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