successful. Have psoriasis? Endorse a cover-up spray. While many would willingly fade into obscurity following such misfortune, the Kardashians make their problems work for them. Obviously, starting a reality show isn’t an option for most of us (what do you mean, Paris Hilton wasn’t a childhood friend and Ryan Seacrest didn’t come to dinner last Thanksgiving?) – but regardless, there is a lesson there.
  2. Socialize. All five of the Kardashian/Jenner sisters have massive social media followings and post regularly. Recently, they all created their own apps and websites (subscription-based, of course) so that, for the bargain price of $2.99/month, fans can feel even more involved in the lives of these mythical creatures they’ve never met. Not only have the Kardashians maintained a valuable online presence, they’ve monetized it.
  3. Incentivize. The Kardashians reach out to their fans in a way that both shows appreciation and provides motivation. For instance, Kim is known for rewarding each landmark number of Instagram followers with a cleavage selfie. Of course, in a professional setting, we recommend expressing thanks with something like a fruit basket. No one forgets a nice pair of melons.
  4. Know your audience. The Kardashians know their fan base, and expand their empire accordingly. What do hordes of teenaged girls want? A new lipstick line with Kylie’s face on it! What do female 20-something professionals need? Styling products created specifically for their hair type! What do straight males between the ages of 26-35 want because they secretly think the sisters are super hot but won’t admit it to their girlfriends? A Kardashian conveniently bikini-clad on the cover of Maxim!
  5. Be consistent. Even when you don’t want them, there they are. It’s hard to escape the Kardashians, simply because…they’re everywhere. On social media, on magazine covers, on TV, on billboards. No matter how you strive to ignore them, their omnipresence is undeniable. You have to talk about them, if only to talk about the fact that you don’t want to talk about them.

So there you have it, folks – five valuable things we’ve learned from America’s most famous family. Now go kill it like a Kardashian! (But don’t say we told you to.)

Image by Faye Harris is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.