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Big Company Tactics for Your Small Operation

Cannondale is a globally recognized bike company with huge distribution and approximately 300 different bike models at any one time.

The company’s designs are sleek, contemporary machines which provide speed and serious durability with intense frames covered in bold color palettes and graphics. The company has very specific messaging and a very specific audience.

This summer I was on conversation with a member of their North American marketing team. I wanted to know what exactly does a globally established bike company do to promote itself in so many different markets? What’s the system?

Generally speaking, the process begins with new product releases, ongoing customer education and some strong industry entertainment (because that last bit is what a loyal Cannondale customer expects).

For example, each time Cannondale launches a new bike, the marketing cycle ‘begins again.’ Cannondale sales reps are sent into the field with new bikes and education for mechanics, distributors (stores) and consumers; media is alerted, influencers might receive an advance private release or test product and other Cannondale specialty teams are dedicated to participating in and hosting consumer events. Previous product campaigns may overlap or merge into the latest one, but a new bike = new promotion cycle. Meanwhile, the digital managers are overseeing traffic and pushing online sales.

The overarching strategies listed below (with the exception of the Party Bus - but even that can be morphed into your own mini-event) are opportunities any small, creative business can easily initiate with that accessible thing we all love - sweat equity.

1) Data analytics and digital marketing

Cannondale wants to track where (geographically) all traffic on their site is coming from and hypothetically promote more at those locations. The buyer’s actions on the Cannondale site can reveal patterns about consumer behavior, like what influences a purchase, how long a visitor is on the site before buying, or which pages are ineffective based on drop-off rates (bounce rate). This info in turn tells Cannondale more about their customer and the customer’s experience (also known as the UX or User Experience), plus inform Cannondale which other sites are driving traffic to the Cannondale site. This corner of the marketing will include PPC ads (Facebook pay per click ads, for example or Google Ad Words) or any other online paid advertising, the results of which can be tracked, profits recorded, and turned into data . Think weekly traffic reports, “content keyword integration” , trends analysis and an internal management database.

2) The bike bus

Cannondale shows up at industry events with demo bikes, tools and gear. They arrive at bike shows to promote new products and teach maintenance at bike shops where they know they’ll find a concentration of their consumers. The company is actively engaging outwardly via their determined distribution channels (the stores that sell the bikes, for example) and the bike company’s loyal consumers in order to create face to face engagement (very powerful for a business to consumer model). With mobile edu, Cannondale controls the dissemination of bike edu for maximum engagement and customer happiness.

3) Giving away merch

They give away a lot of bikes. The director for media communications has a give-away-bikes-budget. This budget is used to get bikes into the hands of media professionals who may test the bikes and then write about it. Hopefully the reviews are positive. Cannondale wouldn’t necessarily have a say over positive or negative feedback but editorial coverage from experts in the field builds a ton of credibility, especially when those experts are trusted by the consumer. The wholesale cost of a bike “gift” may cost less than a two page ad-spread in an industry publication.

4) Influencer RELATIONSHIPS

The Cannondale employees who drive the aforementioned Cannondale buses, are also aware of who’s who within inner-industry circles. Which cyclists have the best connections, the strongest knowledges bases and carry the most trust. Are these people talented athletes, brilliant mechanics, phenomenal sales reps? These people are noted by Cannondale as individuals who can participate in a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe these friends will be alerted of early releases or new products before the general public and though this wasn’t said, they likely (should) receive a ton of free product like t-shirts, hats, socks, stickers, etc containing the Cannondale logo. Said products are hypothetically worn publically for brand recognition and influencers will (likely) pass along relevant information to their followers and friends.

5) Mobile PR

I mentioned the buses. Those buses carry bikes, tools, new products. Cannondale also has ‘party buses,’ vehicles outfitted to morph into a mobile bar equipped with music and maybe even a dance floor?

6) Hosting and Attending events

The person in charge of this often complex task is a logistics and partnership expert. Leveraging Cannondale’s assets for exposure and inclusion within the important events of industry partners, plus tactfully engaging the company’s target audience to show up and enjoy a Cannondale-event is a responsibility that falls on the person in this role.

7) Content Creation + Media placements

Ads. Commercials. Youtube vidoes, industry magazine ad-inserts. For a big company like Cannondale, multiple team members collaborate on the messaging and content of the video and ads. Then more people are responsible for placing the content into the correct channels (magazines, ad networks, youtube ads) for the right exposure to the right audience. The results of this are hard to calculate (easier now if the ads are online) but this process follows the rule of remaining omnipresent - anywhere your audience can see you, they should see you.

8) Merch (for sale)

Brand identity on the right hats, shirts, shoes, socks, accessories, tools, travel gear, etc is about communication (and style). What will the merch say, how is the brand represented and which items are sold sold/do the best? Like mentioned above, merchandise is about brand recognition and sales revenue. Bikes are Cannondale’s core product but like any company with a central line of revenue, they can generate additional sales by means of branded merchandise while simultaneously placing their brand in the hands of more people.

9 Free Resources You Can Use Every Day to Market Your Creative Business

Sometimes you just want to do everything yourself. Or, you don’t know how to delegate your marketing needs to another person, because quite frankly you haven’t figured out what works and what doesn’t.

And then there’s that feeling when you say want to say f**k it. Or, “what’s the point?” But then you resign - you know you must must promote your business, but you get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

So here are 9 free marketing tools and resources you can use on any given day. Each provide various sparks of motivation plus a good dose of reassurance that you’re probably doing a lot of stuff right.

1) I start with the marketing Queen, Marie Forleo. Delivered in a straightforward manner, she‘s a New Jersey gal who knows how to sell. And she’s full of heart and freebies. Her paid program, B School, has some 40k participants around the globe, plus she’s creative, funny, outgoing and motivating. She provides formulas for how to drive traffic to your site, and use ‘inbound marketing’. I.e - get more customers to come to you.

2) Miki Agrawal - she’s not a “marketeer” but she kills it at marketing. Her brands like Thinx are a result of a personal need and when it comes to creating visual marketing assets for any project I find myself frequently repeating her advice : “Does it pass the refrigerator test?” (jump to 15 minutes where this is addressed) I.e - is your postcard, business card, poster, ad, etc personal enough that someone would want to put it on their fridge? If so, you discovered something powerful. Watch her youtube videos (for free) and take notes.

3) Interested in Geeking Out over SEO? (Search Engine Optimization - the results in Google or Bing that get your site higher up on page one). SEMRush Webinar series are a GOLDMINE of information. These free webinars are live, and did I say free? And they’re held by the best and brightest SEO geeks from all over the world. There is zero gimmick, here. These brilliant people just enjoy talking about what they do and want to share it with you.

4) Amy Porterfield. This warm, generous host of a podcast called ‘Marketing Made Easy’ offers a ton of online courses for how to market your business. But her email is free and so is the podcast. While she targets individuals who’d like to run an online only business, she offers tons of free and very applicable tips for any business. Oh, and she worked for Tony Robbins so she knows her stuff.

5) Seth Godin. The master marketeer. His quirky, brainy, and insightful advice is loaded with digestible tips. If you’re bootstrapping, if you have investors, if you have an agency, or you’re freelancing, he offers little bits that apply to the bigger picture.

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

6) Add some laughter to your morning email routine with Talking Shrimp, and learn a bunch about writing your own copy. Laura Belgray, the mini genius behind Talking Shrimp works for NBC, Nick at Night, TNT, and has a daily blog and plenty of paid classes, too. But for free you can get her email delivered to your inbox which will remind you every day the critical value of getting your copy RIGHT (she also offers a free copy-tips download).

7) Very cool agencies that inspire, or good companies who present a powerful online presence are worth noting. Enter Sister London. Take a peek at their site and see what grabs you. These ladies are doing it right. Remember - you can always learn something new. It’ll become your own when you execute what inspires you.

8) Duct Tape - Owner, John Janstch is pretty buttoned up if I do say so myself. In his t-shirt and sports jacket or button up shirt + blazer, he delivers for big-box company. But here’s the thing - the marketing formula used by a marketer at Verizon or Nike is the same formula you can (and ought to) apply to your own small business. And Duct Tape offers a very special funnel-like resource for a very streamlined and specific method of implementing your marketing strategy. And John Janstch really wants to help. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re probably slightly Type A and that part of your personality will be thankful.

9) This one takes a little work - but more like mental work. Get into the mind-frame of consistently thinking about people (influencers) or companies (brands) that really grab you. You may find that you’ll go back to these again again. Or you’ll get excited when you see their images on Instagram or read their posts. Do a study of these businesses. What ‘voice’ are they using when they write? What style or tone do they communicate by use of images? Are they partnering with anyone? What are they promoting and how? Let these case studies become your best teachers. Their examples and triumphs can easily be replicated - but remember, when you do it, the idea becomes your own.


Here’s a few more people and co’s that inspire me every day:

Block Shop textiles - These sisters offer daily creative sparks via their Instagram feed and Stories. They’re also marketing savants, so take notes.

Casey Neistat - The quirkiest video producer out there. Or “Vlogger”. He rose from nothing to securing an amazing video deal with CNN through his daily vlogging experience. He’s a born story-teller.

Mother Bees - A service-provider and distributor of nutrient-rich food products, this sweet company has totally nailed their target market with a soothing and trusting approach.

Justina Blakeney - She’s a self-made interior design guru with a Target partnership while openly sharing she only pays herself $60k/year because she’s more interested in long-term investing for her business than a short-term pay-out.