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Starting conversations, one at a time

IMG_1831Brian Goulet makes handmade, inscribed wooden pens. Truly fantastic stuff.

But how does a one-person business stand out in a mass-produced, mass-marketing world? A small business can’t advertise their way past the clutter. You can’t do a mass-outreach campaign.

But you can use your uniqueness to your advantage.

IMG_1832Do what Brian did: Start giving unique products to loud people (like me). Bloggers, press, evangelists, socialites, and influencers. We each reach more people than Brian can, and his product is something that we use when other people are watching. We carry it around, we sign books with it — and people ask where we got it.

It works because a mass-produced product doesn’t get remarked upon. Everyone has it. The specialness is what starts the conversation.

That’s how word of mouth happens — one conversation at a time.

Thanks, Brian!

P.S. Check out Goulet Pens.

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  1. Mike J March 10, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    Did he just give it to you or you purchased it? If it was given (such as a promotion, gift, etc.) it has to be disclosed to your readers. Or the FTC will come knocking on your door.

  2. Andy Sernovitz March 10, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    Mike, good catch. He gave it to me. Which I thought I made clear by writing about a campaign to give the pens away. But you’re right: disclosure should be clear and conspicuous to the average reader.

    Here is some other FTC advice I wrote:

  3. Lee Bartelme March 10, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    I really like how simple yet effective that this could be. Especially for smaller businesses.

  4. Rennell March 10, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    Just a tought. Does this mean that a product can be low quality and untested but if given the right marketing strategy or endorsed by a popular person can sell like hot cakes? Isn’t this a blow to the end consumers?


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  5. Brian Goulet March 10, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Thanks for the blog Andy!!! For the record, Andy is completely in the clear here. We don’t have any association with each other, except that I read Secret Order of Word of Mouth Marketing and it completely changed the way I ran my business. I had a whole new view on marketing and I really started to put a focus on communicating with my customers. I’ve found that everyone is willing to talk to you and about you as long as you’re willing to listen and participate in the conversation. Haha, I don’t want to be one of those “I did what he said and it turned out just like he said it would”, but it’s really true for me. The pen that I gave Andy was as a ‘thank you’ gift, because the ideas that I got after reading his book literally saved my business.

  6. Brian Goulet March 10, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    I also have a video blog about writing called Ink Nouveau, and I just wrote a blog about you Andy! Check it out:

  7. Syl Wilson March 11, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Awesome! I have heard of the Goulet Pen actually by word of mouth…I took a marketing class with his sister in Chicago and think the pens are beautiful. I kind of forgot about them until now. I think I will go show my boss to see if we can’t order some for our higher profile customers. Excellent post and great marketing tips as always!

  8. Brian Goulet March 11, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Syl, no way! You know my sis, Andrea Goulet? So she told me about Andy through WOM, she told you about me, Andy told you again about me, and now you and I are in contact. That’s WOM in action!!

  9. Andrea Goulet March 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    @Rennell — Where did you get the impression in this post that a low quality product would have the same effect? It’s the uniqueness and quality of the product that sparks the conversation. People ask about the cool thing you have. Eventually, enough people ask you and you decide it’s blog-worthy. As another Marketing guru, Seth Godin would phrase it — making a Purple Cow.

    @Brian — Congrats! You deserve it.

    @Syl — Hey! Small world, isn’t it?

    @Andy — You rock! Your books and philosophies are spot on for small businesses. Thanks for all the great work. :)

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