The Marketing Genius of My Mad Scientist Father

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This post is sponsored by Staples.

Recently, with Father’s Day around the corner, I have been thinking a lot about my dad. Dad was a great entrepreneur. He and his partner took a single carpet store in Los Angeles and grew it into the largest chain in Southern California at that time. He used to say to me, not immodestly, “I’m the greatest salesman in the world, Stevie!” And, while his sales skills were both legendary and impressive, I have to say that dad was wrong.

What he was, in actuality, was the greatest marketer in the world.

Let me give you an example: Near the end of his career, dad grew tired of the big enterprise his small business had become. All of the marketing ideas he used to grow the chain – parking lot sales and late night TV commercials and elephants and all the rest – were mostly unnecessary once the brand had been built. Dad found himself more manager than entrepreneur at that point; he didn’t like it, so he decided to sell out to his partner.

One year later, he was back in business with one giant carpet warehouse and a bag full of new marketing tricks up his sleeve. Before the store opened, he asked me to go with him to our local Staples store. He had an idea for a custom banner and knew that his pals at Staples could do the job.

Two weeks later I went to the “Grand Opening!” party at the store, and the first thing I saw when I walked in was a GIANT banner hanging from the rafters:

“Our word of mouth advertising starts with you!”

Freed from the prison of his old business, dad unleashed the full gamut of his marketing genius: Business cards in the shape of carpet rolls, flyers to be distributed at real estate open houses, new banners weekly, custom brochures, you name it. He loved it.

Needless to say, dad was onto something, and I am also happy to say that he found a natural partner in his local Staples store, especially in their Print & Marketing Services. What he needed, and what Staples offers, is an affordable one-stop shop for all of his small business needs; a place where he could count on low prices for the sort of creative, varied printing and products that he loved making.

I think there are a few important takeaways from my dad’s story.

The first is that you can never underestimate the importance of marketing in the success of a venture. Marketing is how new customers find you and how old customers remember you. It creates your brand, it fosters your X-Factor, and it gets the word out. To me, the type of marketing that my dad loved is more important than ever these days. Oh sure, social media marketing has become very important, and digital is all the rage for a reason, and that is why physical marketing is so important. It is somewhat unexpected now and amazingly, under-the-radar today. Physical signs, banners, posters, decals and all the rest are memorable for that very reason.

The second takeaway is that to succeed, you need great partners and teammates. You cannot do it all yourself. In the case of dad’s first business, his partner handled the finances and dad was in charge of marketing (natch!) The whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

Similarly, in his second venture, it was Staples that helped him implement his mad-scientist marketing madness. He had so much fun trying out new ideas and watching them come to fruition. But he couldn’t have done it alone. He needed expert assistance.

The third moral of the story is that creativity and experimentation are required if you are going to stay in business for the long-haul. Over 20 years and two businesses, my sweet pop loved trying out new ideas, finding what worked and discarding what didn’t.

And the final lesson is that we who have had good fathers are very fortunate indeed. And so to them we say:

Thank you very much, we love you, and happy Father’s Day!

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