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Creative tactics for non-traditional marketing

Greg MartinAs 2008 gets rolling, most of us are working to drive traffic and grow sales in the midst of economic uncertainty. We are all bombarded with marketing sales reps promising results in print, radio and TV ads. With the uncertainty of returns on marketing dollars, now is the time to get creative. Let 2008 be the year you market to your customers through both traditional and non-traditional means.

If we start by saying traditional marketing is print (including direct marketing), radio and TV, we can then define non-traditional as all others. With that broad definition, the only boundaries are our imagination and willingness to step out of our comfort zone.

Choose charity functions

Casual furniture stores can be more than just a temporary holding spot for manufacturers’ furniture. Imagine your store as an event venue. Guess what? You don’t have to rent any chairs or tables!


Martin got creative with his store’s Spring Party when he partnered with the local Atlanta Pet Rescue and then invited neighbors of Kolo Collection to participate.

Martin got creative with his store’s Spring Party when he partnered with the local Atlanta Pet Rescue and then invited neighbors of Kolo Collection to participate.

More than $5,000 was raised at the Atlanta Pet Rescue Event.

More than $5,000 was raised at the Atlanta Pet Rescue Event.

Retailer Keith Guidry gains exposure for his store, Louisiana-based Percy Guidry, by cooking for fans at home games for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Retailer Keith Guidry gains exposure for his store, Louisiana-based Percy Guidry, by cooking for fans at home games for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Kolo Collection turned over its store to financial planners who threw their own event raising money for CURE, a childhood cancer organization.

Kolo Collection turned over its store to financial planners who threw their own event raising money for CURE, a childhood cancer organization.

One of the best events can be one for a cause. Last year, Kolo Collection took our Spring Party to a new level when we chose a cause, Atlanta Pet Rescue, and then invited all of our neighbors to participate. What resulted was an event for more than 250 people where we raised more than $5,000 through sales of raffle tickets bought for a chance to win numerous donated items. We lowered our cost significantly from other events due to the donation of the food from four different restaurants in our center. Bottom line: great customer appreciation event, great exposure and great cause.

Co-host an event

Take the idea above and put a different twist on it. What about letting others use your store for an event? Your customers belong to organizations, which have members and need a place to meet.

In January, we turned our space over to two financial planners who threw a charity event at our store. Bottom line: new potential customers, great PR and $14,000 raised for children with cancer.

Partner with trade shows and show houses

Most major markets have plenty of trade shows and show houses. This is quite possibly the best way to market for free. By simply partnering with designers at show houses or exhibitors at trade shows, your store name and products can be seen by hundreds of people.

Typically all your store is expected to do is to loan out your products for a short period of time. Of course, your store can participate directly without partnering with a designer and get even more exposure. Bottom line: Your products are seen by potential customers without them ever setting foot into your store.

Align with local teams

There is a good chance many of your customers support one of the local sports teams. Since sponsorships at the event venues are expensive, you can get creative and stay involved.

Consider the experience of Keith Guidry at Percy Guidry, Lafayette, La., and his crew, who have fun and gain great exposure by cooking for the fans at each home game for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. What started as a small tailgate party has grown to sponsors, a 20’ x 20’ tent with logos and a prominent spot in front of the stadium.

When asked what his store and staff gets from the effort, Guidry said, “a lot of exposure and countless memories. We originally started this because we all have a common love: football. What started out as purely fun and joy has evolved into a machine that has all of Lafayette talking about how we support our local college and keeps our name out there in a very positive light. I cannot quantify the investment vs. return, but one thing I can tell you is that somewhere, somehow this is good for business. And to share the entire day (from 6 a.m. to midnight on most accounts) with friends and family cooking and dancing and rooting on the Ragin’ Cajuns ... it is truly priceless!”



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