A few months ago when my husband had heart surgery his company sent a wonderful Edible Arrangement to the house. It served a couple of purposes letting us know that they were thinking of us but also providing healthy options for quick and easy eating when one of us might easily have reached for the potato chip bag.
It also was a way of communicating with us in a way that worked for the people at the office as well as our lifestyle, the situation at hand, and the times in which we we live.
Which brings me back to a subject I started writing about earlier. Reaching the people you want to reach in a way that works for you.
When I began teaching after school "how to draw: classes I was forced to find a way to reach people without using the tools I'd learned through doing corporate marketing and newspaper display advertising.
There was no way that I was willing or able to produce a slick brochure on chromecoat paper about a class held in someone's mom's basement studio. I wasn't able to send sales reps to the doors of parents across northern Virginia.
A year before, my very young children and I had been the victims of a random suburban home invasion and hostage situation. Even now I often want to be invisible but at that point I wanted to hide.
So even if I was financially able to place an expensive display ad in the Washington post I wouldn't have.
I was limited
The limits were the amount of time and resources I had available, including money. And the courage to even open my front door - which I didn't do for maybe a year.
Plus, lets face it, I had to consider what would work. What would not only reach those moms, also known as the decision makers, but what would make them take an action, whether that be to call me, send me a check, ask other parents about me, whatever it would be.
What was clearly needed was an Edible Arrangement.
a) Something that would get the attention of the right person: mom and
b.) Something that would stay around, reminding her of the benefit to her child
"How to Draw a Fish"
I settled on one thing as my version of Edible Arrangements. A 30 minute demo class in which kids and parents participated, free
Kids had fun; parents had fun; kids helped parents draw better fishes; fishes went home to go up on the refrigerator door; better more elaborate fish got drawn at home; and fish got talked about at soccer practice, baseball practice, ballet practice. Fish were a good thing.
So how did I convert those fish into students?
Two registration forms went home with parents. They offered fish owners (everyone who had been to fish drawing class) a 10% discount on their first series of classes. If they signed up early they got another 10% off. And the reason for two forms? Refer another student: you guessed it: 10%.
I kept the series short - six weeks - so the parent was not making a huge commitment.
So what was I out at that point? The ink to print my own registration forms. The time to do the demo class. The time to interact with the parents.
But what I gained was invaluable. I got word of mouth marketing from the people who were best at spreading the word; those kids and parents who experienced it themselves. They had felt empowered by learning a couple of drawing tips in a fun atmosphere and they talked about it
Yes, it worked. We're talking about 1985 so we didn't have websites or memes as we know them today but even before the Internet was in wide use, viral marketing worked.
Over the next couple of years I outgrew the basement and when we did our twice yearly student exhibit and reception for friends and family we had lines literally out the front door to see the wide variety of fishies that invariably made their way to the pieces on display.
The real question is not about me though. It's about how this information can work for what you do.
What's your fish? What's your Edible Arrangement? What's the magic combination of something that is of value to your audience, stays with them as a reminder, and doesn't deplete your supply of valuable commodities: time money, effort.
Let's talk about it. You know it's out there. We just have to figure out what it is.
Next time: How to lure a parent to your basement