How to use calendar marketing

SpaghettiOsPearlHarbor

When I say “calendar marketing”, I’m talking about using the context of historical events and dates, holidays and current events to spice up your marketing.

Done right, you can briefly tie what you do to the event, date or holiday, have a little fun and perhaps get the attention those about to buy.

Like any tactic, there are right and wrong ways to use it. Like any tactic, there are right and wrong ways to use it – as the SpaghettiOs social media team found out on Pearl Harbor Day.

While social media provides good and bad examples, keep in mind that your efforts in this area can be leveraged in almost any media.

Doing it right

Doing it right involves asking yourself a few questions.

Q: Who will see it?
A: If it’s good enough, everyone. If it’s stupid enough, everyone.

With that in mind:

  • How will you feel if everyone sees it?
  • How will your customers react?
  • What will they be inclined to do?
  • Will it makes things better or worse for your business?

No matter what – Think it through.

Oreo is a good example to watch, but even they slip up now and then:

AMCOreo

How do I know I’m about to do it wrong?

If your thought process is “Let’s use their memory, our logo and wrap them together in the flag in our marketing”, that would be wrong. Stupidly wrong.

This shouldn’t have to be explained to you.

Anyone who isn’t doing this in a strictly robotic fashion has to have this thought process going on:

  • Remembering Pearl Harbor – Good.
  • Slapping your flag-wrapped logo on it – Dumb.

While SpaghettiOs managed to apologize (and delete the earlier tweet), your goal is not to put yourself in this position. Some found it offensive, some stupid or at the least – felt the message could have done without the cheesy brand + flag graphic.

No matter what, it distracted from the reason for the post in the first place – to encourage their customers to take a moment to remember.

SpaghettiOsPearlHarborApology

Numerous major brands have misfired on things like this. In each case, you will see calls for whoever wrote the original tweet to be fired, or for their agency to be fired. That doesn’t make it any better – it just makes a few angry people feel better for a few minutes.

For a small local business, national outrage is unlikely, but you could provoke a local boycott or worse.

Have a “Reason why”

Earlier this week, USA Today had this headline re: Mandela’s death (hat tip to @JSlarve and @SameMeans for catching it):

MandelaUSAToday

The point is not to point out the mistakes that major brands make. Everyone makes mistakes. There are plenty of examples to learn from.

What you need to keep in mind is WHY you are creating this content (doesn’t have to be an ad) in the first place:

  • To honor someone? Fine. Keep your brand and schtick out of it. Stick to the topic. Say what you feel. The old GoDaddy always remembered Veterans Day and the Marine Corps birthday – and you never saw their typically cheesy stuff in those pieces.
  • To be funny? Make sure it really is funny, rather than funny at the cost of some group or individual.
  • To provoke someone to buy – see the prior two and then consider every bit of copywriting experience you have.

Your message has to be focused on that reason – whatever it is.

Connect rather than being just another “Me too!” marketer

Ill-advised content aside, calendar-based marketing is an effective tool when used thoughtfully.

The temptation is to do “Me too” marketing here. Things like a holiday-themed sale on a holiday weekend are not going to stand out in a crowd of me-too sales.

Sometimes connecting national to your business to local works well. For example, you might have Super Bowl-related promotion or event that encourages people to visit/buy and make note that you’ll be passing along a percentage of Super Bowl related promotion/event sales to a local youth athletic program. It doesn’t have to be football and it doesn’t have to be a percentage.

In Columbia Falls MT (pop 4000ish), Timber Creek assisted living facility hosts the Rotary “Brunch with Santa” community Christmas event in their public areas. While no one is selling assisted living that day, hundreds who would never go inside otherwise get to see how nice the place is – planting a seed that might sprout next week or years from now.

Business owners: Do the math when putting on a promotional event

I ran across a couple of whining news stories recently that talked about paying celebrities like Paris Hilton or Donald Trump $10000 to $20000 to appear at a party or other event for 2 hours. In Trump’s case, it’s more like $250k per appearance, but it doesn’t really matter.

The news reporters don’t get the big picture because they aren’t looking at the economics. The bright shiny celebrities distract them from the business that is going on.

What Time Is It ??
photo credit: 708718

Let’s consider for a moment that you are having a small business seminar in Seattle, Dallas or Chicago. You plan to charge $3000 and you know for a fact that you are going to deliver far more value than that.

Your problem is this: demonstrating that you’re going to deliver $3000 worth of value.

Certainly you can do that, but look at what it might take to allow you to get Trump at your event – for free.

If his price is $250k, then you need to get an extra 83 people to show up at your event. In a city of 3-5 million people, are there 83 business owners, real estate people or entrepreneurs who would be interested in hearing Donald Trump speak, get a photo with him and have a brief word with him?

Sure there are. 83 people gets Trump at your business event for nothing out of your pocket.

People line up to pay $25k to have lunch with Warren Buffett every year. He donates that money to charity, but the concept is the same – and in fact, you could do this at your event with Trump (or whoever).

So when you read these celebrity stories (regardless of where they are – even in the WSJ), don’t gloss over them and think those people live in another world. Business-wise, they don’t. They are making hay while the sun shines. They know that you only need to get (for example) another 83 people there to pay their fee and they know what that does for you, your business and your event.

You simply have to do the math to make it easy to get someone like that for your promotional event.

What does this have to do with your small business? Lots.

Local businesses have promotional store events all the time. Anyone can do a live radio spot. Do the people in your market really want to talk to the DJ? Who in your market can you get at your store for a big event that will blow away your local market and position you as the only place to do business with?

For example, if you’re an attorney and you held a private event for your best clients, what would it cost you to get George Ross (Trump’s attorney) there? On the other hand, what positive can come of it? Be sure that you think that part through. Your guest needs to be strategic to your long term business goal, not just someone to ooh and ah over.

Think bigger and do the math to make amazing things happen when you hold a local promotional event.

PS: Don’t forget to record the event on digital video and put pieces of it (drip, drip, drip) out there on all the social media sites you use to promote and position your business (ie: Facebook, YouTube, and so on). Your event isn’t a one time thing. It should pay dividends for a long time.