Are You Throwing Your Marketing Away?

A few months ago while visiting family in New York, I was walking through Manhattan when a young woman handed me a sample bar of handmade soap. It’s a common marketing tactic to hand out free samples, but in this case it was also a missed opportunity as the execution was poorly done.

Kettle corn stand offering free samples

Where Can I Get More of This Sample?

If you’ve ever walked through Manhattan you can’t get very far without someone outside a store trying to hand you something. I assume it’s similar in many cities around the world.

You generally aren’t interested in what’s being handed to you. You might take it because it’s easier than not and then proceed to place whatever was handed to you in your pocket or the nearest garbage can.

When the bar of soap was handed to me I never glanced up and visually processed the store and several months later I can’t even tell you what street I was walking down at the time. I think it was somewhere on Columbus Avenue, but I’m really not sure.

Assuming I got home, tried the soap, and liked it, the only way I could ever buy more would be if the soap or packaging told me where to buy more. The problem is neither had any information on it.

  • The packaging should have included store name, url, phone number, or other contact information.
  • The store name and/or contact information could have been engraved in the soap itself. It would wash away, but give a few extra days to remember the information.
  • The packaging (with information above) could have been designed in a way that made me want to keep it at least until the soap was gone.
  • A business card or some keepsake could have been included with the sample.

My guess is the store was more concerned with keeping the sample small and the packaging generic in order to save on the costs of the sample. Unfortunately this limited any chance they had for success in marketing their product.

They relied on me remembering where I was when the soap was handed to me, which wasn’t likely to happen.

Better would have been to give a larger sample that allowed for important information to be included and ideally saved after removing the packaging, even if it meant less samples could be handed out.

Street sign with the word opportunity

Missed Opportunities in Social Communities

Recently one of the members of my small business forum became concerned that forum posts were appearing on her Google Places page. The suggestion was offered to remove her forum signature so as not to link back to her site and thus break the connection for Google.

This led to a discussion of customers connecting your business to your online profiles. Another member David made a valid point that there are legitimate reasons for not wanting the two connected.

For example not wanting to share your marketing or pricing strategies. Customers may not appreciate how much you markup your product or how you try to sell to them. He pointed to another member who often complains about specific customers.

  • If you say something online you have to accept that someone can find it and connect it to other things you’ve said online, even if you make some efforts to be anonymous.
  • If you post strategy questions as theoretical discussions you mostly remove the potential for customers being upset.
  • There’s never a reason to talk bad publicly about your clients or customers. Have those conversations in private.

Wanting to separate your business and something like a forum profile might be a valid concern, however it takes more effort to remain anonymous than removing a signature link.

With a simple search on business names I could find forum posts for those people who had removed their signatures. One has mentioned their business in several threads. Another uses the business name as a forum username.

Removing signature links isn’t preventing anyone from connecting business and profile for those members. It’s only making it difficult for people who first find the profile to get to the business.

It only takes one person to discover and publicize the connection for your profile to no longer be anonymous. Better for you to not hide the connection than let others discover it.

In the end I think it takes as much energy to make sure you don’t say the wrong thing as it does to simply say the right thing. For the same amount of effort why not take advantage of the marketing opportunity to connect forum profile and business?

Marketing is hard enough as it is without you throwing away opportunities.

Illustration depicting multi-tasking

Maximize Your Marketing Efforts

Not too long ago I mentioned my view of multi-tasking. I think it’s silly to think any of us can honestly do multiple things at the same time and do them well. The truth is what we think of as multi-tasking is really bouncing back and forth quickly between several tasks.

I’d rather think of multi-tasking as having one task serve multiple purposes.

For example when I spend time doing research for a blog post I naturally work toward the goal of publishing the post while at the same time learning something new. One task that helps me accomplish two goals.

If you’re going to spend time on a forum or other social community why not take advantage of the marketing opportunity to promote your brand? Why not have one task serve two goals?

Think about how you currently market yourself and how you could better coordinate your efforts.

  • Do your social profiles link to each other?
  • Do they link to your site?
  • Does your site link to your profiles?
  • Do you practice good internal linking?
  • Do you represent your brand well in everything you do?
  • Are you consistent in the things you say publicly?
  • Is your marketing focused on a few central messages about your product?

Many business throw tactics against the wall and hope one or two stick. Instead why not spend some time to develop a strategy and have all of your tactics work in harmony with that strategy?

Let your efforts in one place reinforce your efforts in another instead of having them work against each other. Create unity and harmony in your marketing.

If you’re going to spend time interacting with a community of people who might be potential customers, doesn’t it make sense to let those people know about your business and make it easy for them to get there?

This is not a photo opportunity with the word 'not' crossed out


We all miss opportunities. None of us is going to be able to capitalize on everything. However, so many missed opportunities could just as easily not be missed. Often we have to actively work at missing them, which just seems silly.

Think about the different things you do right now. Think about the potential opportunities in all those things to market your business.

Is there a simple change you can make like adding a link in a forum signature or connecting various social media profiles? Are you spending all your time convincing someone to buy from you and then forgetting to tell them how and where they can do so?

Ask yourself if you’re forgetting to include important details necessary to achieve your marketing goals. Ask too if you’re passing up free opportunities to get your message across and enhance your brand.

I still have that sample bar of soap. About an hour or so after having it handed to me I took it out of my pocked on the train ride out of the city and realized I’d never remember where I got it. I put it back in my pocket and starting thinking about writing a post like this one. The soap smells nice. Too bad I don’t know where to get to more.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


  1. That was a great read, Steven. I just stumbled onto your blog and although I don’t do web design, I see you have articles (like this one) that even I, can learn from.

    I like how you summed it up with “so many opportunities could just as easily not be missed.” Adding or changing a little detail could make a huge difference.

    About personal branding in social communities, sometimes I catch a tweet from a potential client who has a business. I head over to the his/her twitter page. A lot of times, I am disappointed with the tweets I see there. Some people don’t realize that what they say online will reflect on their brand. It’s also easy to look up someone’s name and find them on forums, blogs and facebook pages.

    Anyway, thanks for giving me something to think and DO about.

    • Thanks Grace. I used to write more about marketing and seo, but now the focus here is more on design and development. Hopefully some of the design posts are accessible to non-designers too.

      So true bout what you say online impacting your brand. I think a lot of people forget that when sitting on the living room couch or even in the office. You never know how someone might find you. I’ve had clients find me here on forums on Twitter and a variety of other sites.

      Glad I could give you something to think about and do. I appreciate the kind words.

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