Promote Like A
Showman! Marketing in Today’s Economy…Back to the Basics
A marketer recently wrote, “In the age of Facebook and
Twitter the winners will be those who know how to work the phone.”
In today’s soft economy that’s a perfect segue to the perennial
question that is stronger than ever. How do I maximize my marketing
and advertising dollars, and how do I close the sale?
The advance men for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
have for years exercised an extraordinary talent. And it isn’t their
media buying expertise; though in that regard they are savvy. Nor is
it their advertising’s creative impact; though their illustrated
posters are considered works of art. Their genius has been how much
exposure they’d get for free – air time and space that wouldn’t cost
a dime. A Ringling promoter once exclaimed, “If I have a $30,000
budget by the time I am through I’ll have $300,000 worth of
exposure. They did this two ways:
1) First, by the use of three chips: cash, trade, and
promotion. Both the media and the circus have something that costs
them nothing that they both want to get rid of. In the case of
the circus it is unsold seats, and in the media’s case it is
unsold time or space.
An advance man’s approach to a local radio station would
typically be, “I’ll give you five thousand dollars for ten spots a
day to run in drive time over two weeks. In addition I will trade
you four hundred tickets – good for Mondays through Thursdays – for
another ten spots a day for two weeks. And I’d like to do a
co-promotion (perhaps our king and queen promotion; whereby,
teachers submit the names of outstanding students) where you give
the tickets away over the air for another ten spots a day the
preceding two weeks.”
2) The second approach didn’t cost the circus anything.
A company such as Safeway with a large advertising budget would be
pitched on a circus tie-in. The advance man might give the grocery
chain two thousand discount tickets good for weekday matinees and
evenings. Safeway would be given a special “Safeway Night at the
Circus” enhanced by their own Honorary Ringmaster and VIP seats. In
turn the circus and the full dates of its engagement would be
announced in all of Safeway’s advertising and in-store promotions.
This would go on for a month as Safeway stuffs the coupons in each
And it’s a win-win for everyone! With the discount coupons
Safeway attracts new customers. Families that might not be able to
afford the full priced ticket receive a healthy discount. And the
circus, only too happy to receive 70% of the ticket price (plus
concession sales) for a weekday show, gets an unimaginable amount of
free advertising and exposure.
With variations on these themes and a grab-bag of promotional
ideas these trade-outs and tie-ins would be repeated all over town
for what amounted to a short-term market saturation. In compliance
with accounting rules, and some creative thinking, any business
today could increase their advertising exposure through similar
Back to the Basics:
advance men knew that nothing comes from nothing. Somebody has to
act, and that the most successful business people, from P.T. Barnum
(shown in photo, with Tom Thumb)
to Steve Jobs, have realized that, in the end, somebody has to sell
something to someone. In fact, probably 80% of the most productive
and consequential time that a marketing executive will spend will be
in one-on-one personal sales.
Rarely will an email, a twitter, or a brochure make a sale.
But personal, congenial, professional contact often does. But with
the modern day computer a certain impersonalized distance has
developed in the business world. A distance that could be mitigated
by picking up the phone and making a sales call, the old-fashioned
But prospect calling isn’t easy. By nature, we all want to
feel accepted, and rejection is a part of any sales effort. That
same trepidation can lead to inactivity, or wasted, unproductive
time behind the computer. So here is how you can make it easier:
rhythm, your highest positive energy of the day. For me it’s
mornings. From 8 a.m. until noon I am fearless. At 9 a.m. I’d
call Vladimir Putin and pitch an idea! But my confidence fades
in the afternoon. So it’s mornings that I make my sales calls.
No interruptions. I then schedule my presentations for the
afternoons, leaving my mornings free – for more sales calls.
Smile when you
speak into the phone. It will show in your voice.
is far more consultative. Your first call isn’t meant to sell
anything. It’s to open a dialogue, and get an appointment.
no matter how obscure. The prospect is more likely to listen
when you start by saying, “So and so spoke highly of you and
suggested that I give you a call.”
Sell like to
like. People are more receptive when they hear that a company or
someone they know has done a similar tie-in or promotion.
important of all, focus almost solely on their “needs,” not
yours, and more often than not you will close the sale.
In summary, there are numerous win-win alliances that can
multiply your advertising dollars. But we mustn’t forget that all
things start from actions…actions worthy of P.T. Barnum that emanate
from the heart of a good salesperson.
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