Seattle Businesses – Don’t miss this brand and marketing workshop!

Maria Ross - Marketing and Brand Expert

Maria Ross - Marketing and Brand Expert

Defining a brand strategy is essential for all businesses and a task that many small business owners find daunting.  To be successful in any economy or market, businesses need to have a defined niche and a sound strategy for how they are going to position themselves in the market place.  Regardless of how good a product or service may be, positioning and perception make all the difference.

Taking the time to define a marketing and brand strategy are a wise time and money investment that will pay off quickly.  Two of Seattle’s big brand and marketing dynamos, Maria Ross, Marketing Director for Red-Slice and Whitney Keyes of Whitney Keyes Productions, are holding a workshop to guide you through the marketing maze and help you find practical and creative ways to attract new customers  – and keep the ones you have loyal to you.  The workshop is being held February 11th, 2009, and is an excellent opportunity to get practical strategies from Seattle marketing dynamos.  For more information about the workshop, just visit: Branding Workshop.





5 Basic Elements of Targeted Marketing

tragetThere are many styles of marketing, but only one that truly works in all applications. That one style is known as Targeted Marketing. Targeted Marketing uses information and planning to reach the right people at the right time. Below are the five basic elements to effectively and efficiently utilize this style of marketing.

1. Know Your Audience: Just like you know your products or services, you likely know who will benefit from them the most and why. What problem does your particular product solve? Are there any other problems that that same product solves? Who has these problems? Bingo, you have found your target. Now you must learn about your target market. What are there habits? Where do they shop? What media sources do they use frequently? Why do they hang out? What do they like and dislike? Knowing your audience in this way will help you to focus your marketing efforts toward them in an efficient manner. If you were trying to reach an 80 year old man you wouldn’t post an ad in Vogue would you?

2. Optimize Your Efforts: For every company this element will vary slightly, but the general emphasis here is to make sure the tools and information you have available to your clients are working for you. If you have a website, make sure the content is updated on a regular basis, the metadata is accurate and accessible including keywords and a site map. The same goes for brochures and other informational leaflets. The information needs to be accurate and honest and the appearance needs to be clean. No one likes looking at something that hurts the eyes. If there are too many bells and whistles or too many vibrant colors you are going to lose your audience. Simple is usually best!

3. Be The expert: Develop the ‘Know, Like, Trust’ effect by becoming an expert in your market. Write articles, have free information available, be honest and upfront. If you have the opportunity to share something that you know and enrich someone else’s business/life they will become a source of referrals down the road.

4. Plan Your Attack Strategy: Whit the information you now have you should be able to formulate your marketing plans. Know what you are willing to spend and where you want to spend that money. Figure out if your going to use mail marketing vs. email marketing and know where you are going to get your mailing lists from. (It is always best to use a source you can trust) Know what keywords are best for finding your information online. Figure out where you need to be so that your customers will find you instead of you having to hunt for them.

5. Befriend the media: The media is a huge source of referrals and are more than happy to learn about new inventions, new techniques, new anything. Use the media to your advantage by sharing information. Think of this as an extension of both elements 3 and 4. You are more of an expert in the public mind if the media mentions you or your business. Press releases, on air spots, and other media events should be a part of your attack strategy.

These five elements take planning and effort to be successful. Just as you wouldn’t leave the house without your keys, you don’t want to start your marketing with only one element in place. Figuring out who your marketing needs to reach, where to find them and how best to reach them makes a huge difference in any marketing plan.

Article Submission: A clever way to get your name out there

Are you a good writer? If so you can put that talent to work for your business by submitting articles online. A good article can generate publicity for your website. This means more traffic and more customers. There are a few good places to start looking if you want to try this. Three reputable websites are, ezinearticles,com and These three sites have some differences but they all allow your articles to get exposure from the public, which will in turn generate exposure for you, your company and your website. The first website, automatically distributes your article all over the internet. It won’t just stay at that site waiting for someone to come and view it. They specifically target directory hubs that have massive traffic from publishers who look for quality articles. They also target category specific websites regarding the topic of your article. also has an in-house team of publishers who review articles as they come in. is the second website that’s worth checking out. This site has similar content to, with some noteworthy points of interest. They have a 10 article limit for new members. However if your article meets or exceeds their expectations they will upgrade your membership status to Platinum. This means that you are allowed unlimited submissions for your articles. This site formally was a pay site, but they are currently trying out an ad-supported system in which they are able to let people submit ads without charge. They obviously want quality writers if they are going to grant this free service. is the last site that will be discussed. This site’s most notable feature is that it is free. They let registered authors submit their new articles at no charge and they allow them to view and manage their older articles as well. Their goal is to build the most comprehensive article database and submission site that is free. This may be a great choice for a smaller company that is trying to get exposure but wants to keep its overhead as low as possible. In conclusion, submitting articles can be an effective and relatively inexpensive way to boost your company’s exposure. If you’re a good writer, you can use this gift to help your business grow.

Autoresponders: The missing link to customer service

 Autoresponders can be a very effective tool, but if they are not written well, they can give a potential customer a cold feeling. If someone sends you an e-mail, your autoresponder needs to do one thing very well; keep them interested. Hardly anyone will make a transaction on their first trip to your website, so this is important. This message doesn’t need to immediately make the sale, it just needs to make them want to come back and visit you again. Autoresponders need a compelling headline to grab the readers and make them want to keep reading. This will also cause the autoresponder message to stand out, increasing the likelihood that the potential customer will call back or visit your website again. Another tactic to improving your Autoresponders effectiveness is to use personal names. There are autoresponders that allow personal names to be used automatically. Obviously some information is needed for this to be possible and you will likely need to have already had some contact with the individual . Instead of the message of dear valued customer, it would read Dear John Smith. This has a strong psychological effect that can mean the difference between a repeat and a lost customer. This doesn’t need to be limited to just their names either. There are ways to note specific information like past services or sales that will really impress the potential customer. This will make them feel like they aren’t just being contacted by a machine. Giving your potential customers some comparison between your services and some other company’s services is another great way to make your autoresponder message stand out. If your company does something better than other companies, let people know about it. If you sell a product that is less expensive or better than another product, have that information right in the autoresponder message. Let them see a comparison between your company and your competition. This can be a powerful tool in gaining new customers.


The Intricacies of Selling in Japan

The Japanese are very forgiving of foreigners especially when it comes to not fully understanding all of their customs and cultures.  They prefer not to have one-on-one meetings and will wait until there can be multiple people at the business meeting.  It is important to be respectful because if you make a bad reputation for yourself, it will take a long time to change the bad image that you have made for yourself.  Through building of relationships, a company can obtain many referrals, since it is all based on trust.  Selling online to Japan is a market that is really taken off and that companies should jump on.  There are requirements to being successful in this arena.  The customer service must be impeccable.  This includes understanding what Japanese consumers want and need from their products and services.  Quality is a top priority in their decision making.  However it is also important to understand the language, so if someone speaks Japanese that would be much better.  What would be considered a harmless product in the United States could be perceived as offensive in Japanese culture, so this is something an American company must tread lightly on.  An example of this is, on Valentine’s Day chocolates and presents are given from the female to their boyfriends, husbands, etc.  But the male counterpart must wait a month until it is White Day to reciprocate the presents.  If a company fails to understand this, it could be detrimental.  Also, the different age groups can vary among how to target those markets and the customs that they hold dear.

A great resource for this topic is Market to Japan.  They provide marketing consulting to firms exploring into Japan.  Check out their website at:

Doing Business in Japan – Intimidating and Challenging!

Doing business in Japan can be intimidating to foreigners who do not understand their culture or their business habits. This is not a barrier to doing business in Japan though. There are just a few things that a foreign business person needs to know before they travel to Japan for business. First and foremost, depending on who you are dealing with, the entire meeting may be spoken in Japanese. This may be the case, especially if you are dealing with a smaller domestic company. However, if you are in a meeting with a large company, the people you speak to will likely be fluent in English. Understanding Japanese or at least having an interpreter is definitely a plus when doing business in Japan The meetings will be very formal and there will be very little small talk as there are in American or European meetings. Sometimes these meetings can appear cold to foreign business people. The Japanese executives will politely exchange business cards, listen to your presentation while taking notes, ask some questions and leave. This has nothing to do with their interest, it’s just how they conduct meetings. One thing that can be said about Japanese culture is that it is very polite. During the meeting you will be treated in the most polite and respectful manner, so it is important that you do the same. Outside of a meeting room, the Japanese will continue their tradition of politeness by entertaining their business guests. They will often take foreign executives out to dinner even if they have no intention of doing business with them. Sometimes this can happen several times in a row and give the foreign executive the wrong impression that their Japanese hosts are interested when they are not. One aspect of the Japanese business culture that makes it more favorable than others is their sense of loyalty. If you are a trusted business partner or associate of a Japanese company, you can expect them to stand by you through good times and bad. They have a strong sense of loyalty in both their business and personal lives that is very admirable.

A great resource for this topic is Market to Japan. They provide marketing consulting to firms exploring into Japan. Check out their website at:

Thai Culture and the Intricacies of International Business

International Business in Thailand

International Business in Thailand

There are many factors that a person doing business in Thailand must pay attention to. One of the most important aspects is how you present yourself, both in appearance and behavior. They appreciate calm people and are taken off guard by people that come across as emotional. Gender is also important. You must always shake the man’s hand and just smile at a women. According to Professional Travel Guide “The traditional Thai greeting is called the wai. It consists of placing the palms together in a prayer-like position at the chest and gracefully bowing the head.” This is a critical aspect of their culture and must be only used at certain times. It is very much a hierarchical culture. A way to get an advantage to other businesses is to have a business card that has both English and Thai languages on it. Body language can tell a lot about someone. For example crossing legs in front of a high ranking person is considered rude. Another sacred part of the body is the head and should never be touched. Many people in the business world speak English in Thailand. However they will be impressed if you now a few Thai words. It is perfectly okay to talk about family, as long as it is not demeaning or negative.

It is best to get an intermediary when conducting business in Thailand, to help with all the details of your visit. Most initial meetings will be over a meal or drinks. Just keep in mind that business will not be conducted at this meeting. This is not a fast paced business environment but they are very good business people. When attending a business meal, it is important to read up on all the rules of these meetings. There are many etiquette rules that they follow and understanding them is essential to having a good meeting where you do not offend their culture.

Have you had an international business experience that could have gone better if you had researched the culture? Do you have experience conducting business in Thailand?