3 Ways to Get Creative With Your Marketing -- and Get Noticed

By Carol Tice

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's the moon shot every small business dreams of -- you do something that becomes a media sensation. Everybody's writing about it! Your marketing becomes a huge success and brings you throngs of new customers.

It's not always easy to engineer, but lately quite a few small businesses have hit the limelight. Here are three strategies that worked:

Get a celebrity's attention. The Silver Palm restaurant in Chicago was weeks from closing when owners Dan and Eric Palm managed to get celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain of The Travel Channel's show No Reservations in the door to taste their pork-filled Three Little Pigs sandwich. Bourdain's raw, expletive-filled rave (viewable in the video below) declared it "America's Greatest Sandwich," created a stampede of demand and a company-saving cash infusion.

The Palm has recently kept the momentum building with a petite new specialty sandwich, The Hog's Boss, which like the Three Little Pigs has three different kinds of pork. The pair made so much from their 15 minutes of fame, they were able to open a new bar, Gunner's, and keep their restaurant as well.

Moral of the story: If you have a product that would fit with any reality show, start dialing! Those shows always need new places to go and products to feature.

Pull a stunt. Here's a simple technique any small business can use. If you were planning to do a promotion all year, or even for a month, do it in a more compressed timeframe instead, to get maximum "bang" out of it. That's what Seattle pizzeria Tutta Bella did in a single week last March, handing out more than 8,000 free gourmet Neapolitan-style pizzas -- $100,000 worth.

The four-location regional chain was celebrating winning several industry awards, including national trade publication Pizza Today's 2010 Independent Pizzeria of the Year. Owner Joe Fugere (who also scored an intimate face-to-face with President Barack Obama recently) wanted to do something to thank the rabid fans that made the prizes possible.

They could have given out discount coupons all year as a "thank you." But Tutta Bella thought of a way to make their give-back extraordinary. Giving away $100,000 worth of pizza in a week! I know that made me want to write about it. You definitely don't see that every day. I bet they get more good press and new customers out of this stunt than they would have paying for $100,000 of print ads in local papers.

Be funny. In this tough economy, levity is appreciated. Be a little random and off the beam. You saw what happened with those Old Spice Man videos!

Well, small businesses can get a slice of this action, too. Sure, you don't have the same budget as Old Spice, but you can still find ways to catch prospective customers off guard and make them love your brand.

That's what two marketers, Clay Collins and Don Navarro, have done with The Beer and Money Show, a podcast in which the pair discuss their favorite cheap beers, as well as savvy marketing ideas. The odd combination of topics and their offbeat banter makes for hilarious yet informative listening. It seems to be attracting prospective marketing clients -- I see Collin's email list has nearly 9,000 subscribers.

Have you had any out-of-the-box marketing successes with your business? If so, please describe below. Then, fax me a pizza -- all this marketing talk is making me hungry.

Carol Tice

Owner of Make a Living Writing

Longtime Seattle business writer Carol Tice has written for Entrepreneur, Forbes, Delta Sky and many more. She writes the award-winning Make a Living Writing blog. Her new ebook for Oberlo is Crowdfunding for Entrepreneurs.

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