No matter what kind of business you have, you need more customers, clients, leads, website visitors and/or people walking in the door to at least check out what you have to offer. Marketing is what you do to generate this kind of attention, but the cold hard truth is that most marketing campaigns are not profitable. It’s easy to spend thousands of dollars on pay-per-click ads, PR campaigns, print ads and other tactics only to see dismal results.
While there can be many reasons for this, the main issue is that, unless you have a huge marketing budget, you are at a disadvantage compared to your larger and better-known competitors. How can smaller and newer businesses overcome this hurdle? One alternative is to focus on less traditional and conventional forms of marketing.
This doesn’t mean you have to abandon traditional methods, especially if you have found a way to make them work for you. But you can often gain far better ROI using unexpected methods.
Go Where There’s No Competition
When you engage in any type of traditional advertising, you always have lots of competition. For example, if you advertise on Google AdWords, you are bidding on keywords, a process that naturally favors those with big budgets. Larger companies have even been known to take losses simply to outperform their smaller rivals. Similar situations exist in print ads, banner ads, TV commercials and any other type of conventional marketing. When you try something completely different, however, you immediately remove yourself from the fray.
For example, suppose you engage in some guerrilla marketing and organize a flash mob in a setting such as a busy train station. This might involve having people in strange costumes handing out free samples of your product. When you do something like this, you have the ability to capture the attention of bystanders in an unexpected way. You also, at least for the duration of the event, have no competition. Compare this to a printed page or web page, where viewers are constantly bombarded with ads.
This is one of the main advantages to thinking of less established ways to promote your business. Rather than competing on a crowded stage, you are setting up your own stage. This doesn’t necessarily have to be something extreme or outlandish, though it can be.
Look for Methods or Platforms That Break Through the Normal Cycle of Advertising
One of the main limitations of traditional advertising is that readers, listeners and viewers alike are increasingly tuning it out. For example, popup ads were innovative for a short time. Now, however, most people automatically click on the “X” that closes a popup without even glancing at it. Other websites attempt to compel people to read or watch ads to access their content, but this is more likely to annoy your potential customers than make them receptive to your offer. You need to use unconventional methods to circumvent this problem.
Some methods that are currently gaining traction include 3D billboards, street art and using holograms or silhouettes to advertise. Even these methods, of course, may become commonplace in the near future. For now, however, they are unusual enough that people will tend to pay attention to them.
Tell a Compelling Story
It’s still possible to create a TV commercial, billboard or Internet ad that attracts attention because of its originality, outlandishness or sheer brilliance. Some of the most effective ads don’t simply talk about a company’s features or even benefits but tell a compelling story. Consider, for example, the very popular “Lost Dog” Budweiser ad that was shown at the 2015 Super Bowl. This ad did not even directly reference the product, yet it captured people’s attention with a poignant tale of a man searching for his dog.
Storytelling is an excellent method to break through consumers’ natural resistance to advertising. No one ever gets tired of good stories, so if you can insert your branding or message within a compelling storyline, you will have the full attention of your audience. A TV commercial or video is only one way to tell a story — you could also do so with images, music or performance art.
When you use unconventional marketing tactics you must, by definition, be creative and original in your approach. That doesn’t mean every aspect of your campaign must be unique: you can use familiar platforms in a new way or deliver fairly conventional messages in a brand-new manner. What matters is that you find some way to stand apart and get your information-overloaded audience to pay attention.
Shawn Porat is the CEO of Fortune Cookie Advertising, a non-traditional and out of home media placement company selling advertising space within fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants throughout the United States.
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