Effective promotion of your business does not require huge advertising budgets. A little thought and careful targeting could produce dramatic results in your sales figures. Here is a real life example of how it can be done.
Martin Tordoff, the owner of Brighouse dry cleaners, telephoned me many years ago about the white van he used for his business. He told me this van does 30,000 miles a year and as such must be seen by thousands of people in that time. There was some space at the back of the van which he felt could do with some kind of advertising.
Now most owners of small businesses would automatically have put their names there and their telephone number. Putting their name on the van does something for the ego of the owner but does very little for a potential customer who doesn’t know them from Adam and so the telephone number goes unheeded.
Martin was aware of this and had given it some thought, so when he telephoned me he asked if I could illustrate a naked lady who was saying the words, “I’ve taken all my clothes to Brighouse dry cleaners.” This image would then be applied to the van.
‘Good idea’ I thought, ‘that should attract attention.’
The execution of the idea was critical here because a badly drawn woman or an inappropriate pose could work against him.
I did a sketch and sent a visual over to Martin.
Martin came back with mixed emotions. He loved the illustration but there was now a problem. Some of the women who worked for him had seen the visual and objected to it claiming it was sexist. They threatened to walk out if he used this image. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all he lamented.
The Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ is the same one they use for ‘opportunity’. I saw an opportunity. A public relations exercise. I suggested that he go ahead with the decal as planned and then when his female staff walk out, inform the media. The resulting publicity would be priceless. Martin was unsure about this approach as he, rightly, imagined it would be grabbing a tiger by the tail. A compromise was discussed whereby the lady would be partially clothed, but this meant diluting the visual impact and defeating the punchline.
Later, I was casually discussing the situation with my wife, when she thought for a moment and then came up with a brilliant idea. She suggested that I offer to illustrate a man as well – I would benefit from some extra work and it would negate the objections about sexism, a win-win solution.
I offered Martin this solution and he put it to his staff who now could not find an objection (remember, the naked woman is still there without any changes, but by adding a naked man, the entire dynamics of the scene has changed). The caption was changed from ‘I’ to ‘We’ and the decal was subsequently produced.
Martin has had this decal on his van for six years now and I spoke to him recently about the response he has had from it when he came to reorder yet another copy of the decal to replace the faded one. He told me he still gets the occasional objection from the public but, as you can imagine, they are mostly extremist in their views -”it’s obscene” (”It’s a bottom, don’t you have one?), “why are they white and not mixed race?” (”Should they be disabled as well?”) etc.
At one point he thought he might change the design entirely and have tiger stripes on the van instead. When he mentioned this to the driver of the van he was told in no uncertain terms that the current graphic won him business. Every time this driver was on the road he could see other drivers in his rear view mirror smiling and pointing to the decal. When he has emerged from premises after a delivery and gone back to the van he has found people photographing the decal on their mobile telephones and emailing the picture to their friends.
And recently, The Huddersfield Examiner, a local newspaper, mentioned the van in one of their stories. The journalist of the piece had followed the van down the road and found it so amusing he mentioned the incident in his column. This was unsolicited, free advertising.
Thus, Martin with the help of myself and my wife (discussing ideas with as many people as possible is invaluable) had achieved what every business wants for itself, namely, to be remarkable. People remark about a business because it is different or it makes them feel good. As a result, they are more inclined to remember that business and use its products or services.