From the March 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Getting Persona
Each city has an entrepreneur whose wacky TV spots wake us out of a late-night stupor, but can wacky work for you?

Most entrepreneurs are terrible actors, so wacky ads sometimes harm rather than help sales. So before you jump in front of the camera, cautions George Belch, chairman of the marketing department at San Diego State University, "make sure ego isn't driving your decision."

But if you want the notoriety, a wacky persona might be the way to go. George "King" Stahlman, a fixture on San Diego billboards and airwaves, became the King of Bail Bonds more than 45 years ago to build brand recognition. Today, he spends more than $1 million a year on advertising. "My name is so recognizable that I'm the one people call," he says.

According to Robert R. Butterworth, a psychologist who studies advertising, wacky ads are a perfect way to stand out. He doesn't recommend them, however, for financial or medical fields; serious businesses require serious ads.

If you create a zany character, make sure to carry it throughout your marketing, from in-store signage to advertising. Says David A. Shore, a Harvard professor and expert on branding, "The marketplace craves consistency."

Cold-Call Freeze
Telemarketers beware: The FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule will change the way you do business. The rule will create a national "do not call" registry, which will limit cold-calling to consumers who register with the government to opt out of telemarketers' databases. Those who sign up can't be contacted for five years or until their phone number changes. The penalty for violators? Up to $11,000 per call!

Arthur W. Conway, president of DialAmerica Marketing, an outbound telemarketing firm, believes the financial impact on growing businesses will be enormous. "Telemarketing is a very efficient channel for entrepreneurs," he says.

What's a marketer to do? According to Kathleen Peterson of PowerHouse Consulting, an expert in call-center management, this is a wake-up call for entrepreneurs: "Now is the time to create a good database." She notes companies that have conducted business with the consumer within the past 18 months are exempt from the regulations.

Peterson recommends an off-the-shelf database program such as Access, ACT! or Goldmine to track consumer history. The key is to ensure all departments share the same database. She also recommends that your company institute a permission-based telemarketing program. Says Peterson, "Ask your prospects if you can call them back in a year; then recontact them."

Depending on when it receives federal funding, the registry could be in effect as early as this summer. For more information and updates, log on to the FTC Web site, www.ftc.gov.


Elizabeth J. Goodgold is author of the monthly newsletter Duh! Marketing.