The Green Sheet Online Edition
October 22, 2007 • Issue 07:10:02
Clichés, monsters and a dog named Spot
T here's a popular school of thought that says you should be cautious about how you portray yourself and your company. Being safe and steady works for certain brands. But businesses that wish to stay on the cusp of what gets people's attention have to be willing to take risks and set themselves apart.
Some are redesigning their logos, putting their own executives in their ads or paying millions of dollars to name a sports stadium that few people will actually refer to by the corporate name.
In San Francisco, the Giants and 49ers both played at what used to be called Candlestick Park. The stadium was renamed 3Com Park in 1996, but still was referred to as The Stick by diehards.
In 2004, it was renamed Monster Park, after the high-end audio cabling company Monster Cable, which often gets mistaken for Monster.com, the employment Web site - money well wasted. Monster Cable could have wrapped an entire skyscraper in the financial district with stereo speaker cables. It would have been more realistic and recognizable.
Buckets of money are thrown at ill-conceived campaigns, when simply challenging the paradigm could be more effective. How many calculators do you have with a realtor's logo roaming around the junk drawer in your kitchen? Odds are, these just-like-everyone-else methods have become a blur to you. Conversely, if you take a similar approach it will affect your target audience the same way.
Have you ever seen a billboard advertising the potential rewards of selling financial services or working with an ISO? Professionals in other disciplines could benefit from working with you, and vice versa. The aforementioned real estate agent, for example, is likely looking for new ways to increase sales; who better to be part of your team?
Go to events and seek opportunities where you will be the only financial services person in the room or at the meeting. You will get far more attention and leads than you will at an event with many others in the same field. Step out of your circle of friends and take a chance.
A memorable way to attract small businesses and entrepreneurs is to fund a grant program to provide much needed seed capital. When your grant recipients grow, they'll remember you.
If you live close enough to be personally involved, sponsor a minor league baseball team and throw out the first pitch. Parlay that into pithy wordplay about your sales pitch. (But don't go out to the mound like a goofball in a dress shirt with a team t-shirt over it, slacks and wingtips and throw the pitch at the hot dog vendor behind the backstop.)
Get remembered for being different, in a good way. The car salesman Cal Worthington used to ride around on an ostrich with the catch phrase "It's Cal Worthington and his dog, Spot." We all knew that it wasn't a dog, but Cal wasn't afraid to poke a little fun at himself. Decades later he is still remembered and successful. Traditional advertising is powerful, but consider how to make the best of your investment.
How many people in your own town or metropolitan area know about you and what you do? Referrals are the lifeblood of a growing salesperson. If customers aren't talking about you, there's a critical disconnect. People remember Cal and confuse Monster with similar-sounding companies.
When promoting yourself, take chances, and reinforce the positive aspects of the value you bring to partnerships. How valuable is a pen, except when you need to jot down a phone number in the car? When was the last time you put a keychain with someone else's logo on your house keys?
Consider what your merchants use daily, and make your giveaways mean something to them.
Promotional value-adds are most effective when they come with consistency and function. Send prospects free receipt paper with your logo on the back so when customers walk out the front door, they take your company with them: two birds, one stone.
Take the tens of thousands that you would spend on promotional stress balls that people usually toss to their dogs, and make next week a free soft drink extravaganza at the convenience store. The merchant gets the rich payday, and you are represented to the customers, who may include other merchants.
While your mind is churning, consider what will offend or isolate your audience. Scantily clad stock photos and innuendo go about as far as a bowling ball on a gravel driveway. Don't cheapen your message with clich‚s and borrowed phrases from movies. It was buzz-worthy for Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character to say, "Show me the money," in the movie "Jerry Maguire," but the rest of us need to give it a rest.
Originality will take you further than throwing money at a solution that will end up in a junk drawer.
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