Thursday, April 10, 2008

Taking it to the Streets - Street Marketing

By Ed Duffy, Easy Street Designs

Maybe it's the backlash against telemarketers and door to door solicitors. Maybe it's the never-ending postage rate hikes. Maybe it's an increased need to stand out among an ever-growing crowd of competition. Whatever the reason, "street marketing" has become very popular of late.

What is street marketing? It's taking the promotion directly to the people. Ideally, you want to create some "buzz" in the process of distributing your promotional message. Street marketing can be very elaborate or very simple. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

The most common form of street marketing takes place at events. These days marketers are no longer content to sit behind a table and offer informational flyers and free pens. They're showing up in costume, working the crowd, handing out coupons, making appointments and making sales. The event doesn't have to be huge or expensive. Greg Wickherst of Custom Concept Exteriors reports that his company recently participated in a very small event, attended by only a couple of hundred people. The result; tens of thousands of dollars in window and siding sales. Kerns Water Treatment likes to make a splash at area events with their converted VW minivan which now serves as a dunk tank. They also have a mobile coffee and beverage stand which they roll out to local events. The refreshments are free, but there's always a donation jar for a local charity on the counter. The idea is to get you thinking about water and more specifically, how their products can make it better. If you're a handyman, consider offering a live demonstration every thirty minutes of how to patch a hole in your drywall. Attorneys could offer free 10 minute consultations. If you're a vendor, send your folks out among the crowd with product for sale, or with coupons. Attract, entertain, demonstrate, sell. When done well, street marketing at events can make the event more entertaining to the public, more successful for the producers and profitable for you.

Another form of street marketing takes the streets. It can be as simple as handing out flyers and coupons to passers by. The Enchanted Fairy in Security has had great response to handing out flyers with coupons in high traffic areas. It can be a bit more involved. Domino's Pizza on B Street once handed out bags containing a doughnut and a pizza coupon at an intersection near the gate to Fort Carson at 5:30 in the morning. It was a big hit. Gordon Ramsey of "Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares" often uses street marketing to draw attention to his rehab projects. He employs things like impromptu parades and clam eating contests. Sometimes pleasantly surprising a few dozen people can have a much bigger impact than presenting a few thousand with more of the same ole same ole. What if a whole neighborhood came home one fine Spring afternoon to find one your promotional frisbees on every lawn? Tape a coupon to the underside and you've got a very easy distribution system. What if your local tire dealer handed you a flyer offering to take away any old tires from your home or garage free of charge? It might make you think of the tires on your vehicles and whether it's time to replace them. Of course a big truck with a company banner on each side would show up to pick them up. It could all be scheduled for one or two days to maximize efficiency as well as "buzz".

Getting help for your street marketing project can be as easy as calling up your local church group, boyscout or girlscout troop, or other non-profit organization. They need dollars, you need a few hours of their time. Make a donation in exchange for their help. You not only help out one of your favorite causes, you also help out your own company. Don't be shy about showing your company colors while you help out the community. The big guys do it all the time. In fact they'll often spend millions of dollars letting people know about their tens of thousands in charitable contributions. There's nothing wrong with benefitting from your good deeds, unless you're an Emmanual Kant fan, in which case you don't own a business anyway. But that's another story.

People have more choices in how and where to spend their hard earned money than ever before. I have to buy gas, but I don't have to buy it from you. However, since you handed me a coupon for a free chili dog with the purchase of $20 or more in gas as I was walking out of the movie theatre, I might just stop by.

There is no single best way to advertise. But street marketing can be a very effective and fun part of the mix. Make it fun. Provide value. Make it personal. Make it memorable.

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