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grow: ryan caligiuri

Every small-business owner at some point gets the inner urge to be creative with advertisements, banners, taglines, sales folders or websites.

Creativity is fun, but how often do you experience a clever advertisement and then forget the product or service that was being promoted? It confuses the message and distracts from communicating what's important to the marketplace.

To create a shift in the minds of an audience and get people to switch, buy for the first time, or build-long term loyalty, you need to focus less on being creative and more on several key marketing fundamentals. Entertaining the marketplace can be expensive for a small business. Your money is better spent on communicating vital pieces of information that will lead consumers to make the decision to buy.

Three elements should be communicated: benefits, reasons why, and your unique selling proposition.


Stating the benefits that your product or service brings to the market is critical. Everything you create should be driven by this. A tagline, a marketing brochure, a website, or an educational article should communicate a key value.

Reasons 'why'

People are naturally resistant to marketing messages, and the marketplace will continue to resist switching to or buying your product or service until it is told why it's important enough to consider. Small businesses must lead potential customers to the reasons why they should buy, why a product or service is more advantageous, and why they need to take action.

Unique selling propositions

A USP is not a tagline created by using alliteration, rhyming or the synonyms feature in Microsoft Word. It's a tagline that takes a more strategic approach that addresses benefits and reasons 'why' in a succinct, easily repeatable tagline you can build your brand around.

The more clearly you telegraph what makes you a better choice, the more often clients will choose you over the competition.

A lesson from the beer business

When Schlitz Brewing Co. decided to go to market with a message to promote its business, it didn't aim to entertain like Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., which spends millions a year on talking frogs and Clydesdales. Schlitz focused more on marketing fundamentals.

The company honed in on several key points to use in its messaging:

• The 4,000-foot artesian wells next to Lake Michigan that gives it pure water.

• After 2,000 experiments it had discovered a mother yeast cell that gave the beer a distinct taste.

• Separate rooms where beer is condensed and redistilled for purity.

• Bottles are cleaned and re-cleaned 10 times.

• An assortment of testers taste the beer numerous times for quality.

Schlitz informed the marketplace of the benefits to buying its beer, the reasons people should choose its product over the competition, and did all that in a succinct, easily repeatable manner. The company began using these key points to tell a story about its beer purity compared with the competition, and its sales went to No. 1 from No. 8.

Small businesses can learn a lesson from Schlitz by being more strategic than creative with marketing communications.

The takeaway

The next time you are trying to figure out how to say you're a leader in your field, don't look for an image of climbers being hauled up the mountain by a team of sherpas, or of business men and women in suits running a race that ends with one of them breaking through the tape with force.

They may be creative, but they are certainly not saying anything that will grow your business.

View an archive of the live discussion: Is creativity in marketing overrated? Click here to read.

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.

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