Bowling for Business: Lighten Up

(This column first appeared on on May 24, 2011.)

My husband and I have a standing breakfast date on Saturday mornings. So I usually try to show a little effort by running a comb through my hair and dabbing on a bit of mascara. But, this weekend, we wanted to make sure we got to Belgian Waffle Works before they stopped serving biscuits. So I skipped the makeup and threw on some sweats, an old denim shirt, and a pair of fashion-forward Crocs; and off we went.

An hour later, when my good friend, Kelly, called to say that she was in town and wanted to introduce us to her fiance, I almost chocked on my multigrain waffle. I hung up the phone and stared at Brent.

“This will be the first time I’ve met Keith. And I didn’t even brush my teeth before we left the house. My shirt has paint all over it. And I’m not even wearing socks.”

His response put everything into perspective: “I am wearing white socks…with sandals!”

Brent and I have been happily married for nearly 25 years. And the secret to our success is laughter. We agree with Peter Ustinov’s philosophy:

“It is our responsibilities (not ourselves) that we should take seriously.”

I often wish I could train clients to embrace the idea. But since money is tied to success and success is linked to business, too many entrepreneurs have lost their sense of humor, especially in this economy. And that is anathema to effective advertising.

Leo Barnett once accurately summarized the field of marketing: “Great advertising can be boiled down to three simple messages: ‘Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it will do for you. Here’s how to get it.'”

But how do you capture the attention of your target market so you can tell them what you’ve got, what it will do for them and how to get it? Most of us are too busy to focus on anything for more than a few minutes. So how can you cut through the noise? Take a cue from the most memorable and successful marketing campaigns of all time. Make ’em laugh. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

The great thing about hilarity is that it’s free. You can incorporate humor into your ad campaigns on any and every marketing budget.


For Free—

In social media, pay attention to the types of posts that stimulate feedback. Currently appearing on my own Facebook wall is a video of a talking dog, a video of a stick figure trying to sell social media and a Baby Dancing to Beyonce…hardly fodder for members of Mensa. Even when your purposes for using platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are business-related, remember that your goal is to get your message in front of three-dimensional decision-makers—not pod people.

On a Limited Budget—

If your product is Tums, you can afford to hire writers, directors, actors, famous NASCAR drivers, a professional production crew and special effects editors to create comical videos about food fighting back. But most of us have to settle for a more modest approach.

If funds are tight, invest in a great, short video script and produce it yourself for free (or almost free) on the user-friendly comical movie-making website xtranormal. Then, post a link to it on all of your social media sites.

The Sky’s the Limit—

Experiment with levity. Hire someone with a sense of humor to come up with a trial campaign for your product or service. Once you’ve approved the angle, give it a fair shake by cross-promoting it on your website, social media sites, and in print ads and press releases. Then test and measure online metrics against more formal takes of the same campaign. Some tools I recommend for this include:

Any marketing professional worth his or her salt will show you the results of market research. You can also send a brief survey with a link to your campaign, asking recipients for their opinion. Sample question: When meeting someone for the first time, which is worse? To dress like an unemployed painter or to wear white socks with sandals?

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Chamber Made for Marketing

(This column first appeared on on May 8, 2011.)

The TLC show Extreme Couponing kind of freaks me out. I mean, who has 60 hours a week to clip and organize coupons, much less storage for 72 boxes of detergent and 433 tubes of toothpaste, even if the net cost for the items is 12 cents? Don’t get me wrong. I love a bargain as much as any other red-blooded American. But my own forays into the coupon game have proved far less successful.

On the few Sundays a year I actually remember to haphazardly tear coupons from the newspaper, I inevitably leave them at home only to realize the mistake while standing in line at the supermarket. But that doesn’t mean I am throwing in the towel. I’m determined to save money any way I can.

The economy has made it necessary for most of us to carefully measure every single purchase. If it doesn’t cut the mustard, it gets axed. And, in many ways, this is a good thing. After all, why pay for something unless it actively improves the bottom line?

When it comes to marketing, one expense that almost always makes sense is membership in a local chamber of commerce. Services included and fees charged vary from chamber to chamber. So check with your local organization for specifics. But some features are standard:

  • Listing in an online and/or printed directory
  • Hyperlink from the chamber website to your own
  • Networking opportunities at mixers, luncheons and special events
  • Advertising partnership opportunities. (The Lake Arrowhead Chamber, for example, allows members to pay a nominal fee for targeted email blasts.)
  • Access to accurate contact information for B2B marketing
  • Entry to educational classes such as business seminars and economic symposiums
  • The ability to contribute to your local business community. Run for an appointment to the board of directors or volunteer to help pull off a big event.

For some, chamber membership can mean the difference between the successful survival of your business and abject failure. Take Lake Arrowhead, for example. Marketing Director for the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce, Leslie McLellan, maintains that “social media saved Lake Arrowhead.”

In The Social Media Examiner, blogger Casey Hibbard recounts the way McLellan and the Lake Arrowhead Chamber has used social media since 2009 to bolster business activity at a time when advertising budgets were slashed. Since the chamber used social media to promote the Lake Arrowhead area on behalf of member businesses, the entire community benefited.

Whatever your marketing budget, don’t miss out on opportunities to leverage your chamber membership to even greater effect.

For Free—

Consider combining your own social media efforts with the activities of your local chamber by hosting a social media summit. If the movers and shakers in your community can agree to use common Twitter hashtags for promoting community events, cross-promoting via Facebook Fan Pages and dividing and conquering blog topics to market community events, everyone will benefit.


On a Limited Budget—

Instead of acting as if you live on an island, collaborate with leadership and members of your local chamber to save costs and multiply the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Sharing costs for production, printing and distribution of traditional marketing materials for community events will stretch your advertising budget. And, maybe even more importantly, the more creative business minds who gather to brainstorm, the better.


The Sky’s the Limit—

If your business is located in a metropolitan city, take a cue from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber, which recently developed a formal training program they call the Supplier Network, which has business members gushing:

Without this program, I never would have expected to get my foot in the door with a Citizens Bank or Comcast, let alone secure a contract with the Delaware River Port Authority.

I developed an invaluable mentor relationship with an SN instructor from Astra Zeneca.

The series has been indispensable in my company’s development.

If your firm has resources sufficient to sponsor such a program, give it a go. The possibilities are endless. For example, why not host an educational seminar, tweet about it along with your local chamber and share costs to produce discount coupons? I would follow the tweets and might even clip the coupon myself…not that I would remember to bring it with me to the event.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: The Running Woman

Although plagued by guilt, I learned a valuable business lesson from my third grade fun run.

(This column first appeared on on April 25, 2011.)

I can’t fathom there exists an exercise more torturous than running. I’ve always felt this way. In fact, the only time I ever cheated in school was because of the sport. When I was in third grade, my PE teacher stood at the corner, stopwatch in hand, to time us individually as we ran 743 miles around the perimeter of the entire white brick school building.

At first, I surprised myself by having a little bit of fun while the warm sun beat down on my back and a cool breeze brushed against my cheeks. Then, two minutes into the grueling physical fitness test, I hit the wall. My legs felt like logs. My heart raced. I struggled to breathe.

Panic set in as I struggled to determine how I could convince my body to cooperate. Miraculously, I rounded Tufts Ave and started up Sherman when it hit me: I might be able to make it if I cut across the grass on the back side of the school outside of Mr. Bowen’s line of sight. I didn’t even care that the kindergarten classroom windows faced the grassy yard. To this day, I don’t know if five-year-olds and their teachers watched me as I ran. All that mattered was survival.

When I emerged at the end of the course, Mr. Bowen stopped the timer and told me that my score was good enough to save me a repeat run the following day. I smiled. But guilt plagued me. The next morning, I tearfully confessed to a teacher who was more surprised at my poor time than at my deception.

Taking pity on me, he said,

If that’s the best time you could run just half of the distance, I won’t make you redo the entire race. Just promise me you won’t join the track team.

Looking back, I wish Mr. Bowen had made me repeat the run because you can’t succeed if you cut corners…in PE or in marketing. Believe me—I meet business men and women every day who try.

At first, out of desperation, prospects say:

I don’t care how much it costs. Just help me build more business and then there will be plenty of money for advertising.

Then, after my agency’s efforts bear fruit and business is booming, customers ask if there is a way to “get the same results for less.” Unfortunately, however, when it comes to marketing, the adage applies: you get out what you put in.

The good news is that you can choose what it is you want to invest. If you are low on funds, opt for guerrilla marketing techniques which require sweat equity instead of cold, hard cash. Or, if you are short on time, use the capital you have on hand to hire someone else to do the dirty work. If you are like the rest of us—short on both time and money, read on:

For Free—

Guerrilla Marketing is an unconventional system of promotions that relies on time, energy and imagination rather than big bucks. Typically unexpected and unconventional, this type of campaign is often interactive and targets consumers in unexpected places.

The object of guerrilla marketing is to create a unique, engaging and thought-provoking concept to generate buzz. What’s not to love?

You are probably well aware of some popular guerrilla marketing techniques. But have you tried them?

  • Fliers on windshields
  • Dancers holding posters on street corners
  • Yellow Pages and classified ads
  • Billboards
  • Amateur videos
  • Street art
  • Bumper stickers
  • Tiny slips of perforated paper tacked to community bulletin boards


On a Limited Budget—

Guerrilla campaigns aren’t always free. In fact, advertisers make a living because of their ability to think outside the box. If you can’t afford to hire a professional, ask friends for unconventional ideas for promoting your business. Sure, some of their ideas might blow. But you get what you pay for. Besides, even advertising pros have off days.\

The Sky’s the Limit—

If you have the option, hire a team to come up with something that is truly inspired. Here are examples of some successful guerrilla marketing campaigns conceived by Madison Avenue giants:

  • The Hollywood Sign Who knew?
  • Product placement, which is said to date back to Thomas Edison, who, after he invented the motion-picture camera, shot movies of people on a train with advertisements for his own products on the side of the boxcars.
  • The Goodyear Blimp I’ve actually ridden this thing and it never occurred to me that I was sitting inside a flying billboard.
  • Nike’s Gone Running Campaign Though market research reports the campaign has been a rousing success, I remain skeptical. Not even Nike could convince me to run.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.