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Actor Jeremy Piven attends An Evening with "Entourage" at The Paley Center for Media on July 20, 2011 in New York. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
Actor Jeremy Piven attends An Evening with "Entourage" at The Paley Center for Media on July 20, 2011 in New York. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Grow: Ryan Caligiuri

A marketing lesson from hit series Entourage Add to ...

Ever since 2004, the hit HBO series, Entourage, has featured product placements from companies ranging from Tequila Avión to Gucci to Ermenegildo Zegna. This tactic has helped these companies get visibility among a target audience of males who identify with characters in the show.

The placements are made because these companies realize that viewers will likely be influenced by what they see the boys from Queens drinking and wearing. And this will result in inquiries and purchases of the products they offer.

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Product placements on TV shows are a great tactic for influencing a target market. But it’s not an easy one for small businesses to pursue.

Nevertheless, the principle remains at work for a business of any size: Consumers look to what others do to help them reach their own decisions; if they see lots of people, eminent people or people they identify with doing something, they are often more likely to follow along.

If you don't think that consumers and businesses are looking at what others are doing as a way to make their own decisions easier, you are neglecting a very important and powerful marketing principle.

Small businesses can leverage a variety of tactics to achieve the same, influencing their prospects and making their decision to follow along much easier. Here are some of them:

Case studies

When prospects seem unsure of whether or not to do business with you, present a number of case studies. They show the prospect that others have already made a decision to do business with you, and that it’s probably pretty safe, and maybe even smart, to follow in their footsteps.

Put case studies in your sales presentations and on your website. Keep them brief and make them easy to read.

Testimonials

Testimonials are one positive way to highlight key benefits that someone has received from doing business with you. When people hear that another person or company similar to them had a good experience with your business, they will likely feel more confidence in your ability to help them as well.

Testimonials should be placed everywhere on your website, in your marketing material, even on the back of your business card.

Referrals

What if someone you knew and respected made a referral to a provider? Chances are you would likely feel more comfortable beginning a relationship with that provider rather than if no endorsement was made at all.

Ask well-known people in your community to support your product or service. Get them to participate in a referral program where they are rewarded for every sale their referral brings.

Awards and distinctions

Winning an award or being recognized for a certain distinction is validation that you are a credible company. Look for awards and distinctions that will demonstrate your stability or abilities in the marketplace.

Social media

Having a well-developed brand online and being engaged with a great number of people demonstrates to the marketplace that others follow you so it should be fine for them to do the same.

As they search through your Twitter stream, Facebook page, LinkedIn page, blog, YouTube Channel, Google+ page or Klout score, they will quickly get a feel for who you are, why people follow you and if you are someone they believe they can see themselves doing business with.

The takeaway

Large companies like Gucci have big budgets and can afford to influence their marketplace with expensive product placements like that seen on Entourage. Small businesses aren’t at a disadvantage, though, because there are plenty of other tactics with which to try to influence the marketplace. By using even one of them, a small business can demonstrate that others have already bought or bought in, and bring more followers on board.

Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist who believes that many organizations are wasting their money on ineffective marketing tactics, that many professionals and students feel lost because their actions don’t translate into positive results, and that all three groups are too comfortable following the status quo. He is driven by the desire to refocus their efforts to resurrect the impact of marketing.

Engage with Mr. Caligiuri on Twitter.

Join The Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

Follow on Twitter: @RyanCaligiuri

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