“It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.” Sports fans say this a lot to justify their superstitions – sitting in their favorite chair while watching a game; not washing their jersey all season long (ewww); performing certain chants or songs. But it also applies to our marketing techniques as business owners.
I get squirrely looks when I tell some travel agents what I’ve done for marketing. But if it works, don’t question it; don’t call it weird, just lather, rinse and repeat!
So, here are some ideas that may be less than traditional, that may be considered weird in some cases, but just might work for you as well.
Promotional items I’ve handed out or will be trying: shot glasses filled with personalized M&Ms, jumbo pens, sports bottles, can cozies, digital luggage scales, wine bottle stoppers, stress hockey pucks, and personalized pedometers. I know another agent that hands out luggage handle wraps. If nothing else, it draws people to his table asking what they are.
When you are handing out items, you want those items to be memorable, used, and long lasting. You’ll know it’s working when you get the phone call, “I ran across your jumbo pen in my desk.”
When picking promotional items, you should keep three things in mind.
- Quality: if you go cheap, potential clients will notice and equate your agency with cheap quality.
- Quantity: when you are testing the waters, steer clear of high minimum requirements. If an item you purchase isn’t working, you don’t want to get stuck with 875 of them left in your garage. When testing a new idea, see if you can get lower minimum requirements. If the item is a hit, you can always order more.
- Memorable: focus on items that will be memorable. Calendars expire; magnets get lost on refrigerators among the other magnets; non-refillable pens dry out and get thrown away. Look for the items that are unique, that you don’t see everyone else handing out at events. That will be the one that is retained for the long term.
Besides having promotional items to hand out at a booth, you need to decorate your space in a way that attracts attendees. You don’t have to spend a lot in order to stand out. How about a four foot tall business card? I had client testimonials printed inside of mine. I also use vintage suitcases (which can be found at any thrift store or antique mall) as parts of my displays. Banners, both horizontal and vertical, are always eye catchers. Make sure to include your pertinent contact information on your banners – business name, URL and phone number at the very least. And always have something to hand out; preferably a flyer or trifold brochure that talks about you—not a supplier.
This is one area where I advise investing some money, although it does not have to be a fortune. I recommend that you have a folded business card. They are noticed more and they give you more “real estate” for pertinent information. I also suggest using thicker card stock. Thin, flimsy business cards scream “cheap.” Ask about price breaks for higher quantity orders. Unlike promotional items, you can never have enough business cards. And you can usually get a price break when you buy a higher quantity of cards. So if you are thinking of order 250 cards, ask what the cost would be for 1,000 cards.
While we are on the subject of business cards, let’s discuss what to do with them. In simple terms, you want to give them away as often as possible. I know agents that stick a business card in the envelope with every bill they pay (for those few bills that they can mail in the payment). I personally leave business cards with restaurant servers (if you are a lousy tipper, ignore this). I have had three referrals from one server simply by using this method.
The morale of this story is simple: don’t disregard a marketing idea because you think it is weird. Weird does not equate to failure. So what weird marketing ideas have you successfully tried?
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Nashville, Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations she focuses on travel for young adults under 35. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209).