Friday, October 30, 2009

Scary Marketing III: The Skeleton Key

Understand, when I write these blogs, I'm really trying to give practical and tactical information on HOW you can achieve better results for your business. It's really that simple, but sometimes, the larger point is difficult to connect with the real-world question of, "How?"

If you read the original Scary Marketing blog, you found out about three tremendously cool websites that will absolutely freak out your teenager - while they earn kudos in an incredible fickle marketplace. What they all do is generate an instant relationship with a young audience and hold them enthralled for a significant period of time.

It's called DURATION.

In the Sequel, you learned of more practical ways of employing the base strategy of defining your target audience and giving them reasons to "share the ride" with you.

That's effective use of CONTENT.

Yet, no successful horror movie would be complete without it's triptych... in this case, "The Skeleton Key - a simple singular tactic that you can employ at your next trade show. I offer this up because I really want to help make the point of how you can take these concepts and bring them into a system that is neither expensive or difficult to accomplish.

So here's the HOW TO...

Trade shows are notorious for wasting everyone's time. You pay good money for the space, booth, graphics, the upgrade to the marketing materials, travel, hotel rooms, per diem AND the lost time at work. And for what? The chance at locking up that big account. Proving that you're one of the "big boys". Wandering the aisles aimlessly trying to figure out why the Sham-wow guy is getting all the good leads.

The point was supposed to be that you were going to see your good customers and vendors, that you were going to generate new sales leads and that you were actually going to sell something. How many of us have missed the mark in that regard, and still called the show, "a success"?

The Skeleton Key is a tactic that is simple to employ and typically brings people to your booth, both known and unknown. It starts with your database, a safe of some kind and a bunch of keys. Of course, there's a big prize in the safe, and to win it, your key needs to unlock it. Make the prize intriguing enough and you're sure to see folks saunter by your booth for the chance to win.

You can start by developing an e-mail with a thriller or espionage theme (I know, corny, but it works). Extend that theme to a direct mailer or postcard; maybe a Western Union letter. The more you play it up, the better. When you send out the keys in a "classified" envelope, make sure the letter is crafted with the appropriate cut out letters from the newspaper.

Is the entire booth done up thematically? Maybe, or maybe just a section. Maybe there's Roger from accounting just standing there in a black suit, black tie and black shades with the briefcase chained to his wrist. This is where your ingenuity and creativity can add to the fun. (I told you it was corny... but it still works.) It's such an easy conversation starter that you can't help but gain new leads.

Is the prize connected with the theme? It should be. Does it relate to your product? Can it be both product and prize? Maybe you get a case of free widgets AND a 3-day trip to Las Vegas and $500 in cash. Can't do Vegas... how about your local Indian Casino? It's really very easy and reasonably priced. Oh, and who gets the key/or keys? Well, you could let it be completely random, or (and you didn't hear it here) it might mysteriously end up in the hands of a client who's on the fence in purchasing that next big order.

Lastly, make sure you follow up - with everyone. E-mails, letters, calls... something. Find out how they enjoyed the show. Get to talking with them, even about how Roger really didn't make such a good Secret Agent. The point is, you just have read HOW to "share the ride", create duration in something that you do every year. How much time did your prospects and customers spend with you?

Only the shadow knows!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Scary Marketing II: the sequel for the real world

For those of you who read my most recent missive about three nifty web based initiatives to garner more teen loyalty, you may have been left feeling scared and alone. Why? Because you were thinking, "Sites like HOTEL626, LEVEL26 and CIRCLE OF 8 sure were neat, but how can I use this to my advantage?"

Great question, glad you asked...

These spooky sites use big time graphics, storytelling and gee-whiz programming to deliver an experience that's as good as anything the Internet has to offer. But, you need to understand what's really being done here... targeting a specific audience with a reason to enjoy your company. These would-be customers don't even have to know you well to begin, but by the end of their time with you... you should become "friends".

What can you do to "tag-along" with your prospects, specific prospects - you know, the 20% who actually mean something to your business? Study them, their habits, needs, desires and interests. Is there something in common? It might be that they all utilize a certain type of equipment that you just happen to service. Or, they might all be Packer fans, as far as you can tell. The connection point could be anything - an upcoming event like an industry trade show is all you need.

Compelling content is really the key.
These scary sites had great want-to-stay-longer-to-find-out-what-happens kind of content. Can you do the same? Sure. Let's say you make flame retardant roofing... why couldn't you tell the story of how your stuff might prevent a business changing tragedy when a military flare fell upon a roof (oh, wait, that's a real story!). You could also make it up, turn it into a mystery... it could be way over the top - just for fun - but, often, you can find real world news that could be co-opted for your own business. That's compelling reading. That's someone who's engaged every bit as much as teens freaking out as they run through the Flash created corridors of a haunted virtual hotel.

Fine... but my budget ain't 6 figures...
or 5 or even 4. Wondering what to do with a small business budget? No problem. Don't give yourself that as an out. Setting up an e-mail campaign or sending "something in a box" that directs recipients back to your website and some special content is all that you're after (make sure there is an easy way for them to contact you for even more information to continue to the dialogue). In the case of that 20% audience you defined, exactly how many prospects/customers are we talking about? For many businesses, it's about 20 total... and that's A-OK. If you have 100's or 1000's, use this as a chance to test your strategy with only 20 or so. How many do you need to convert to make the program a "push"? I'm here to tell you right now, that if you can get it to cover itself, you win, because the long term effects of applying this will net more and more and more. Your conversion will increase and your innovative thinking will spill over to the rest of your prospects.

When a stranger calls...
The strategy of scaring is pretty simple: you wait for just the right person to come along and jump out and yell, "Boo!" When you set that moment up, it's friendly and fun - if you don't, you may get a bloody nose - or worse. What are you doing to maintain a conversation with your best prospects and customers so that when you do give them a surprise, they'll actually find the fun in it? Great sales people know that making "touches" are hugely important. Right now, pick out your top 20 and send the bottom 15 a hand written postcard/letter and for the top 5, just pick up a phone and make a call. Since it's almost Halloween, try this for starters ... "Have you checked the widgets..."

< Click here, if you dare >

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scary new marketing you need to be aware of...

Halloween always brings out a bonanza of mainstream marketing mayhem as big time advertisers attempt to capture teen eyeballs. In years past, it's been promotional packaging and concert tours, but this year, the Internet cross-over is hitting full stride. I give you three examples of recent offerings by Doritos, Mountain Dew and Dutton Publishing (via Anthony Zuiker - the CSI guy):

Capturing teens (and twentysomethings) is like herding cats.

If you can get them on your lap, they will purr for you, but at the slightest annoyance, they'll ditch you in the dark. With a U.S. teen population of over 35,000,000, it's easy to see why marketers are interested to tap into their psyche. One sure fire way to start is to use the horror genre. Kids love to be scared... in a fun way. Like a great haunted house, they wish to experience terror, but with the expectation that it's ultimately safe: the shouts, the giggles, the nervous energy... and the loyalty they'll extend to those who offer up the best frights.

What these sites attempt to do is provide first-rate content, that not only holds the viewer at the site for an extended period of time, but encourages a community atmosphere to share that experience. Marketers speak of reach and frequency, but the real key is "duration". The longer these marketers effectively befriend young consumers, the more apt they are to spread a message to their friends.

Doritos' Hotel 626 campaign is an interactive video game online that held my collegiate son for well over an hour (only open after 6pm - a shrewd gimmick), as he navigated his way past a frightening asylum of characters, attempting to make his way out of a haunted hotel. It's very effective - because it not only captures their eyes, but their e-mail addresses AND their cell phone numbers... willingly! The push from Doritos is subdued, yet when it comes time to choose at the grocery store, you can see how one of these fans will pay the extra dollar for a bag of chips.

Circle of 8, the triple collaboration between Moutain Dew, MySpace and Paramount Digital is the latest to tap into big production values, delivering Twin Peaks like oddities, mysteries to solve and murder, within the confines of "The Dante" - an apartment complex filled with (guess who?) ...20-somethings. Mountain Dew plays a more active role here, offering new clues to decipher on the site as well as their new promotional package designs. The commercialism here still works by smartly turning their own packaging into a Scooby Doo mystery solving device. It's an effective way to turn fans into big time viral agents.

The last on the list is the "digi-novel" concept of Level 26. An illustrated book from Dutton Publishing, with special clues within the pages. These clues act as a bridging link to 3-minute live action cinematics with recognizable acting talent. Do fans of CSI shows really want to take this next step? Do suspense readers really want to put movie images and sound to the characters in their heads? Does the censor-free spaces of books and the Internet provide an edge over traditional TV offerings. The answers are, "of course they do." Zuiker has been a master of tapping into the things that we squeamishly allow into our memories for years. Level 26's serial killer Sqweegel is the boogey-man you hope never to see, but believe actually exists. Clever... like 3 days duration clever.

In the end, the challenge for all marketers in this new arena is, "Will it sell?" There's little doubt in my mind that it will generate serious $$$ (and spin offs). However, reaping this kind of payday is for the patient. This kind of indirect sale is long, but those that welcome it may find that they're producing viral sales agents, far better at communicating "cool" than any sales manager could ever "train." The trick, of course, is to not let them down with your content - otherwise you'll face a fate worse than death: a teenagers' wrath.

Effectively finding ways in which your target audience will spend minutes, hours, if not days, with your message, will always help your bottom line - even if that line is covered in blood.

Happy Halloween!