One of the more difficult aspects of bringing a product to market on your own is developing an audience. How will you get your product into the hands of consumers who will benefit from it? How will they even know it exists? For any entrepreneur, it’s a central challenge. In terms of accessibility, social media has completely changed the game. Want to quickly drum up an audience? You can. There are so many ways to amplify our voices. And even more importantly, people want to be heard. If you’re in the public eye, it’s almost expected. If you’re creative, thoughtful and persistent, you can connect with anyone.
I always love hearing about new ways of getting in, but I was especially impressed by how well my friend Michelle Morrison has been able to stand out from the noise to promote Pro-Pic — the guitar pick her beloved older brother Rick invented — and share his story. Rick was a lifelong musician who was inspired to design a pick that would “stay where it was supposed to” after a friend began dropping his nearly every time they played together. In 2014, Rick died of cancer. In the last year of his life, the siblings worked closely together to bring Pro-Pic to market. Today, due to Morrison’s tenacious efforts, the Pro-Pic is selling online and Amazon.
I grew to know Morrison several years ago after she became my friend on Facebook, and then my student. What sets her apart from your average entrepreneur is her truly wonderful attitude. This is an incredibly positive woman who does not give up. As far as I’m concerned, there is no obstacle she is unable to overcome. When you are attempting to market a unique product like she is, that’s often essential. When she didn’t get the traction she was looking for when she tried to license the pick, she went another route. She reached out to the music community to help her do a small production run. She began collecting testimonials from people who the pick helps play and seeking out endorsements from popular musicians. All these things add up. That’s how pull-through marketing works.
I asked Morrison to describe to me how she’s been able to get so many people to help her along the way. Her number-one rule, she said, is to never ask anything of anyone without first giving or knowing that she will give something in return. Or in her words — is able to practice “genuine relationship marketing.” These are her other best tips.
1. Put the social back in social media.
Morrison stands out from the crowd by regularly leaving “inspirational, motivational, positive comments” on the page of people whose attention she wants to get. She respects that good relationships develop slowly. She never changes her profile picture, which is a close-up of her face. “I want them to remember me, after all,” she said. Eventually, the celebrity and his or her followers begin liking her comments in return. Her policy is to never post photos or comments that she’d “be ashamed to wear on a t-shirt.” People learn to value your character that way, she said.
2. Consider reaching out to a local politician for help.
In the fall of 2014, Morrison wanted to get in touch with Willie Nelson. She remembered Nelson coming to her hometown in Ohio once to support Dennis Kucinich. She asked Kucinich if he would forward a Pro-Pic to Nelson in an email. A few hours later, Kucinich called her to express his support. A few hours after that, Nelson called her personally. “Politicians, like entrepreneurs, are always looking for supporters,” Morrison explained. The fact that Rick had terminal cancer was obviously compelling. But it was only through her pursuit of smaller connections that she was able to reach Nelson.
3. Get comfortable on camera.
Video is incredibly powerful. And, the camera will love you if you work at it. Film yourself walking around the house over and over again if you aren’t a natural, Morrison advised. There’s simply no reason not to. And, never forget: People love dogs. If you can incorporate your pup into your video, “Do it,” she said. When her two labs bounded into the frame of the “video letter” she was recording for Ted Nugent and his wife Shemane, she ultimately decided to go with that take. “I didn’t feel like there was a need to stop my camera… so I just kept going and introduced them. They’re little hams.” The Nugents quickly wrote back, “Love the dogs in your video! Would you like us to share it?”
Context is everything, of course. Before Morrison approaches people whose work she’s familiar with, she researches them even further. “I might genuinely admire someone, have listened to their music, and watched them on television, but I’m not one of those people who knows everything about them. If I’m going to approach someone, I respect them enough to research them.”
And if you’ve done your research, she said, you should have at least a sense of how well your four-legged creature is going to go over. Imperfect can be better than perfect. “Don’t wait until you feel like your video is 100 percent there to submit it.”
4. If you’re passionate about a cause, let them know.
“Above all, be genuine, though. No one likes phony compassion.”
5. Continue customizing your recipe for success.
Morrison combs through webinars, magazine articles, and books looking for new “ingredients.” She keeps inspirational quotes “all over the place” to help her keep moving forward and shares them with others to help them do the same.
6. Listen more than you talk.
Without ever asking, Morrison said she’s gained valuable information about potential partners simply by letting people share. Learn to pause.
by STEPHEN KEY