I know for a fact that when I am old and gray (well, old anyway, gray is no longer an option), and I look back on my life, one of the things I will have enjoyed the most is Tuesday nights at my local dive bar.
every week, for many years running, three, four, sometimes seven or
eight of us, gather for beer and a couple of hours of idiotic
conversation and laughs.
began as a post-basketball ritual, but at this point, half the
attendees don’t even play anymore. It’s just a fun time and, somehow, it
never gets old.
On a recent night, the bartender handed me a pint glass that I had never seen before – it was covered in ads from about a dozen local town businesses.
I’m a local town business and so I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have my company logo on some glasses too?”
The very next day I called the number on the side of the glass and got the scoop.
Not great news.
That’s when I had a better idea…
I found a company online that would produce a small quantity of glasses embossed with “Blue Penguin Brewing” (don’t google it, it doesn’t exist) and ship them directly to me.
of weeks later, custom glasses in hand, I arrived at the bar. I handed
them out to my friends and we each poured in our respective beers.
At the end of the night, we left them behind, effectively releasing them into the bar’s “glassware ecosystem.”
solved. Not only did I manage to surreptitiously donate glasses to my
favorite bar, I did it in a way that is less expensive and more
effective than the standard approach.
What’s Obvious is Not Necessarily Best
I don’t share this story because I think putting your logo on a beer glass is a particularly shrewd marketing move.
all, it seems to me that the kind of person who drunk-dials you off the
phone number on the side of his beer is probably not what we solo
professionals refer to as “an ideal client.”
I mention it, however, because it does represent the value of thinking outside the box in the way you tackle your marketing.
easy, obvious approach would have been to just do what was put in front
of me: Pay my money, wait my turn, sit on the side of a glass next to a
lot of other companies.
Instead, I found a different, cheaper way of accomplishing something better.
Best Practices Can Be a Trap, Too
The concept of “Best Practices” – applying a technique that has been demonstrated as superior – makes sense in many cases.
don’t want your fire department, airline pilot or mohel experimenting
on the fly to see if he or she can find a creative solution to a
even in the squishy world of professional services marketing, there are
certain truths that are almost always worth following (e.g., having
a web site that works well on a phone, using a custom domain for your
email address [not @gmail.com], hiring professionals to design your
But when it comes to standing out from the crowd, doing things the conventional way only serves to make you blend in.
Do you send cards/gifts at the holidays? Sounds groundbreaking. What if, instead, you sat out December and sent something to the same list now, in the dead of summer?
Do you rely exclusively on email to stay in touch with colleagues? What if you picked up the phone and called one person a day, just to say hello? (Hat tip: Reuben Swartz)
Do you wear khaki pants, a blue button down shirt and a navy blazer whenever you attend a networking meeting? (Stop laughing ladies. I’ve seen more scarfs at these meetings than at a kids’ magic show.)
What if you showed up in Hawaiian shirt? Or wearing a bow tie?
Here’s the bottom line.
have nothing against learning from other people. There’s a lot of
experience out there and the more you read, listen and tweak the better.
But when it involves marketing – the art of memorable differentiation –
as soon as the conversation turns into, “This is how you do a podcast,”
or “This is how long a newsletter is supposed to be,” or “This is how
you advertise on the side of a beer glass,” I can hear opportunity
leaving the room.
Best practice or not, if everything you do is the same as everyone else, don’t be surprised if you look like, well, everyone else.
- What unconventional things have you done in your marketing to stand out?
- Did it involve drinking beer?
- I couldn’t think of a third question. Please ask and answer one of your own.
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1. I’m so going to try the “bring a branded glass, leave a branded glass” at some point in the future. I did use Peanut M&M’s to help describe a tech startup I was involved with once.
2. Early everything involves drinking beer, or at least it should.
3. “Where would you like me to send your Blue Penguin pint glass?” Said Michael Katz to Bob
“Nearly” not early. Danged auto correct.
I like your #3, Bob!!
1) My prospecting letters are handwritten on stationery, mailed in a hand-addressed envelope with an interesting postage stamp. The response rate has been amazing, and one recipient described my letter as “tremendous.” It’s fun.
2) Can’t write and drink beer at the same time, but I certainly celebrate when the replies roll in and the prospects turn to customers.
3) Will you be trying any other unusual marketing tactics? You betcha. Just gotta read more of Michael Katz’s newsletters for inspiration.
I’m a big snail mail fan as well, Beverly. I did not realize it was so effective as a prospecting tool!
Mike I came across the most remarkable and brilliant product marketing and I can’t get over being amazed.
We were out looking for something to spray to send those creepy spiders to their doom. At the hardware store the clerk said: we have exactly what you need.
He said “if you Remember the old nursery rhyme you will appreciate this. And he proceeded to say it.
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet.
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider that sat Dow beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away!
Here is the name of the spray for spider control.
Miss Muffets Revenge
Is this beyond brilliant?
Very creative indeed, Barb!
1) I do a book review and giveaway at the bottom of my email newsletter. It has nothing to do with my business. The book blurb generates a lot more interest than the actual newsletter article!
2) No, I’ve never liked beer. But if I had a cool Blue Penguin beer glass I would fill it with my favorite seltzer, a splash of cran and a slice of lime….
3) Have you read any good books lately? “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. I binge read it and stayed up until 1AM to finish. It was May’s book giveaway. 🙂
Fabulous idea, Michelle – I may just borrow that one!
Good to know on your #3. Just got a Kindle and, despite being a long-time, “I like the feel of a real book” kind of guy, I find I read much fast and more enjoyably that way, so I’m adding to my reading list!
1. Creating an animated version of the potential client that I want to create an Explainer Video for.
2. Perhaps. Or vodka. Or red wine. It’s reallt hard to remember.
3. Of course not. And that’s why I say, Neever ever trust a duck!
I’d love to see a sample of one of your #1s, Charles. Would I find one on your web site?
3. How many of your readers have no idea what a mohel is?
Following on what Jean said – now I have FOMO because I do not have a clue about what a mohel is???
I’m betting many of us think too hard about the art and science of memorably differentiating ourselves … or our clients. To pave the runway, I’m working on NOT instinctively camouflaging my genuine personality …
Kady – to me, the personality is the place to start. Often the only unique thing about our respective offerings/business!
Kady, It’s a Jewish thing. A mohel is a non-rabbi, non-doctor who performs a bris (ritual circumcision) on male babies. Never seemed safe or sanitary to me.
Jean – Having experienced three at close range (I have little memory of the first), I would have to agree. Any medical procedure that involves spectators eating bagels just steps away would seem to be problematic.
Hi Jean – Thanks for filling me in. Definitely not the right arena for deploying new ideas! Aaaack.
It would seem at least one!
I considered linking to the definition, but I figured those who don’t know could ask The Google!
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I enjoyed the thread, about the beer glass . As a side business i purchased a laser engraving machine to do custom beer glass engraving in my own town for the local business companies around me . I already made the rule about how many companies on a glass , that was easy. The name of the Restaurant / Bar on 1 side and the local business on the other. My pricing is simple 1 case of 24 , 16oz pint glasses laser engraved would cost 240.00 hand delivered to the Restaurant / Bar with in a 5-10 min drive , Customer can also pick them up if they which to hand deliver themselves. I call this the 3 winners cycle at a fair price , Restaurant / Bar , Local Company , Me
( i do not ship cases that’s when prices can go very crazy and other problems )
Your input would be helpful.