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Magical marketing: what’s your special sauce?

It has been said that there’s nothing new under the sun, but when it comes to marketing, there are still loads of creative ways to outshine the competition. It all starts with your certain somethin’ somethin’—what I like to call your “special sauce.” It’s whatever makes your business stand out, memorable and sought-after, and it is an essential ingredient for success.

What’s Your Special Sauce?

I often run into new business owners who have done a great job calculating overhead costs, projecting necessary inventory and designing an attractive waiting area. They’re very excited, having put a great deal of thought, effort and money into their new venture. However, when I ask them about their special sauce, they look at me blankly. Their goal is simply to be as good as everyone else. Yikes! You can’t sustain a business that way, not over the long haul; you have to be better than everyone else.

Here’s a little secret: the best way to whip up a special sauce recipe is by simply tapping into your existing passions. What is that bolts you out of bed in the morning, something that gets you so amped up that you could (almost) by-pass your daily espresso? What makes you unique?

Tried and True Examples

You don’t have to be a Kardashian to know there are thousands of skin care and makeup companies out there, many of them pushing heavily to be the next Instagram star. So, what makes Clinique, a low-key brand (in social media terms) that’s been around since 1968, still one of Estée Lauder’s most profitable subsidiaries? Yes, the products are good, but Clinique’s success is arguably due in larger part to its regularly-scheduled promotions; you buy a $29 cleanser and get a whole gift bag of respectably-sized samples (worth $80). Try the samples, fall in love with the products, buy the full-sized bottle or jar. Rinse, repeat.

McDonald’s is another example, figuring out a long time ago how to go after the kid’s market in the fast food industry—by simply throwing in a toy with a kid’s meal purchase.

Until not so many years, most Chinese restaurants in the U.S. looked pretty much the same. No frills, brisk service, with a focus on the food. That is, until P.F. Chang’s came along in 1993. It may not be the most authentic chain as far as the menu is concerned, but this Asian-themed casual dining restaurant now serves lettuce wraps and street noodles in over 300 restaurants around the world. Customers love it because the vibe is modern and trendy, with a nice bar selection, too.

Start with a Recipe

Back to what drives you and makes YOU unique. Is it your desire to help others, your aesthetic eye and love of bold colors or your craving for community prestige? Now, let’s look at a few ways you can translate these things into making your business stand out.

Maybe you and your employees wear crazy uniforms and run daily contests in which you include your clients; I guarantee the fun will rub off on them and they’ll remember you for it. Maybe your spa doesn’t look like a traditional one but instead, like a scene from a movie. Perhaps your spa has a music theme, you have a free smoothie bar, it’s a spa for men only or everything on the menu is $99.

If you love helping others, perhaps you can market a program in which, for every customer purchase of XYZ, you’ll make a small donation to their favorite charity. You can also partner with an organization that helps young, underpri­vileged women find jobs—and offer free makeup application lessons. (While you’re at it, call up a local radio or TV station and see if they’ll give you a two-minute spot—i.​e., free advertising for a good cause). You get the idea; you’re creating a reputation for yourself as someone who’s offering something different.

Measuring Your Mojo for Success

If I asked you how many new clients you had last week, could you answer? What if I asked how much the average client spent or how many are now pre-booked?

If you can’t answer these questions off the top of your head, chances are, you’re not tracking results and that is a recipe for disaster. It’s like saying you want to lose thirty pounds but don’t own a scale. I want you to get obsessed about your numbers—all day, every day. Now, it’s one thing to have this information, and it’s another thing to incorporate it into your daily, or even hourly, ritual. The most successful business owners I know all track their sales, gains, losses, triumphs and mistakes and use the information to constantly make improvements.

There are so many user-friendly software applications out there for tracking sales, and many offer free customer support. If you don’t have the budget for software yet, track it manually, but make sure you’re still tracking it.

Not About Magic

Magical marketing isn’t really magical; it’s about tapping into your passions, adding your special sauce and measuring your mojo. I can’t wait to hear how you make a difference.


Louis “The Laser Guy’s” Top 3 Tips for Creating Your Special Sauce:

  1. Really take a close look at your competition and ask friends, family and especially strangers why they should choose you over others. Are you getting a consistent message about what makes you unique? If not, you need to go back to your special sauce recipe.
  2. Ask other small business owners what software (if any) they use to track sales, appointments, etc. What do they like about it? What do they dislike?
  3. Resist being “all over the map” with your special sauce; you can’t be all things to all people. Stick to one or two things that mean the most to you and drill down on getting the word out about those features of your business
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