What’s an ugly duckling business?

It’s a business that is either:

  • Unsexy — it provides a service that no one is interested in until they need it, such as plumbing, roofing, transmission repair.


  • Non-Purple-Cow-able — it’s in an industry where it’s impossible or illegal to claim superiority or uniqueness, such as lawyers, surgeons, insurance sales.

There’s nothing wrong with these businesses… except that 99.9% of marketers pretend like they don’t exist.

How Most Marketers Ignore Ugly Duckling Businesses

Most marketers offer one-size-fits-all advertising advice that simply won’t work for ugly duckling businesses.

Think about the lawyer or a stock broker or insurance salesman who’s told he needs to advertise reasons why he’s unique and superior to his competitors.

Such claims are usually illegal to advertise.

The Bar Association or FTC or some other agency simply won’t allow claims like that on the air.

And when those claims aren’t illegal, they are all-but- impossible to credibly make.

When is the last time you came across a plumber who was truly unique or had a single, easily-explained advantage that made them better than other plumbers?

Then there’s the content marketing and social media “gurus.”

Businesses are supposed to get people interested in “content” on, say, transmission repair just out of passionate interest, the way an enthusiast might want to read articles or watch videos about wine or scotch or golfing.

Sound likely to happen?

It all leaves many owners feeling like their business is an “ugly duckling.” They’re not Apple, Tesla, Amazon, or Jack Daniels.

They’re not inherently sexy or interesting to talk about.

So now what?

The Secret to Turning Your Ugly Duckling Into an Advertising Swan

Here are the fundamental secrets for businesses like yours to create great advertising that’ll grow them to the size of giants.

First, while your business may not be inherently interesting to talk about, you are. 

Any honest man endeavoring to make an honest living in this world absolutely will have stories to tell — and many of those stories are spellbindingly interesting.

Second, a spoonful entertainment will make the messaging go down. 

You may not be able to get people to voluntarily inform themselves about your profession through content marketing, but you can broadcast ads that entertain people while also prejudicing them in your favor.

And that’s it.

Tell stories that interest people while slipping in enough messaging to help build familiarity and trust.

Why Being “The Honest Goods” Is Good Enough

At this point, the typically objection to this strategy goes something like:

“But you haven’t sold people on WHY they should choose me. You haven’t convinced them I’m better. How can your plan differentiate me against my (lower priced) competitors?” 

Answer: You don’t actually have to claim to be unique or better.

You just have to claim what I’d call the Boy Scout Benefits. 

Claim and then — through your stories — show yourself to be: honest, dependable, helpful, trustworthy, loyal.

In other words, claim nothing more than to be the honest goods. The genuine article.

Because if people feel like they know who you are and have a gut feeling they can trust you…

…and they don’t know your competition or have any idea if they can trust them…

who do you think wins that sale?

Where You’ve Already Seen This Work

Just think about how often someone comes to you from the merest, most tangential of connections.

They’re friends with your sister or your cousin, or a buddy of yours goes to the same gym, or they see you at church.

And that merest puff of a connection is enough.


Because SOME connection is better than NO connection. 

Well, telling your stories on the radio is a way to leverage mass media to make hundreds of thousands of people feel as if they have a connection with you.

And a much stronger connection than whatever six- degrees-of-separation style coincidence that usually does the trick.

And that’s how ugly duckling businesses turn into advertising swans laying golden eggs all day long, year after year, for decades to come.

Got an ugly duckling business? Want some help advertising it? Contact me — I specialize in exactly that.