Next time you're brainstorming for marketing ideas, peruse the calendar listings of a local newspaper or magazine. Participating in any one of the events listed could get your business prime exposure. It's called ambush marketing-or event marketing.
"Event marketing is a magnificent opportunity for you to show your wares," says Raleigh Pinskey, owner of The Raleigh Group, a marketing consulting firm in Santa Monica, California. The author of You Can Hype Anything (Carol Publishing), Pinskey believes entrepreneurs are all too often merely passive marketers. "Small-business owners need to get out of their stores and put their mission statements to work," she says.
How? Pinskey suggests participating in contests, benefits, auctions, lectures, parades, religious services, dinners, gala affairs, sporting events-anything and everything. If you own a hair salon, for instance, consider providing free haircuts and styling to those participating in a benefit; florists can provide flowers for the podium at any religious or speaking event.
Above all, if you're participating in an event, tell a local newspaper or radio station, or put a sign in your window trumpeting your involvement. However you do it, says Pinskey, "make sure somebody else knows about it."
Want to reach the kids' market? Simple: Target their grandparents. Marketing experts seem to agree that the way to a kid's heart is through his grandparents' wallets. According to George Moschis, director of the Center for Mature Consumer Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta, "The grandparents' market is increasing in importance [in reaching kids] because kids are spending more time with their grandparents. Often, both parents are working; there's also an increase in single-parent households."
Is cozying up to grandparents to reach kids the wave of the future? Predicts Moschis, "I think we're going to see more of the trend as companies become aware of the changing demographics and the increasing buying power of mature consumers."
Making pigs of themselves pays off for diners at Le Central restaurant in Denver. The French eatery lures customers to chow down by offering up to five airline frequent flier miles for every dollar spent on its ever-changing menu. (And, yes, that includes tax.)
Owner Robert Tournier (above, right), who opened Le Central with his wife, Betsy, in 1981, started his Frequent Eater Program in June to encourage repeat customers and to draw more diners during the restaurant's downtime (customers earn more miles eating a Monday lunch than a Saturday dinner, for example). Since the program took off, according to Tournier, monthly sales have increased 30 percent over last year's.
Tournier's promotion has also brought on-again, off-again customers back in more frequently-and regulars say it's nice to be rewarded for their loyalty. There's only one problem, according to Tournier: "Some of them want me to give them credit for the past 10 years."
Le Central, 112 E. Eighth, Denver, CO 80203, (303) 863-8094;
The Raleigh Group, (800) 249-7322, firstname.lastname@example.org.