Growing up, I was the only Kristi I knew. I was never confused with another girl named Kristi (although they always spelled my name wrong). I also went to an EXTREMELY small school. I’m talking less than a few hundred, from K-12. Like most schools, favorites were definitely played when it came to certain things.
My elementary PE teacher, who was also the high school volleyball coach (yep, that small), gave me a nickname very early on: Yamaguchi. If you’re not familiar, Kristi Yamaguchi was a popular Olympic figure skater in the 90s. When you got a nickname, it meant you were a favorite.
Or so I thought.
Fast-forward to high school and volleyball season. I might have had a nickname, but wasn’t as much of a favorite as I’d hoped to be. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I wasn’t the best player on the team, but I worked hard and even earned a varsity spot my sophomore year. I never saw time on the court. The nickname was all in vain. I gave up my senior year and turned in my uniform after the first 3 games where I was still a benchwarmer while freshmen were getting play time like Steph Curry.
So why share this unhappy-ending childhood story?
Because unlike mine, your business’s nicknames can have a positive outcome, especially for your branding.
See if you can name the associating brand with its nickname:
How’d you do:
Some of these have learned to take them on as part of their branding. In fact, in Australia McDonald’s is nicknamed Macca’s. For their 40th anniversary in the country, they changed their signage for a short time.
Then there are those who try to keep it too formal. Back in the day, Chevrolet was said to treat its nickname like a cuss word within the company, even putting out “swear” jars around the office.
If your business was given a nickname, learn to embrace it (as long as it’s a positive one). Just like I wore Yamaguchi like a badge of honor, you should, too. A good nickname means that your customers see you as a good friend, makes your business more relatable, and creates a bond with those who use it, like a club. The ultimate goal of a great nickname is to become a household name.
Let’s not forget about brand names who have become associated with its product:
Kleenex (facial tissues)
Q-Tip (cotton swabs)
Crock-Pot (slow cookers)
Chapstick (lip balms)
Sharpie (permanent markers)
And that’s just a small sampling.
If you don’t have a nickname, don’t try to create one. Nicknames for a business, like one you’d give a friend, shouldn’t be forced. If someone you kinda know named Bob tries to get you to call him Bear without any context, it would be weird.
The most important thing about your business is that people know it and want to keep coming back to it. Nickname or not, it’s all about your reputation and staying on brand. Better to have a good reputation than a bad nickname - just ask Canadian Tire.
My family was one of the crazies during the pandemic who started a larger garden in 2021. In my defense, I had done a small front porch garden for a few years prior. With all our new found time, we decided it was a good time to expand. One thing we really love about growing our own veggies was how great they taste. We weren’t worried about cleaning off chemicals, just dirt and the occasional caterpillar (and boy, are they sneaky).
I will admit, it’s been a lot of work, but also really rewarding. We’ve given away so much because we couldn’t keep up with all the produce we had, and we ate the best salads daily during the summer! My smoothies also tasted even better with fresh kale.
Although I could have just as easily kept buying veggies from the store, we felt the investment in good soil and materials plus watering and weeding was a fair trade-off. We also liked how it became a family thing, getting us outside together and enjoying the fruits of our labor (pun intended).
Marketing is really no different.
There are plenty of places you could push your product or service, ads you could pay for, heck, you can even buy mailing lists. But in the end, was it really as good?
Since Google (aka “the Big G”) and others are cracking down on third-party tracking, it can be harder to get in front of the right people with ads or even emails. So what’s the best way stay in front of your audience?
Soil vs Dirt
My sister-in-law had studied Soil Science in college. She is very adamant about the difference between the words “soil” and “dirt”. Soil is full of nutrients and the best place for veggies to grow. Dirt on the other hand is, well, probably the stuff in your backyard. Not as many nutrients, rocky, and filled with who knows what (at least, that’s how I best understand it).
Just like a high-yielding garden needs good soil to grow, your audience needs a good place, too.
Dirt in your marketing looks like:
These, like dirt, add items that will mess with your outcome (aka marketing analytics). For instance, the people who only sign up for your email list to get something for free will most likely open the email with the freebie. Any other email you send won’t be opened. What’s worse - they could possibly end up unsubscribing or report you as spam which in turn hurts any gains you may have earned. It’s like buying a bag of salad at the store. A quick fix for what you need, but when it’s gone, all you have is an empty bag. Give them something more after the freebie, like good information in a newsletter and or exclusive offers in a weekly email.
One thing we’ve looked into for our garden is heirloom seeds. These are the best of the best, able to be used year after year from the items you grow, which in turn saves you from having to buy more seeds or plants.
When you use good marketing, you’ll reap the benefits for years to come. A referral is one of the biggest compliments you can get plus it’s one of the best ways to build trust. When you take care of a customer from the very beginning, they’ll tell others.
That care could be as simple as:
Sharing Your Harvest
When you take the time to care properly for your garden, you usually end up with more than you’ll be able to eat before it rots. One of our goals is to be able to give part of our vegetables away from our garden, especially to the Food Bank of Iowa. We love having fresh veggies and know others love it, too, but maybe struggle with gardening or don’t have the time or resources.
In marketing, one of the greatest ways to build your credibility to help another small business out. If they are your supplier, printer, or maybe a business you’ve had a good experience with personally or for your business, give them a shoutout in an email, social post, or link on your website (don’t forget a link or to tag them!). We all know as SBOs how hard it is to get in front of the right audience. Why not use your success to help out others? You also provide a resource for your audience they may not be aware of and appreciate the referral.
Does organic marketing take time? Yes. But, like an heirloom seed, you’ll always have a good harvest to pick from for years to come. Find the best place to market your business (social media, blogs, email, etc) and wait patiently for the best audience to grow from it.
(If you need help deciding where fertile ground is, let’s chat!)
I remember how excited I was in high school when I found out what a copywriter was. People would actually pay me to write? Sign me up!
I didn’t lose steam in college, either. I was so excited to work on my first marketing project and was so proud of the campaign we created. Then there was my copywriting class taught by my favorite professor and another class taught by 2 interim professors that worked at a local, well-known agency (I may have been a little starstruck). When I took a tour of a different agency that worked with a lot of national brands, I couldn’t wait to graduate and start working.
Then the Great Recession happened. When I graduated in 2009, there were little to no jobs for recent college graduates who studied marketing, especially copywriting.
To say I was devastated may not be a far stretch.
Instead of sulking, I took a job as an administrative assistant (also because I like to eat and have hot water). What should have been a mundane job turned into a chance to build my portfolio. After seeing the “newsletters” teachers sent, I asked the director if I could create something better. Thankfully, he agreed and I made a great newsletter that the parents loved.
Another job I had was an office manager for a warehouse (I had more administrative jobs than I’d like to admit). I had so much free time, I spent a lot of it on social media. And since I was still looking for my dream job, LinkedIn was a big part of that. I noticed our business wasn’t great at marketing (truly non-existent) so I asked the owner if I could create a LinkedIn page for the business. He agreed and I was able to build my skills in social media.
Had it not been for these two people allowing me to do these creative tasks, I may have lost some of my creative spark before I truly had a chance to use it.
Now owning my own business, I want to change that.
April is Internship Awareness Month to encourage businesses to support and create opportunities for college students and young professionals. On April 10th it’s Encourage a Young Writer Day. It was created to encourage young children who love to read and write.
I love that both of these happen in the same month and are part of some big goals I have for my business. I don’t want to hire employees, I want to hire college students pursuing a career in copywriting as interns and those who’ve graduated as contractors. I want to give them the real-world experience their portfolios and resumes need while I learn from them as well.
So how can you encourage a young copywriter?
If they are in college:
Giving college students the chance to try their hand at writing all kinds of marketing will also help them know what they enjoy and do best.
If they’re going to graduate or already have:
Beyond these ideas, the best thing you can do for the copywriter in your life, still in college or graduated, is be supportive. Not many people truly know what a copywriter is, so having someone in their corner helps family meals, holiday gatherings, and other events be a little less stressful and awkward. Trust me, they’ll be grateful to you for it.
Thoughts from Me
Tips, advice, and more from my experience as a copywriter, marketer, and small business owner.