Marketing. You may be doing it. But are you doing it well?
When you’re self-employed, you may feel like there’s not enough time in the day to sit down and tackle everything on your to-do list—much less take the time to brainstorm creative campaigns. And even if marketing planning is on that never-ending checklist (give yourself a pat on the back for being a step ahead of the game), it’s most likely not a priority.
But it should be.
It may take a few extra minutes, hours, or even days to draw up a unique strategy but in the end, that extra time will—perhaps, not immediately—attract more customers and help reduce the time you spend on other processes you may have taken to get the same result.
Here’s just a handful of creative marketing campaigns that’ll inspire you to think out of the box.
STRATEGY #1: PARTNER WITH ALLIES
In 1999, Half.com, a textbook rental company, saw an opportunity to partner with the town of Halfway, Oregon. CEO Joshua Kopel proposed that the town change its name to Half.com in exchange for company stock, Internet access, computers, and free giveaways. This out-of-the-box strategy worked and put the company on the map—quite literally. Months later, in 2000, the startup was purchased by eBay.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Business allies and partnerships can expose your brand to a whole new market of customers. You may reach a demographic you wouldn’t have been able to access on your own.
STRATEGY #2: THINK LIKE YOUR CUSTOMERS
Monumenta, a Brazilian agency for Orca Chevrolet, saw an opportunity to personalize its advertising by targeting people whose car had broken down. They partnered with a local tow company and offered a free lift home, allowing passengers to test out the Orca. This strategy proved effective, especially at a time when their potential customers might be regretting their current set of wheels and considering getting a new car.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Timing is absolutely crucial. Do some research and find trends, habits, and needs of your customers so you can better anticipate their thought process and position your product or service at exactly the right moment.
STRATEGY #3: INCREASE CUSTOMER INTERACTION
In 2009, the 1950s-inspired show Mad Men launched an interactive tool on their website that allowed fans to transform themselves into Mad Men avatars. With two-hour martini lunches abound on Madison Avenue, who wouldn’t want to retrofy themselves into the next Don Draper? That was certainly many fans’ mentality because the show set record ratings after the campaign launched. Best of all, it’s still a hit today.
MORAL OF THE STORY: People have a desire to connect, whether it’s with people or with companies. Give your customers an opportunity to escape their daily routine by interacting with your brand in imaginative ways.
STRATEGY #4: STAY RELEVANT
What does Dove have to do with female empowerment? Well, after their 2013 campaign, a whole lot. Primarily seen as a personal-care brand, they launched a video as part of their “Real Beauty” campaign—aligning themselves with a current social issue relevant to their target demographic. In their video, you see two drawings of a woman—one based on how the woman described herself and then again based on how someone else described them. In every instance, the portrait based on the description given by someone else was much more beautiful than the one described by the woman herself. Not only did the media pick up their campaign but it also created an open dialogue for women to discuss embracing their natural beauty. And who wouldn’t want to support a company with that kind of inspiring message?
MORAL OF THE STORY: Research your customers: what issues are most important to them, and how can you position yourself as a thought leader in that conversation? This is your chance to stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape.
STRATEGY #5: CREATE GOOD CONTENT
There might not be anything funny about a sewer company, but San Francisco’s Water Power Sewer department found a way to include a little bit of “potty” humor in their campaigns. Ads like “Your #2 is my #1” and “No one deals with more crap than I do” were displayed all over the city. Naturally, people started sharing these ads online—getting social media communities engaged and interested in what’s going on. Even with no explicit call-to-action (CTA), this campaign was able to inspire people to spread public awareness about the department’s work because the content was good enough on its own.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Content is king in the world of marketing. Let your words do the work: show, don’t tell. Develop and build your brand’s voice and message so that people want to do your marketing work for you.
If you’re like most small businesses, your budget may restrict you from, say, renting out an amphitheater-size stage, only to fill it with cheese puffs (wait, what does your small business do again?). But that shouldn’t stop you from getting creative. Start small. Think out of the box. And most importantly, do it well.