Games People Play

Ideas to keep them playing along.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Ideas to keep them playing along.

McDonald's is good at it. The California State Lottery has perfected the art. But the big guys aren't the only ones who can play games. You can, too.

Devising a successful contest, game or sweepstakes accomplishes three important objectives: It attracts new customers, rewards them for patronizing your business and encourages repeat purchases. Games are also a great way to distinguish yourself from your competition, says Tim O'Meara, president of Creative Promotional Solution Inc., a sales promotion agency in Marietta, Georgia.

Although most of Creative Promotional Solution's clients are large retailers, O'Meara says games and contests can be scaled down to cut costs. However, before you implement a game or contest, you'll need to contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a lawyer specializing in games and promotions, or your secretary of state's office to check out the FTC guidelines governing different types of promotions. Equally important is making sure the name you give your contest or game isn't trademarked.

Sounds Like A Plan

Want to get more out of your marketing program in 1997? Nancy Michaels, owner of marketing consulting firm Impression Impact in Concord, Massachusetts, suggests developing a marketing calendar at the beginning of every year. Now's the time to get down to business, so here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you plan for 1997:

  • Plan and budget for a specified agenda of marketing efforts, but be flexible. Michaels recommends setting aside 3 percent to
    4 percent of your marketing budget for unexpected marketing opportunities.

  • Determine when certain promotions need to be executed, and work backward when planning them. To make your summer sale come off without a hitch, for example, you may need to start working on it in March.

  • If you're planning a holiday-based marketing promotion, make sure the holiday you choose directly applies to your business. For instance, a children's clothing store might want to do something for Halloween; a men's clothing store, on the other hand, probably wouldn't.

However you decide to spend your marketing dollars, it's important to think ahead.

Courting The Press

Tera Walker is a court reporter, but she doesn't use her steno writer to document trials or take depositions. The Tuscany Hills, California, entertainment reporter opened her business, Steno Scripts, last April, marketing her crack skills as a court reporter to quite a different market: Hollywood's grandest awards shows. We're talking the Oscars here.

Court reporting was depressing for Walker, and she got an idea to use her skills in a completely different way: to take verbatim notes for the media when they interviewed celebrities after awards shows and other events, making their jobs infinitely easier. So she ordered a personal change of venue and opened Steno Scripts, leaving the courtroom in the dust.

What Walker did sounds revolutionary--and in court reporting circles, it is--but what it boils down to is marketing to alternative sources, a strategy every entrepreneur should consider. Does your product have more than one use? Could your service benefit people other than the demographic group you're targeting? Think about other applications your product or service might have.

Walker is glad she did. In her new line of work, she can make more in a day than most court reporters earn in a week. Besides, if she had limited herself to the confines of the courtroom, she wouldn't be rubbing elbows with the likes of Sean Connery and Andre Agassi. Well, at least not under the same celebratory circumstances.

Contact Sources

Creative Promotional Solution Inc., 500 Chastain Center Blvd., #525, Kennesaw, GA 30144, (800) 806-8829, (770) 426-8777;

Impression Impact, (508) 287-0718, fax: (508) 287-0410;

Steno Scripts, fax: (909) 674-6655,

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