Personal Branding: Something Needed? YOU Provide It!

I recently came across a story in a Jacksonville, Fla. newspaper about a soon-to-be opened specialty shop. The shop is called “Sauce-a-holics” and they will be selling gourmet salsas, hot sauces, rubs, snacks, etc.

What caught my attention was the story behind the opening of the shop and how it relates to personal branding and branding companies. One of the owners, Don Smith, was looking online for some Christmas gifts for a colleague, and was surprised to find a huge niche market of hot sauce and salsa connoisseurs. After spending a good portion of his money on shipping, he thought that it would have been great to just go to a local store and purchase the products. When he looked for local stores, he saw that there were none.

So did Don just leave it at that? No. He spoke with some good friends, and after some calculating and deliberation, they decided to open up a shop of their own. The owners are also certainly aware that their odds of succeeding aren’t necessarily great, since according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about 650,000 businesses opened and another 575,000 closed each year from 2004 to 2008.

However, I think that they may actually have a good chance.

If their marketing and branding efforts are creative and efficient, they can tap into that niche market that Don found on the Internet. They have already taken the first (and sometimes most difficult) step – they found a market that was underserved in their community and have taken steps to fill that need.

Just like many small businesses, the competition may seem to be a hurdle that is too hard to jump. In this case, Sauce-a-holics will be competing against the large grocery chains like Publix, who offer a pretty good variety of these items, along with larger specialty stores like Total Wine, where they have a somewhat large selection of sauces and gift items that often accompany beer and wine stores.

So what do they need to do? They need to market themselves as being the go-to experts in all of Jacksonville. They have to give customers a reason to specifically go to their store to buy these items. The best reason? These guys know everything there is to know about salsa and hot sauce. Specifically, Stephen (a nephew of one of the owners tapped to run the store) can post a weekly blog about the latest trends in the business, new products, gift ideas, etc. Perhaps Stephen or Don can pitch a recurring segment on the local news to show ways to spice up everyday meals. Pretty soon, people will be saying “if you want sauce, go see Don.” Don’s personal brand as the Jacksonville’s sauce expert will help drive business, because why would you buy from someone who isn’t an expert? You get the idea.

Their name will also help tremendously in this. Just by hearing “Sauce-a-holics,” customers know exactly what they provide – sauces – and most importantly, passion for sauces. If sauce-a-holics can convey their passion for these items effectively, then they can hope to “create” passionate customers. And as well all know, passionate customers are the best kind! They are the lifeblood of your business.

So today’s personal branding lesson is? Find a market that is underserved, fill the need and brand yourself as the go-to expert and passionate advocate of that market – and open your doors to passionate and loyal customers.