The Rule of Three

Here's another excerpt from Maria Ross' new book, Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget (2010, Norlights Press).

By Maria Ross 

Maria Ross is the founder and chief strategist of Red Slice ( a branding and marketing consultancy based in Seattle. She has advised start-ups, solopreneurs, non-profits and even large enterprises on how to craft their brand story to engage, inform and delight customers. The following is an excerpt from her new book, Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget (2010, Norlights Press).

When putting together your marketing plan, it’s important to know where your ideal buying audience goes. Try to be in those places. And so you don’t lose your sanity trying to promote and advertise everywhere, go deep rather than broad. By this I mean identify a few key publications, websites, or events that are exactly the right fit for you and create an integrated marketing package with each ad sales rep. Most small businesses don’t have the budget to do a lot of advertising and marketing in every single place their ideal customer might be. So pick a few partners and try to do as much as you can with each one, versus a one-time shot across many different vehicles.

I call this following the Rule of Three. In a given month or quarter, depending on your budget, focus on three publications, three website partners, three events, etc. Engaging in fewer activities, but more of the right ones, will be more effective for you than skipping a stone across the lake and barely making a splash with each marketing vehicle. For example, you might partner with a website that fits your audience profile and negotiate the following add-ons:

* a dedicated email to their subscriber base

* exposure at an event or webcast they’re sponsoring

* online ads in different forums over a three or six month period, rather than just once

* permission to write an article or blog post on a brand-related topic.

Many ad sales reps are delighted to get creative and you can put a multi-touch or integrated marketing program in place to get your brand and promise in front of the right people multiple times and in multiple ways.

Praise for Branding Basics for Small Business

“As someone who has worked with thousands of small businesses, I have seen a lack of a clear, focused brand strategy cause people to waste time, energy, money and flounder in the marketplace. Never fear, Maria breaks down branding so that anyone with a business, or who is thinking of launching a business, can understand why an investment in branding is make or break for creating a thriving business. Don’t launch without it!”

- Beth Schoenfeldt, Co-Founder, Collective-E, an Entrepreneur’s Agency and Community

“In today’s social economy, every business is a brand, regardless of size. And when Ross states that every new hire is a brand ambassador, she proves unequivocally that she ‘gets it’. The question small business owners must ask is if they want to be the ones controlling that brand or the ones left to salvage it. In this book, you’ll learn how to nail down your brand before you spend valuable resources on marketing and people that simply don’t fit your company’s core values.  Your brand is more than just a logo.It’s everything you are and the ticket to positive ROI.”

- Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer, Outspoken Media

“You’ve got such a wide and clear scope on what makes successful brands so… successful. Great coverage. And great inspiration to be true to your values and think big.”

- Danielle LaPorte, creator of, lead author of Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design

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