The Marketing Sage - Marketing Consulting

(919) 720-0995 |

My consultancy can help grow your sales. 

The Marketing Sage Consultancy offers imaginative marketing advice, counsel, and services. I support small to mid-sized businesses, whose products and services need fresh insights, creative inspiration, and a proven process to reach the right audience. Strategy always comes first, before tactical execution. 

Hire me as a fractional CMO/VP marketing a few days per month when you don’t need a full-time marketing executive.  Other services include marketing audits, brand naming projects, marketing strategy, digital lead generation, facilitate brainstorming sessions and creating targeted brand awareness campaigns.  

Work with a successful entrepreneur and senior global marketing executive who built and sold what INC MAGAZINE recognized as one of America’s fastest growing company. Put more than thirty years of marketing expertise to work for your business. 

I sell seasoned advice.


(919) 720-0995 |  

The Marketing Sage

The Marketing Sage Blog

~Marketing Insights to Help You Grow Your Business~

Marketing and the Competition

Marketing and the Competition

Marketing professionals look in the mirror and have reflections filled with angst over their competition.

They watch with great anticipation to see what they will do next, how they respond to market changes and they get obsessed about how they price their products.

Of course, a deep understanding of competition matters, but it rarely solves the most critical challenge marketers face.

How can we be true to who we are?

Worrying about competition means that you are always in comparison mode with others. They add a new SKU, so you add one.

They sell through a new channel, so you feel compelled to do the same.

And while you are copying and pasting what they do, brands that are followers often lose their way.

Family Vacation as Metaphor

A simple metaphor is the family vacation. You would never look at the holidays your neighbors take and say, I want to do what they are doing. Your kids may hate Disney World and prefer to go camping. Just because a family down the block took their kids to Europe, it may not be the adventure you want for your children.

As a family, you want to give your children an experience that you and your spouse feel will give them a chance to get away and to open their eyes to a new experience. You want the vacation to resonate with everyone and be authentic to your family, not the neighbors. 

If you are copying your neighbors, you aren’t in tune with what matters to you and your family.

The same is true for brands and businesses. 

Competition and Marketing

When I work with clients on creating marketing strategies to help them grow, we do review the competition, so we have a baseline understanding of their customer’s choices.

But we quickly move on to find things we can do that reflect who we are, what we believe in and actions that serve our customers in our special way.

These “only we” moments are critical because they give you distance from the competition. They allow your company and brand to have a unique approach to the marketplace.

Finding gaps or areas that competitors don’t serve are helpful and directional.

But until you do things that only your brand does, you’ll remain a blur and won’t break through. The best situation is finding a new dimension of value that your competition doesn’t address.

A new aspect of value is a blue ocean approach to the marketplace, where you aren’t selling based on the same considerations as the competition.

  • Cirque du Soleil eliminates the animals from the circus but keeps the exhilaration.
  • Daybreaker focuses on dance parties, but they take away the nightclub, late night and alcohol. 
  • Louboutin focuses on the red soul on each shoe, not just the elegant woman’s shoes.
  • Nomacorc, my former employer is a wine closure brand that markets Plantcorc® that is made from sugarcane, creating a new category that no one else sells.
  • Nomaco, a client, sells Herculean foam, that is unlike any other foam because of it is both lightweight and strong, replacing wood.

The trick is to focus on a need that your customers have and that your competitor doesn’t sell.  Being a copycat does nothing for your customers. You can’t stand out from the crowd, following the competition. 

Doing something original that only your brand can deliver can shifts markets.

How does your brand serve customers in a way that your competitors ignore?

Could you use help evaluating your competition and finding your brand’s “only we” position?  Call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at – or book some time to talk on my calendar.

Photo by Bekah Russom on Unsplash




Owner’s Care

Owner’s Care

For more than twenty years, I have been getting my haircut at the same place not far from my home. Lindsay, who cuts my hair today is both talented and a pleasure to connect with every six weeks. She knows how I like my haircut and we always talk about food, cooking, and family.

As I was leaving to pay, I asked the receptionist if I could schedule my appointments online. It would be so convenient to do, and I can avoid the typical 5-minute wait that happens every time I call.

She, along with her co-worker told me that you can schedule online, but you have to pay upfront, and sometimes it doesn’t work right, and you can’t schedule an appointment for a men’s haircut versus a women’s cut.

Wait, what?

So I went online and found a confusing, complicated form that didn’t work. Ridiculous. In today’s world, this should be simple and second nature.

I emailed the owner through his online form, and 10 minutes later he reached out to apologize. Wow, we screwed up, I’ll get this fixed. Thanks for letting me know it didn’t work.

Owners Care

As an owner, you always care more than your staff. It is your business. You will always care more than most employees.  The receptionist who I spoke to probably figured — NMJ. (not my job). She didn’t say, let me get your phone number or email and I’ll speak to the owner, we will figure it out and I’ll let you know when it is fixed. The two receptionist acted like – gee, it is kind of screwed up. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.


For the owner of a business, everything is your job.

You better care about each of the friction points that get in the way of making a customer’s happy and a transaction easy. Technology makes it so easy that any hurdles are just unacceptable.

In corporations, where you have shareholders and employees, you often find people caring about their work if they are well treated. They’ll go the extra mile but not if they feel an unreasonable work environment.

That’s why the best employees are those people who care as if it was their own business. They are hard to find and worth more than you are probably paying them.

In the end, the owner has to make things work. She has no choice, or slowly the business will get clipped.

That’s who cares.

Do you need help uncovering the friction points your customers have to buy more from you? As a marketing professional, I may be able to shave some of the complexity away. Call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at – or book some time to talk on my calendar. (don’t worry, it is easy to use).

Photo by Adam Sherez on Unsplash




Marketing Genius

Marketing Genius

Marketing requires a thoughtful approach that is rooted in clear thinking. The exceptional marketers recognize a fantastic opportunity that is filled with wit and whimsy. The brilliant marketing genius is open to wild and crazy ideas because they are so difficult to do, and their competition would quickly reject them.

Elon Musk didn’t need to put his cherry red Tesla into space to orbit the globe. He could have focused on the publicity that his Space-X rocket would receive from a successful launch.

But someone, probably Musk had a “what if” moment.

What if, while the world is watching, we could do a little stunt that connects emotionally to all of the hopes and aspirations of exploration into the universe.

Either Musk or his team allowed themselves to imagine something absurdly crazy that could break the Internet and harness the emotional connection of the blast off and reentry of their space rocket.

Stunts, Gimmicks and Strategic Imagination

Every marketer needs a little P.T.Barnum. They need to see beyond the practical and look for ways to capture the imagination of those they want to reach. Putting Musk’s personal Tesla in space with Starman, a dummy dressed in a space suit, with a sign saying “don’t panic” is genius. He even put a copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in the glovebox. And the cherry on the top is blasting Bowie’s “Space Oddity” song.

Creating Brand Equity

Promotional activities can feed a brand’s equity with consumers. Brand equity is the sum of awareness, quality, loyalty, and association. By leveraging a media event like the launching of his rocket ship from his other company SpaceX, Musk could build on the publicity that the launch was already generating.

Companies like Red Bull have figured out how to do this too, but Musk’s inspirational marketing genius was fully exposed last week. The positive associations with a car flying through space can only rub off on the Tesla brand.

Lessons for Marketing Professionals

It is hard to find genius ideas like this, not to mention to have the funds to pull them off. But you can still find ways to separate your brand and product from the crowd through publicity stunts, mainly if the right audience is already paying attention and you are on strategy with the brand’s ethos.

  • Think magically. Don’t start with constraints that something is impossible, impractical or unrealistic. Maybe you can’t make your idea happen, but perhaps there is something that is doable.
  • Bring something fun to a place where your target is hanging out. If thousands of your target audience are gathering, like at a convention – think UNCONVENTIONALLY. Maybe you can create a publicity stunt at a trade show that grabs the imagination of the crowd in a way that shines a bright light on your product but unexpectedly.
  • Do what the competition would never do. Can you imagine GM or Ford personnel sitting around talking about putting a car in space? Tesla is a different type of transportation company so, in keeping with their brand, they have to act differently.

Somewhere, Steve Jobs is looking down on outer space, seeing that flying Tesla and smiling.

Could you use some magical thinking for your brand? Let’s talk. Call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at – you can set up a call on my calendar too.

Photo courtesy of Tesla and SpaceX



Sign up to receive my blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE copy of my e-book, Unraveling The Mysteries of Marketing.


Watch my video presentation to 175 marketing professionals called

Ten Simple Lessons To Help You Market Your Brand.