What the New York Times Could Learn from a Lingerie Blog About Tribe Building

Bridal Trousseaux; Some Dainty Lingerie

Image via Wikipedia

The New York Times recently announced that they would start charging for access to their online paper.

Beginning March 28, if you want to read more than 10 articles monthly, you have to pay at least $15 for the privilege.

I like reading The Times, but not enough to subscribe to the paper version (the delivery is terrible and then I have to worry about getting rid of the old papers).

Online marketing and paywalls

Charging for something that used to be free is always tricky.  The best way to approach it is to offer additional goodies or some sort of extras for subscribing, such as a free book, or no ads or special access to extra features.

Sadly, for all their smarts, the paper isn’t doing any of those things. They’re not adding any value either.  You pay and still get ads.  There’s no extra goodies (insider access or points or recognition of any kind).

Is there added value?

Unfortunately for The Times, internet users have been “trained” that online is free.  That you pay when  you get something extra, or special (ad-free viewing, or badges, or priority service).  The few news paywalls that have worked are for specialized information, or instances where a company is paying for the subscription and the consumer doesn’t “feel” it.

The story about the fees got over 2,000 comments (before they closed it!).  2,000 comments.  That’s one heck of a tribe – if they only wanted to embrace it.

I’ve been reading The Times for years, but I think I’ll start reading CNN, NPR, and the BBC instead. They’re not giving me anything special or unique.  I can get news elsewhere.

Young lingerie addict v. “the old gray lady”

On the other hand, I know a woman in her twenties who runs a growing lingerie blog.  She’s young, but she’s figured out something the “old gray lady” has completely missed.

She’s got a facebook fan page/wall.  She posts pictures and videos.  She interacts, she guest posts.  She responds to comments, she tweets, and has a tumblr.  She’s building a brand and a crowd of loyal fans.  Do they like her?  Yes they do.  Her blog is free, but she offers other services that aren’t.  General information is free.  Personal attention or merchandise costs money.

Would they miss her if she disappeared?  They would. Unlike the Times, she’s giving them something they can’t get elsewhere.

If you wanted to build your tribe (loyal buyers), what would you do?  Start a recognition program (client of the month)?  Offer badges to top commenters on your blog?  Welcome new readers? Extra access/higher priority service for those who pay more?

What do you think the Times should have done?

The Connection Between Clients and Old Shoes


Image via Wikipedia

It is a truism of business that it costs more to find new customers than it does to keep old ones.

So, why do so many companies treat their existing customers so badly?  The phone company and the cable company offer all sorts of incentives for new customers to sign up (lower prices, extra channels, bundled services).

Old customers?  They’re old shoes, scuffed up, with the heels worn down.  Not bright and shiny like the new customers.  No goodies or discounts for them.

I just cut ties with an insurance company.  I’ve been with them for 19 years.  They didn’t even ask why.  Nor did they try to win me back. All they did (two months later) was send a note acknowledging the cancellation.

Why not do something remarkable?

What if the cable company occasionally offered a freebie to its current customers.  Like a surprise 25% discount on the anniversary of the day you signed up. Or a greeting card on your birthday.

It would build trust and loyalty.  And, it would be remarkable.  Customers would talk about it. They’d tell their friends. I mean, have you ever heard of the telephone company being nice?

We can do better

Large corporations, like the phone company or the cable company are often slow, bureaucratic, and sometimes a bit arrogant.

Since we’re agile and nimble and all that cool small business stuff, we can do better than that.  Keep in contact with your clients.  Email them or send them random surprises (the good kind) just because.  If they leave you, ask why.  . See what happens.

Why Your Marketing Needs More Chocolate

Hersheys Chocolate

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Chocolate! The best food ever (closely followed by cheesecake, roast duck, and fettucine alfredo).   Chocolate was once very, very expensive.  Only the upper-classes could afford it.

Then Milton Hershey came along and figured out a way to make it cheaply.  His chocolate tasted different than the old world brands, but it was cheap.  People bought it and people ate it. It was “the chocolate” around here.

Chocolate goes upscale

Now, of course, we have Green & Blacks, Dagoba, imported Dutch chocolates, and Amazon to bring us single plantation chocolate, higher cocoa content chocolate, imported chocolate and on and on.  New kids on the block can distinguish themselves by being organic, completely over the top (Max Brenner, or, my favorite, Michel Cluizel – which flies chocolates in regularly from Paris).

Why chocolate on a marketing blog?

Well, one I have a craving for it.  But more importantly, it shows how companies in a crowded field, or an industry that was ordinary, can stand out and differentiate themselves. Change the packaging, change the contents, make it harder to find, easier to find….

Copy the chocolatiers and make your business stand out

How do you stand out from other designers or writers?  Are you faster?  Slower? Do you make your illustrations by hand with pen and ink? Or work wonders with Photoshop and Illustrator?

Not everyone wants to (or can) pay $5 for a chocolate bar.  Likewise, not everyone will appreciate the value of a hand-drawn one-of-a-kind blog header.  Some will (those are your tribe).

How do you stand out?

Share your strategy in the comments.  Or, ask for feedback.


When I was a kid, my dad would buy imported Dutch chocolate shaped like little wooden shoes.  Haven’t seen them in years.  Does anyone know where to find them in the US?

How to Be Remarkable

Twix bar Purchased March 2005 in Atlanta, GA, USA

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A lot of ink (and pixels) have been used to teach companies the secrets of remarkable marketing.  But sometimes, being remarkable isn’t about how you run your Twitter account, or that new ad campaign you’re about to run.  Sometimes, it’s something that you never even meant to be public. In this case, it wasn’t even directed at a customer (or likely potential customer).

Remarkable marketing to one person

A little boy in New York wrote a letter to the Mars Company as part of a school project.  He wanted the recipe for Twix, his favorite candy bar.

A few months ago, he received a large package from the W. P. & R. S. Mars Company, with a handwritten letter inside. It said,

“Dear Bryce,

Thanks so much for your letter. We are not the Mars Candy Company. We are a Midwestern supplier of industrial equipment. So, I am sorry that we can’t tell you how Twix are made. However, we can send you some. Hope they make it to New York in one piece.”

Inside the box were two extra large size Twix bars, a pizza cutter, and a key chain.

Seems his dad had looked up the wrong address. The industrial Mars company had nothing to gain by sending goodies to a little boy, unless he grows up to open a pizza place.

But, they took the time to respond (with a handwritten note) and send him a present that would make him smile.  It was remarkable enough that his dad wrote to the New York Times Metropolitan Diary column to share the story.  And remarkable enough that they published it and I’m sharing it here.

What can you do to be remarkable?  Or what are you doing that’s worth talking about?

And does anyone have any spare candy bars? This post is making me hungry.

Gotta Get a Gimmick: Marketing Secrets from Gypsy Rose Lee

If you’ve never heard of Gypsy Rose Lee, she was a burlesque dancer. Let’s get that right out front. I was watching the movie Gypsy recently, and there was a scene where the experienced dancers were showing her the ropes and what really mattered to get more attention (and more work).

Use your gimmick to stand out

What made the difference?  Was it talent? Nah. That’s not what counts. “You gotta get a gimmick.” For example, one had blinking lights attached to her costume.  Another woman had a bugle. A third did ballet steps in between bumps and grinds (so mild by today’s standards).

The point? Not that I’m recommending you walk around with a bugle, or decorate your web site with blinking lights.

Marketing gimmick example

Do something that nobody else in your field can match. Something, that gets people talking about you, or makes you recognizable wherever you are on the web or in real life.

Sonia Simone has pink hair. Pat Ferdinandi has a parrot. Other people take pictures of themselves wearing ornithopter glasses (ahem).

Or, it could be something about how you interact with your customers.  I buy barrettes from France Luxe (great for thick hair).  If you buy three at once, they send you a fourth one for free. Everything is also beautifully wrapped in tissue paper.

Warby Parker donates a pair of eyeglasses for each pair they sell. Tom’s Shoes does the same thing with footwear.

I know of a web developer who adds a free favicon URLlogo image to every website he creates.

What’s your gimmick?