I clicked on a discussion group post with the subject, “Funeral Home Help.” The poster said his client wanted an item to give the family of the departed. Budget? 50¢ per unit. 50¢ a unit! Wow!
I can envision the scene at the funeral home. The funeral home employee approaches the bereaved family and says, “Please accept our deepest sympathy at the passing of your loved one. Here’s a keychain.”
That can happen when the focus of a promotional effort is on product and price. The perilous journey begins with the question, “What can we give away.” A much better question is, “What do we want to accomplish?” When the focus is on desired outcome, the result is often more of a program in which a promotional product plays a role.
Funeral home marketing can be kind of tricky because planning for the inevitable isn’t as much fun as planning a birthday party or an anniversary celebration. It’s not the kind of thing easily brought up in family conversation:
Dad: Enjoy the movie son. Your mother and I will meet you here after.
Son: Great. Hey, Dad. Speaking of here after, have you made funeral plans?
When marketing or promoting touchy, difficult or uncomfortable subject matter a reasonable focus would be to make discussing the subject matter easier. In the case of a funeral home, they could start with a brochure and a Power Point presentation or video. Then working through local churches, civic and social organizations give informative presentations. At the end of the presentation participants receive the brochure and a promotional item. At this point, a .50¢ item isn’t entirely out of the question.
By focusing first on what we want to accomplish and working towards that, we’ve developed a program, a methodology by which to promote, ie: seminars, presentations or workshops which are promotionally viable for nearly every type of business.
The big box hardware stores employ this strategy with their do-it-yourself classes. National brands can create educational opportunities based on the surveyed interests of customers. Smaller businesses such as auto repair, plumbers and electricians can do the same thing.
These presentations don’t have to be done in person either. For example. If a hospital wants to promote Bariatric surgery, it starts with the question, ”What do we want to accomplish?” If the answer is educate the public, then a video may be the answer. Parts of the video can be turned into TV commercials. The video is also put on DVD. The tv commercials promote the surgery and the website where the video may be viewed. The website also let’s people know that a presentation is available to churches, civic and social organizations and that they may order a copy of the DVD. The DVD is also made available through appropriate doctor’s offices.
At this point, with the promotional methodology established, it’s time to determine which promotional product will appropriately enhance the promotion. Do you want to mail the product along with the DVD? Do you want a product that can be shrink wrapped with the DVD? Or, should the product be something that is handed out alone only with the idea to drive recipients to the website?
The reason it’s important to focus on the meat of the promotion instead of the promotional product, is to ensure that the promotional product doesn’t create questions in the recipient’s mind for which there are no readily accessible answers.
I’ve seen plenty of examples where a lot of thought goes into the promotional product without there being anything available to back it up. For instance, imagine the following imprinted on a stomach-shaped stress reliever:
Overweight? Is Bariatric surgery right for you?
WYZ Hospital • 555-555-5555
The call to action simply isn’t specific enough. But it’s the type of thing you’d see if the hospital didn’t adequately prepare their promotion. The following is much better:
Overweight? Is Bariatric Surgery right for you?
View free video at www.XYZ.com/bariatric
Now the power of the promotional product can be fully realized. If distributed correctly, it will cause the recipient to DO SOMETHING. And as a marketer, isn’t that what you really want?
Taking the promotional product out of the promotional equation forces you to develop a sound promotional foundation. It prevents handing key chains to bereaved family members. It ensures that there is depth to your promotion and that your actions are appropriate.
Sometimes, people accomplish great feats. They stand back and congratulate themselves on a job well done and they are proud. Then, someone like me comes along and dumps all over it.
What I’m about to share with you is a promotional marketing paradox. Because as a concept, having hundreds or thousands of people at a trade show booth at the end of the day is a monumental success on so many fronts — that just about everyone misses the part that is a failure of epic proportions.
The promotional concept results in a large crowd of people standing around a tradeshow booth at the end of the day to see who wins some large prize such as a TV, computer, iPad or what not. The sign-up mechanism ranges from using a wristband with numbered tabs to simply dropping a business card in the bowl. You’ve seen these concepts at work and have probably participated in them. They are very effective at building booth traffic, “buzz” and awareness. The problem is, they contain a component that works against any perceived success.
The Monumental Success Part:
I remember one case at the PPAI Show in Vegas where 1000 people were at the booth at the end of the day to see who won the big prize. A hush fell over the crowd as the winning number was announced. The winner stepped forward, accepted the prize and the applause was thunderous. What a tremendous success! Then the people in charge thanked everyone for showing up and participating and said “good night”. And as the huge crowd dissipated – that’s when it hit me.
The Epic Failure Part:
1 Winner, 999 Losers.
They had just made 999 people feel like losers. 1 person wins a huge prize. What about the other 999? What's the point of having 1000 people standing around your booth at the end of the day? Nothing, unless you're playing to tv cameras. Even then, do you really want 999 people to go away from your booth feeling like a loser? Is that REALLY the last thought you want associated with your company brand?
Think about that.
Despite having harnessed the ability to move the masses, this concept lets the vast majority of those who participated leave with little more than the memory of having been one loser among many.
What would you like 999 people to do at the end of a trade show? Visit a website? Visit a retail location? NOT feel like a loser?
At the very point that those people believe they are a loser is the perfect time to surprise them with something — ANYTHING — even if it's inviting them to visit your website to download a coupon, Keep in mind, multiple touch points allow you to innocuously collect information about your prospects. For local trade shows, giving them something to encourage an in-store visit can be a tremendous way to build retail traffic.
The point is, if you want to be a more successful promotional products/trade show professional, you need to think these things through . You can prevent a magical moment from being anti-climactic. You can use promotional products to effectively create — then carry the excitement of the trade show — into your prospect’s home, office or vehicle. No matter if it’s a banquet, trade show or open house, if prizes are awarded EVERYONE should leave feeling like a winner.
Don’t allow the successful part of an effort, campaign or promotion to disguise the failure part. Think it through and your prospects will realize why they want YOU!
When my kids were young we would hunt golf courses for golf balls when we were on vacation. At 10 and 12 my kids could look beyond the green and quickly decide the likelihood that golf balls were there. If it’s flat and relatively tree or bush free … no balls. However, if beyond the green lies a steep drop-off or thick underbrush with lots of prickers — golf ball gold mine.
On on such adventure, my then 10-year old son helped me discover a very powerful creative problem-solving insight.
We were walking up a fairway about 3 feet into woods when we stopped to watch a golfer tee off. He smacked it hard then followed in his cart looking for his ball. He drove around in circles for a couple of minutes with no luck. Finally, he dropped another ball, whacked it and took off, shooting us a dirty look over his shoulder. I said to my son, “He thinks we stole his ball.” We did not. In fact, as we made our way down the fairway we found the guy’s ball. It was less than 3 feet from the cart’s tire tracks.
“Dad,” my son asked.
“Yeah”, I replied.
“How come we can find 50 golf balls without hardly trying and that guy couldn’t find one ball that he just hit?”
“Well”, I replied with a chuckle, “That guy is looking for A golf ball where he thinks it should be. We’re simply looking for golf balls … wherever they might be.”
And that’s when it hit me: “If you limit your search for an idea or solution to where you think it should be, you narrow your entire spectrum of possibility .. and likely your success.”
When considering how you approach finding marketing, business .. even personal solutions, it’s important to understand what can negatively impact your search.
In the case of golfers, their perception of exactly where the ball lies is often skewed by such things as alcohol, distance, pitch, terrain similarities or being blinded by the sun.
In marketing and business, the perception of exactly where the idea or solution lies may be skewed by budget, time, misinformation, misunderstood information, alcohol or blind ambition.
Have a problem in shipping? Don’t look to the managers … they’re probably so deep in paperwork they don’t have a clue about what’s really going on down there anyway. No, look for a solution from the people who actually do the work in shipping.
Lets examine a scenario. Management of a zoo is upset over the amount of trash generated each year by patrons throwing away the map of the zoo at day’s end. The first solution would be to get all “tight-fisted” with the number of maps that are handed out by instituting a “one per family” policy and charging for additionals. No one wants to pay for a piece of paper.
However, if you expanded your idea search, you might find another answer such as, print the map on something people won’t throw away — like a bandanna. Give one to each group, charge for additionals. People will pay a buck for a souvenir bandana that tells them where the important stuff — such as the restrooms— are. If they turn it in at the end of the day they get their $1 back. The maps can be washed and reused. Or, underwrite the cost of the bandanna by selling space to a local restaurant or other area attraction that allows the bandanna to be used as a coupon at their establishment. This approach opens the creative door to development of cross-promotion of other owned properties or even reciprocal partnerships.
The point is, you’re looking for ideas outside of, “If we give out less maps … less maps will get thrown away.” Now you’re looking for golf balls … not A golf ball.
When you look for “ideas” or “solutions” as opposed to “a specific idea” or “a specific solution”, you expand your horizons. And when you look for ideas and solutions outside of where you think the answer or solution lies, you expand your horizons even more.
The trick with golf ball hunting is to look where others don’t or won’t. The same is true for idea hunting. You must allow your mind to go where others fear to tread.
How a golf ball ends up on the backside of a tree away from the direction the ball was shot is beyond me. It doesn’t make sense. But you know what? When you find what you’re looking for … where you find it doesn’t have to make sense.