The Marketing Sage - Marketing Consulting

Connect with me at (919) 720-0995 or 


My goal is to 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.

Contact me at 919 720 0995 or 

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The Marketing Sage

The Marketing Sage Blog

~Marketing Insights to Help You Grow Your Business~

Marketing Testing

Are you testing every aspect of your marketing efforts? 

  • If you send out emails, are you testing different subject lines to see which gets opened the most? A simple A/B test can increase the number of people who read your email and the test is free.
  • Are you testing packaging design in two markets to determine if one label is more effective than the other at gaining awareness? Yes, it costs more to test two ideas, but what if one might hurt sales by double-digit?
  • Did you test your promotional offer last month with your distributors to see if one offer is more effective versus another at getting customers to place an order for something new you are selling?
  • When you designed a new logo, did you show two similar groups of consumers/customer the logos to gauge their reaction, or did you just show one? Packaging change requires lots of tests.
  • In creating a new tradeshow booth, did you just present one idea to your sales team or did you ask them to choose among two concepts?

Taking the Marketing Test

Marketing is a series of tests. When a new client asks me if a new approach will work, I always tell them I don’t know, but we can create a small test to learn if we are on the right path.

Making sweeping changes can be dangerous, just ask big orange. When Tropicana changed their packaging several years ago, it was so disastrous that sales plummeted by 20% at a cost of $30 million dollars nationally. Why they didn’t test the new packaging in a limited region is still a mystery.

They could have prevented a national headache but testing it in limited markets. And why Tropicana changed all the elements (logo, type, slogan, lid, graphics) at the same time meant that consumers no longer could find their beloved brand. Testing each element could have avoided this expensive mistake. Lesson learned: Test one element at a time to control variables. 

Marketing is Continuous Testing 

Whatever the strategy, the tactics need testing over and over and over again. You never finish testing since the marketplace keeps changing every day. From price to place to promotion to the product – every element of your marketing needs to be tested to achieve your goals.

What did you test today?

Are you testing enough in your day-to-day marketing to keep learning? Need help? Let’s talk. Text me at 919 720 0995 or you can use your text machine to call me too. It is amazing. It is called a telephone. Or email me at

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash


The Exclusive Club – Scarcity Marketing

I had a fascinating confidential conversation this week with a company that sells luxury goods. Because I promised to keep the details private, I can only tell you in general terms about her approach to marketing and how she gets customers to wait in line to buy her special products. Imagine having the power of turning away customers because what you sell has a scarce, limited and was created with an exclusive marketing mindset from the start. 

When Denise (not her real name) got into her business, she didn’t want to market her upscale, luxury product like everyone else. She knew that she needed to tap into the powerful desire people have for something they can’t easily get.

Marketing Scarcity – The Exclusive Club

She started by creating an exclusive club that you have to wait in line to become a member. There wasn’t any cost to join the waiting list, and there was no guarantee that you would be able to get into the club. But everyone had to wait in line at least one year to become a member. Waiting in line made membership valuable.

Denise also didn’t sell her goods in places that his competitors sold their products because she didn’t want any competitors. She knew that being in a store or on a shelf would give the perception that this product was like every other product on the shelf – just packaged differently. She only sold directly to members who had waited at least one year to buy from her.

Imagine the stories his customers shared that they had to wait one year to buy from him. Talk about shareable storytelling.

There was no advertising or social media campaign to build awareness like most marketing professionals would have recommended. She didn’t care about likes or followers on social media. She didn’t spend money on fancy image campaigns for his goods either. All she had was an exclusive, and mysterious waiting list and a website built on this idea of intrigue and exclusivity. Even her place of business didn’t have a fancy sign – just a small handwritten note on the outside of her business.

She only makes a few thousand units of this product each year and it is presold to her club members. Her pricing was at least five times higher than the industry average for similar goods. Her club member’s incentive to buy is based on scarcity – they can get something that others can’t get. Her list does lose a few customers each year but through word of mouth, more get in line to buy.

The Principle of Scarcity 

The idea for this approach to marketing was inspired by a book.

Robert Cialdini wrote Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – a landmark book that illustrates some key principles about marketing. The last of his six principles is about scarcity, that can make a product appear more valuable.

A classic study from the 1970’s had consumers value cookies in a jar. One jar had 10, and one jar had two cookies. Which do you think was perceived of as more valuable? Yup – the jar with just 2. We want what everyone else wants and when it becomes scarce, we want it even more.

You may recall Disney using this concept in the past when a Disney classic would go back into the Disney vault and no longer be available for purchase. I recall buying many VHS tapes for my daughter’s because if I didn’t buy, who knew when Aladdin or Sleeping Beauty would be available again?

Lessons about Scarcity – A Powerful Marketing Tool

  • Could you offer a limited edition of what you sell?
  • Have you considered selling a version of your product to an exclusive list who want something others can’t get?
  • Is it possible not to think of selling your product not based on volume but instead, frame revenue from an exclusive, value-based and limited perspective? If you had pricing power to be 5X higher than the category, think of how many fewer units you’d need to sell.
  • Do you create any mystery around your brand so that not everything is transparent and revealed? The goal isn’t to hide stuff, but to pull the curious toward you?
  • Is there a luxury end of the market for your product and category that no one is paying attention to, but you could corner?
  • FOMO- fear of missing out is a powerful motivator. Are you leveraging scarcity in your messaging to your customers?
  • Scarcity and exclusive can also leverage time so that your product or service is only available for a limited time. I remember a fabulous restaurant in Philadelphia when I attended college called Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Those were the only days they opened, and you could barely get a reservation. Could you do a better job of using time limitations to motivate purchasers?
  • Companies that offer goods or services for sale for a limited period often experience as many sales during the last 24 hours as they do the rest of the period. If your audience is already interested in what you do, how can you create demand by pulling the product off the market? Eliminating a product only works when there isn’t a ready and easy substitution for what you sell.
  • Countdown clocks can help reinforce limits and scarcity of opportunity. Think of how motivated you might be to buy when you keep seeing a clock ticking down. eBay is a great example of this principle, and people get motivated to bid during the last hour something is available.

How could you use these principles of scarcity to grow your business in an unexpected way?  

Need help with your marketing? Looking for unusual ideas to help rebrand, refresh or rethink your marketing efforts? I have 30 years of experiences growing small businesses into million dollar brands. Want to connect? Text or call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at

Photo by Paul Dufour on Unsplash



Easy to Spread Marketing

When you are with friends or work colleagues, do you hear them sharing stories about brands?

The savvy marketing professional is always listening to hear how information gets communicated from friend to friend. Whether online or in person, there is much to learn by observing what happens right in front of you.

At a gathering of friends a few weeks ago, I heard several brands mentioned with important information passed along. How much did the company or brand contribute to helping make the story easy to spread? Was the message being spread what the brand manager intended?

Spreading the Marketing Message

How are you enabling information about your brand to be spread to others?

  • If you serve an audience with a special need, people within the community will tell like-minded consumers (veterans telling other veteran families about services owned by veterans). There are veteran Facebook groups where people share stories about their own fellow veterans. These communities offer powerful opportunities to spread positive stories if you avoid an overly commercialized message. What community exists for your products and services? 
  • Does the brand behave differently than you would expect from the category? Patagonia encouraging consumers not to buy too much of their product. Imagine a brand running ads that are counterprogramming what you expect. Don’t buy more than you need – that’s a message you rarely here in retail and Patagonia had their message spread millions of times in social media. Can you create counter-category messaging to separate yourself from the pack? 
  • Posting bite-sized story nuggets that customers can easily share with friends that will entertain or educate them without being overwhelming. Long, complex stories are hard to share. But clever little snippets make it easy to share and digest. Consider sharing the headline – not all the details. Recognize that most people don’t read shared articles, just the headline or a few words in bold. Have you found creative ways to provide non-commercial tastes of what your brand stands for? 
  • Random surprises that brands offer consumers to help spark information that is worthy of passing along. (free deserts at a restaurant if you can answer three trivia questions). Predictable promotions lose their power but when a brand surprises people with random acts of kindness, the word spreads and people wonder if they could be the next recipient. Have you leveraged surprise as a marketing tool to show thanks and appreciation without it feeling expected? 
  • Free samples of products that a customer can share with like-minded consumers helping your customer find more customers for you. How can you provide free samples to customers to pass along to their friends and family? Test multiple ideas to find ways to get more people to learn about your brand from word of mouth versus paid messages. A friend recently sent me a free sample they received of a hot sauce I had never tried. But my friend knew I liked hot sauce. What can you give to your current customers to have them share information about your brand, products or services? 
  • Can you find a way to serve a community and help them prosper, without commercializing every part of the connection? How can you help someone so that they help you build trust in a community? For example, a realtor who doesn’t promote his work with Habitat for Humanity, but just shows up to help. Or, the accountant who volunteers to assist non-profits to complete their taxes. Don’t think you need to constantly create commercial messages. People like to buy from people who are friendly, community-minded and aren’t always asking for a sale. 

Current customers are an undervalued marketing network. You need to understand how to activate with new prospects. 

Are your customers sharing information about your products, services, and brands? Could you use help unlocking this hidden treasure of marketing opportunity? Call or text me at 919 720 0995 or email me at

Photo courtesy of Unsplash rawpixel-com-411158


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