4 Groundbreaking Things an Ex-Con Taught Us About Marketing
The best ideas rarely come from conventional sources, and Coss Marte is hardly a conventional source. Marte first experimented with entrepreneurship as a teenager, selling goods in front of bodegas in New York City. By 19, his business was pulling in over $2 million a year.
Unfortunately, Marte ran into trouble shortly thereafter. Less than ten years after his business peaked, he wound up scrubbing toilets at a reconstructed hotel to pay his rent. The reason for Marte’s struggles? His business was the business of selling drugs.
Following a seven-year prison sentence for drug-related charges, Marte is currently climbing back to the top of the business world. Only this time, he’s doing it lawfully. Now 31, Marte is the founder and CEO ConBody, a prison-style boot camp fitness program taught by formerly incarcerated individuals.
You can listen to Coss Marte tell his powerful story on this episode of the Renegade Thinkers Unite podcast:
ConBody, which stands for convict body, is one of the fastest growing fitness programs in New York City. Marte’s high-energy marketing strategy has helped his company soar. Here are four imaginative tactics Coss uses that can help you market your business with the same vitality:
Every brand needs a good story. We as humans share an inherent desire for tales, so marketing with one can help your brand stick in the minds of consumers. Storytelling is at the forefront of Marte’s advertising strategy, as he talks to potential clients about his time in prison and how it led him to create ConBody. “I share my story about 20 times a day,” he says. “And [there have] been times where I stood on the train and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, pay attention. I have one thing that I want you to know about me.’ I tell my story and I’ll tell about ConBody. I’d just get out there and act a fool and speak about it.” Whenever you have the chance to share an anecdote about your company—on social media platforms, in forums or face-to-face—take advantage of the opportunity.
2. Preaching to the Choir
It’s one thing to have the prowess and courage to share your brand’s story. It’s quite another to be able to identify your target audience and market your product as a solution to their problems. Marte has an eagle eye for spotting potential clients and pitching ConBody to them. “I stop random people and I go up to everyone who I think works out,” he says. “And I ask them, ‘Do you know about ConBody?’” Learn who will be most likely to buy your product, and find the best way to reach them in their niche.
3. Sporting a Striking Brand
What makes your brand stand out from your competitors? Original elements like an unexpected tagline or a business philosophy that goes against the grain can turn consumers’ heads. ConBody’s prison theme distinguishes Marte’s business. Inside the fitness center, students find stark brick walls, lockers and cell bars. “It’s just minimal space,” says Marte. “We have no equipment. All the body weight stuff is exactly the same when I worked out in a prison cell just using limited space and my own body weight to get that prison body I always desired.” ConBody’s gritty atmosphere motivates clients to work out in a unique way, thus giving the program an edge over its competitors. If you can position your brand in a way that separates it from the pack, you’ll have an automatic competitive advantage.
4. Going Viral
Share-worthy videos or articles are marketing gold. Any publicity your brand gets on the web can spread word of its existence like wildfire. Great content brings something new, fun or otherwise unique to the table. Marte, for instance, has earned millions of views on a video of him making a jail-style burrito in his hotel room. “We’ve had a lot of videos go viral, which has helped us in our marketing and our social media marketing and just getting our word out there,” he says. Don’t be afraid to try something innovative; the reward can be millions of brand impressions.
There are no guarantees in marketing. As Coss Marte can attest, opportunities come and go all the time; the important thing is your ability to adapt. Marte offers his words of wisdom. “As an entrepreneur, you just don’t know what’s going to happen, what you have to deal with,” he says. “You don’t know what you’re going to sign up with. You’ve got to roll with the punches.” As a formerly incarcerated individual whose future was once bleak, he has done exactly that. When one door shuts, move on; but when opportunity knocks, don’t hesitate to open up.