How a Marketing Mishap Turned into 150K
Back in the day (aka BSM - Before Social Media), Direct Mail pieces were "the" way to reach your target audience. While not as popular as they once were, these campaigns can still be an effective marketing vehicle for many industries.
Several years ago I was a Regional Account Manager for a consulting firm in the petroleum industry. We were trying to expand our lucrative brokerage department which assisted distributors in selling their businesses.
With the help of a creative consultant, we arrived at what we thought was a clever campaign based on a catchy advertisement for an over the counter pain reliever:
If Selling Your Business is Keeping You Up at Night -
Take Two Aspirin and Call Us in the Morning.
Included with our one page letter was a small package of Tylenol (I'm pretty sure we sent this instead of aspirin because it was cheaper at Costco).
A few days after out initial mailing I received a call from a business owner in the Pacific Northwest:
“Suzanne, are you trying to kill me?”
Well, this was not quite the response I was hoping for.
Apparently our cute little packages of Tylenol were pulverized during the United Postal Service mail handling process. Our unsuspecting clients received not a cure for a headache - but rather a suspicious white powder.
Around this same time, packages with a mysterious substance (i.e. Anthrax), were showing up at various office buildings and media outlets around the country. It was all over the news and this was a tense time for many businesses.
Of course, now the headache was OURS. Fortunately, petroleum distributors are generally the most easy going and good hearted people in the world and most of our clients thought the situation was hilarious. No one turned us in.
My Top Ten Marketing Mistakes and Why They Worked - #6:
The client who called retained our services resulting in a $150K commission.
The Moral of This Story
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Seriously, we could possibly have been arrested for this campaign. But you know what? Frankly, we would have received a lot of press and exposure if this had happened. Many businesses avoid trying something new because it might fail. Or they are waiting for their branding to be “perfect.” Or they are afraid their campaign might be too "different." The list goes on an on.
Friends, we live in an imperfect world. Sometimes your efforts might fail, but more often than not something good will come out of it. Even global operations with billion dollar budgets will make a miscalculation from time to time in their strategies. The time is NOW to try new things, and with social media and other tools it has never been more important to be creative in order for your product or service to "stand out." As Nike says so brilliantly: "Just do it."
May the Marketing Gods be with you.
By Marketing Baby
Fresh Ideas for Newborn Businesses
Everything's BIG in Texas
Several years ago I was doing trade shows across the country in the petroleum industry. Most of the participants were CEO’s and CFO’s. While we had a beautiful, big, erector set of a booth I wanted a giveaway for a big show in Las Vegas. Something memorable. Something different.
As is my marketing karma, the budget for such items was literally nonexistent. Our products were primarily financial workshops, business valuations and brokerage services. We had used props, like good old fake money and coins to death, until they were crumpled in the bottom of our trade show boxes alongside old flyers, booth badges and breath mint wrappers.
The company I was working for was based in Texas and the owner, who had a large ranch, was known for her love of all things cowboy. So I had an idea: While I would loved to have had upscale pens or notepads to giveaway (which would have been very appropriate albeit not too exciting) I decided to find something that had a Texas appeal.
With the help of our talented and capable office manager, we narrowed our options to something low cost and edible: Candy. Yep, still boring, you are thinking. But we happened upon something clever that looked like little cows (VERY Texas): Taffy.
Yes, good old taffy. The chewy stuff you ate as a kid. Now, I’m more of a peanut M&M girl myself, but this candy, manufactured locally, had brown and white coloring, was packaged beautifully and, most importantly, was inexpensive.
Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas: I set-up our monstrosity of a booth, arranged flyers, and randomly (yet artfully) arranged the cute, cow-looking, Texas-sized taffy on the table.
Looked great. Our first visitors passing by stopped to determine just what this stuff was.
Once show attendees figured out it was candy they immediately had to try a piece.
Do you know what happens when you try to eat taffy, especially BIG pieces of the sticky substance?
You can’t talk.
I quickly discovered that I had a captive audience! Once passers-by had the candy in their mouth, I had a good five minutes – sometimes longer - to discuss our services. They weren’t going anywhere.
My Top Ten Marketing Mistakes - #7.
What you should do: Test your product.
Well, I suppose we could have tried the candy in advance but we really didn’t think about it. It was to be used as a prop. If we had tested it, we probably wouldn’t have used the candy (and possibly would have saved someone in Las Vegas from unnecessary dental work).
This is what you call a HMA (Happy Marketing Accident). This did work – beautifully. People, although it was hard to chew, loved the candy and I had the chance to really discuss our products – uninterrupted. No worries about sales objections here.
The Result: Several sales resulted from the show. It was a hit! People kept coming back to the booth to get more taffy to take home – and to talk.
Next Installment: The Direct Mail Piece that Could Have Gotten Me Arrested
by Marketing Baby
Fresh Ideas for Business
"OMG, We're Killing the Prom King!"
As the marketing & communications director for a nonprofit serving the elderly, I had become used to doing things I had never done before. Or perhaps hoped I would never do. One beautiful morning in Santa Fe, our talented and creative Executive Director presented me with a new project: A Senior Prom.
After helping to plan and promote a very successful art auction, I was suddenly deemed an “event planner” (NOT). Now, an event can be great way to build awareness for products or services but too many businesses think they happen “by magic” and don’t realize all the work that happens behind the scenes – and the surprises that often occur.
First of all, if you have never hosted an event there are a few basics to consider:
1) What is the purpose of the event? Really know your intention. Is is fundraiser? Networking Event? You'd be AMAZED at how many businesses or nonprofits don't think about this.
2) The Theme: How will your event be “different?” Almost any event can stand out – even a business conference - with a little creativity. It sounds cliché, but you do need to think "outside the box."
3) Who is your Target Audience? Knowing who you want to attract - and your goals for the event - also helps you to determine your venue and budget.
4) Planning: Determine your strategy and PLAN. As in life, with events, things can happen. Anticipate as much as you can and have contingency plans (Plan B, C and more) so you can respond to the little - and sometimes big - things that come along.
Meanwhile, back at the Ranch...
We decided our little Prom would be more of a “friend-raiser,” than a fundraiser and would be open to “Seniors of all ages” (well, 21 and up). The most important thing was to build our donor database in a tough economy. As an additional “twist” attendees were encouraged to dress in the fashion of the year that they graduated (which did lead to quite a few great photo opportunities).
Like the cheesy Senior Proms of our youth we wanted a band, balloons – you name it. Our King and Queen were to be two “kids” in their 80’s who were much beloved clients of our agency and yes, it was totally "rigged." A small admission fee would be charged to offset costs and thanks to the Elk’s Lodge (our illustrious venue) we could even serve liquor which appeared to be especially appreciated by our staff.
In addition to donated flowers, auction items, prom dresses, “Come to our Big, Fat, Senior Prom” advertisements and Public Service Announcements - I had a brilliant idea.
Doesn’t every prom have a limo?
A local company donated a limousine to us for two hours. The idea? Take our newly crowned King and Queen around the Santa Fe Plaza to wave to their “subjects.” I had borrowed magnetic signs from our agency vehicles to place on the limo with our logo and telephone number - all in yet another blatant attempt to get more exposure.
The evening of the prom, people of all ages dressed up in their finery and lined up 45 minutes before the event! The place was packed. At the appropriate time the band stopped, the King and Queen were crowned, and as the crowd applauded they were ceremoniously escorted to the awaiting limo.
There was only one problem. The limo company sent a Hummer. A military looking monstrosity which you had to climb to get into. This might not seem like such a big deal but our 87 year old King was not the most limber person in the world.
Are you starting to get the picture?
We were, slowly, able to get Tito, our King, into the Hummer. As he winced in pain, the only thing I could think of was whether or not the driver knew how to get to St. Vincent’s Hospital. Fortunately, Tito was fine, and had the time of his life. He had never been in a limousine before. As we took the lap around the plaza visitors waved and our King & Queen, as they say, "milked it. "
MARKETING MISTAKE: DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE
Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. I probably should have asked the company what type of limousine was being donated. With events, and all marketing activities, try to anticipate what can go wrong and have as many contingency measures in place as you can.
WHY THIS WORKED: Frankly, we were lucky in terms of the limo in terms of not causing bodily harm. In another aspect, we were fortunate also. The higher profile of the vehicle created more attention and once they were able to get in, our King and Queen enjoyed it, too.
This little event netted right under 4K, generated corporate sponsors, spawned a profitable Golf Tournament thrown by two ladies who attended the event and for months I was asked, “When are you going to have another Senior Prom?” :)
Stay Tuned For "My Top Ten Marketing Mistakes and Why They Worked: #7 - Everything's Bigger in Texas"
by Marketing Baby
Fresh Ideas for Business
#9 The Tale of the Inappropriate Giveaway
Giveaways are often a staple for businesses at trade shows. People often think that by giving out "freebies" they will have potential customers flocking to their booth. I tend to disagree (mostly because I usually throw away giveaways - but that's just me).
Attracting attention to your business or nonprofit at any event, however, is critical. Some shows can be quite expensive to participate in - not to mention the cost of your time. It all adds up. If you plan to do any type of show the main goal is to get seen, get information on "target" clients and reinforce relationships with existing clients (and other vendors) so you can grow your database and convert leads into sales or donations.
Now comes to the tale of the inappropriate giveaway. As the marketing director for an IT firm in New Mexico (yet another ill-considered career choice but that's a whole other blog) I developed a strategic series of trade events to showcase the company's products and services. The company had no existing trade show materials, presentation boards - nothing. Zip. Nada. I had to start from scratch. With no marketing budget to speak of. Lucky me. Fortunately, I had been able to obtain two feature articles for this company so I did have that material to work with.
After having worked so many shows through the years I can practically do them in my sleep. I quickly borrowed a booth backdrop, laminated the recent feature articles so I could attach them, stole pictures off the web of IT images (which reproduced badly by the way), laminated those, whipped together some promotional materials - so there was SOME semblance of a professional presentation of the company's services.
But there was a missing link: A giveaway. Something different that would catch the eye - and hopefully to distract attendees from the yucky IT images on the backdrop. The show was targeting the Aerospace industry. The attendees were to be representatives from the Air Force and Aerospace industries.
Well, like any desperate marketing professional in a bind you end up at Party City at 7:00 pm the night before the show (I had been looking for a giveaway for a couple of weeks to no avail). As I combed through the rows of plastic plates and party favors...eureka! I saw the perfect solution - little toy airplanes!
As I snapped up a few bags (just to have something to attract attention on the table) I noticed the price: $6.99 for a package of 10. That was WAY over budget - I'm not kidding. That was a no go. OK, now for Plan B.
Close to the toy planes I saw packages of Army Men. Yes, those little guys that most of us played with as kids and have probably ruined vacuum cleaners throughout the ages. Better yet - they were only $1.99 for a good sized bag! That's it! Now, you are probably thinking "Army Men?" They don't have your company name on them and this show was for the aerospace industry! Well, necessity is the mother of invention as they say. I figured if they were a big flop I would just take them off the table.
So I splurged and bought 3 bags. The next day I set-up the booth - it actually looked pretty good - and put the army men on the table (tan and green for additional color). So as high-ranking professionals walked by the booth they would stop and do a double-take.
Everybody HAD to pick up one of the army men. Pretty soon we had a crowd around the table. It was interactive - people started setting up battles. They laughed. As they played I talked about our products and services. They loved it - and our company received several request for proposals from the show. By the way, nobody really "took" the toys, it was more like a "prop." But everyone remembered us because of those little army men.
Marketing Moral Number 9: Your Giveaway Should Reflect Your Type of Business & Your Audience
In a perfect world, you want a giveaway that ties into your business (i.e. tape measures for construction at a home builder's show, for example) with your company's name, website, etc. If you have a limited budget you can do other things like have attractive flowers, candy, a prize for a contest they have to enter so you can get contact information - it depends on the type of show and who you want to attract. Try to get giveaways that are different, however. I don't think I've ever contacted a company because I have a pen with their name on it.
Why This Worked: This was, in a lot of ways, a HMA (Happy Marketing Accident). It worked because it was different, people could see and touch them and it brought attendees out of their normal professional "zone." They smiled and it got them talking. Keep in mind that giveaways can be a big waste of money. I always hear from businesses that people just take their stuff and never talk to them at trade shows. Don't expect to people to come to your booth just because of your giveaway. There are other ways to draw them in.
Next Installment: My Top Ten Marketing Mistakes and Why They Worked
#8 Oh My God, We're Killing the Prom King!
#10 The Dragon, the Airshow & the Radio Host
As the Marketing and Communications Director for a nonprofit based in Santa Fe, I'll never forget the day when our Executive Director came into my office to tell me we were going to host a Renaissance Fair. "A Renaissance Fair?" I had never even BEEN to a Renaissance Fair except I knew that they were BIG. Certainly out of my league - and not suited to my buck-fifty marketing budget.
This was in April of 2008. I was informed that the Fair would take place in September. As any (honest) marketing person can tell you, that's not a lot of time to put together a "major" event. Not to mention I had no earthly clue what a Renaissance Fair was even about - except for maybe turkey legs or jousters.
Like a good little soldier, I joined our team comprised of mostly Renaissance devotees (there is a lot of people out there who like to dress up, folks) to find out more about the event and prayed I could figure out a way to promote this with no money and not much time.
It's funny how nice people can be if you work for a nonprofit and you're desperate. I was able to connect to tourism bureaus, convention center websites and basically anybody I knew in media or radio. Basically this meant working until 9:00 pm each night getting the word out while the volunteer committee did an amazing job coordinating the entertainers and vendors (including the elusive turkey leg vendor - apparently a rare commodity in our neck of the woods).
Well, there was competition on the horizon. The dreaded Air Show. Yes, it was to be the same weekend as our event. What are the odds! I watched their expensive television ads and thought of our sorry looking signs and posting on the marquee at the School for the Blind and knew we were in trouble. How could we compete with that?
When there is a will, there is a way - and when there is a job involved you really have to find a way. To make a long story short, Classic Radio stations, NBC in Albuquerque and other media were very kind to us. I was even able to wrangle a Highway Traffic alert sign donated by the City of Santa Fe when I pulled a favor (not THAT kind of favor) as a beacon to the venue which was off of I-10 - the beautiful, but rather hidden, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, just South of Santa Fe.
MY TOP TEN MARKETING MISTAKE: I was able to land a radio interview on the most popular radio show in Santa Fe during drive time. This was big - it was the Friday night before the weekend event when people are relaxed and planning their weekend. I had 15 minutes with the infamous Diego Mulligan. Still fairly new to radio, I was nervous. We chatted about the features of the event - an elaborate 6 ft. tall dragon created by a top costume designer in the area and of course the belly dancers, beer court, jousters, etc. I couldn't say the price on the air (station rules) which was a fraction of the airshow price. As the show wrapped up I knew I hadn't hit the mark. What to do?
I saw visions of people only attending the air show and uneaten turkey legs at our event. As the engineer and host were making hand gestures, circling their ears to wrap up, I suddenly blurted out:
"YOU CAN SEE AN AIRPLANE ANYDAY BUT HOW OFTEN CAN YOU SEE A 6 FOOT TALL DRAGON?" Cut.
The radio host and his staff loved it and I received several calls right after the show. I still don't know where that came from.
MARKETING MISTAKE: Positioning
Figure out ALL the ways you differ from your competition as soon as possible and use it to your advantage. It's OK if you have little money for marketing - you can STILL stand out. Never "dis" your competitors - just say why you are unique and give the benefits of your product or service.
WHY THIS WORKED: By positioning the dragon against an airplane it gave an interesting visual for listeners and was another "twist" on the promotion. This isn't all about the radio show, of course, but our official attendee count was 4267. This broke all records for a first time event at this venue. This isn't all about me - there were many hard-working, very talented people involved, but the veteran Renfair performers all thanked me for my efforts. The Santa Fe Renaissance Fair is now an annual event held every September.
Stay Tuned for "My Top 10 Marketing Mistakes and Why They Worked: The Case of the Inappropriate Giveaway."