Launching a book, business, or new service in today’s information economy often seems like throwing a needle on top of a haystack. How can you help your business stand out from the rest?
Here are five out-of-the-box ideas that people have used to garner massive attention from both consumers and the media, which will hopefully lead you to some unique ideas of your own:
“The Rule of Five”
When Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson wrote Chicken Soup For The Soul, it was not an overnight success, even though the series is a household name by now. In fact, with a very small budget and almost no marketing plan, they were starting from scratch – but were determined to make their book a best-seller.
So instead of simply advertising on Craigslist, Canfield and Hanson asked over a dozen successful authors for guidance, and even picked up a copy of John Kremer’s 1001 Ways To Market Your Book. After all that they became overwhelmed with advice, and they still didn’t know where to start.
Then they spoke with a wonderful teacher named Ron Scolastico, who told them that if they went to a very large tree, and took five swings at it with an axe every day, eventually it would come down no matter how large it was. They took that message to heart, and developed what they have called The Rule of 5. A simple yet powerful approach, it means that in order to accomplish your goal, do five things every single day to move your project towards completion. (Not including brushing your teeth for an extra minute or spending another half hour on the elliptical machine.)
With the minor goal of helping Chicken Soup For The Soul reach the top of the New York Times Best-Seller List, Canfield and Hanson completed five tasks every day to reach their goal. Whether it meant conducting five radio interviews, sending five books out to reviewers, or calling five companies and asking them to use the book as a motivational tool, they got the word out five times a day. Some days they sent out five free copies to people listed in the Celebrity Address Book, like Harrison Ford or Paul McCartney. Another time they sent the book to all the jurors in the O.J. Simpson trial, and when four of the jurors were spotted reading the book the next day by the press, you can imagine the PR value of their campaign went through the roof.
In the following days they continued their Rule Of 5 by speaking at Churches, doing 3 AM radio interviews, and asking stores from bakeries to gas stations to carry the book. It took 2 years, doing five things every day, but eventually all the effort was worth it. They reached the NYT Best-Seller list and much more. Though Hansen and Canfield have yet to be elected President yet, it is only a matter of time.
So if you are overwhelmed with ideas, and committed to doing what it takes to reach the height of success, try taking five swings every day for a chance to knock down the tree standing in the way of your own dreams. Or just give up, go back to bed, and eat ice cream until you see your idea on an infomercial.
Office2Share.com’s “Home Office From Hell Contest”
Offices2share.com is a website that offers home businesses temporary shared office space when they are ready to move out of the home and to a real office. Most commercial leases are 3-5 years long, which is a real risk for your new business if you don’t know if it’ll pan out or not. So Offices2share.com offers short-term leases in buildings with extra office space, so new businesses can have the time to get their business up and running, without having to worry about paying for the 5 year lease if it goes under.
A helpful business, but how do you turn temporary real estate for small/home businesses into a national news story? (Unless your shared office is where Governor Spitzer met Mistress #9.)
Offices2share.com President Jeff Landers had worked out of a home office himself, so he knows exactly how tough it is to balance life, work and family when they are all in the same space. That’s why he created the “Home Office From Hell Contest”, where he asked people so send in the top 10 reasons they needed to escape their office from hell. Entries were judged by SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Business), and the winner would receive free office space for a year.
Landers received thousands of entries from all over the country, which ranged from the hysterical to the hilarious. When the contest was over, Landers put out a small release about the winner – and the story exploded. All of a sudden media around the country were enamored with this small business that had the best reasons for escaping their home office from hell. Associated Press picked up the story, and it appeared in more than 100 newspapers around the country, not to mention dozens of blogs, a few magazines, and it was even mentioned on network TV in several markets. Eventually the contest helped Landers get print with the Wall Street Journal, and that was two years after the contest was over.
An exceptional idea that appealed to both his consumers and a national audience, Landers was able to turn his own experience into a massively successful campaign. Try putting a spin on your own background for a novel marketing approach that might land you in the spotlight next.
The Winning Entry:
Top 10 Reasons To Escape The Home Office From Hell – Submitted by Jason Welshonse of Ancient Greek, A Computer Repair Company In California
1) I have to yell "Phone!" really loud when the phone rings to make sure all TVs and radios get muted so I can answer it.
2) I have started to refer to my pets as employees.
3) My customers are starting to think there's a lot of dogs around my office because my dog always barks when I pick up the phone.
4) I have started answering my home phone with my company name.
5) I had a crazy subcontractor threatening to come to my home to pick up his last check instead of waiting for the mail.
6) It’s WAY too easy to go to work on my day off. It's Saturday at 11PM and I'm entering a contest to win office space.
7) I’d rather watch Oprah at 4 PM then do my billing.
8) It’s hard to cram 10 computers into a spare bedroom. Although I don't need to turn on the heat in the winter.
9) When potential clients hear that I work out of my home, they respond with "Oh, so you're not a REAL business."
10) FedEx wants to deliver a package; they want to know if it's a home or office. I always answer "Yes."
One Small Book And One Big SARS Expert
Dr. Stuart Fischer is a general practitioner who wanted to give something useful to people in medical predicaments all around the world, when getting to a doctor in time wasn’t an option. With this idea in mind, he wrote Dr. Fischer’s Small Book of BIG Medical Emergencies – a book small enough to fit into a first aid kit, but which covers such large medical emergencies as being poisoned, electrocuted, bit by an alligator, and many more. (Not included: what to do if you have taken too much Viagra, or wake up next to Amy Winehouse.)
However, as altruistic as his goal was, quick advice to medical emergencies just didn’t seem to be in the news at the moment. Media attention and book sales were consistently low.
Then SARS happened…remember SARS? Otherwise known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, it is a serious from of pneumonia that was diagnosed as coming out of China in 2003. Proving fatal to some sufferers, it was considered a burgeoning epidemic that the world quickly became alerted to However, it all happened so quickly that no one really knew much about it.
Enter Dr. Fischer, who somehow managed to attend the one and only SARS symposium in China less than 2 weeks after the disease broke. When he came back to the United States, he was one of the only American doctors to have any direct knowledge of the outbreak, and was immediately labeled as a SARS expert by his PR people. (Not to be confused with SArs, the South African Revenue Service, though one reporter did call to ask Dr. Fischer’s analysis of a recent textile raid in the region.)
After just one press release mentioning an available SARS expert, his phone began ringing off the hook, and it didn’t stop for a month. He was interviewed by dozens of top stations, and even secured a weekly gig for a radio show they created just for him called “Ask The Doctor.” Six years later, and he still conducts that weekly radio show. Meanwhile, SARS has faded to history.
The marketing lesson here is, when a vacuum of knowledge exists in your field of expertise, the first person who fills it gets the golden goose. So the next time a breaking news story gives you the opportunity to become an expert that both the media and the public need…don’t hide in a hole like Saddam Hussein, jump on it!
Harrah’s Casino’s National Rock Band Competition
Rock Band is the video game that has literally swept the nation, where you can join friends to perform famous rock songs with unique “instrument controllers.” Building on the popular game Guitar Hero, it has quickly become part of the new millennium’s zeitgeist, and can be found in bars and even conference rooms around the country.
Partnering with MTV, Harrah’s launched the Total Rock, Total Rewards Rock Band Competition, which invited gamers to form bands and compete against other ‘rock’ groups. Contest entrants played in 18 local competitions around the country to try and advance to four regional competitions. The four regional winners would then compete in Atlantic City in front of a huge crowd for a Grand Prize of $10,000, and the chance to open up for the B-52’s in concert the day after the finals. (What the B-52’s have to do with actual rock ‘n roll we shall never know.)
Harrah’s invited journalists and bloggers to try out their Rock Band studios in Atlantic City, and they garnered immense media attention which engaged their target demographic. By inviting bloggers they also triggered a huge Internet presence which snowballed as the competition went on. (Though the bloggers were probably happy just being invited out of their man caves for free booze and videogames.)
Overall, this campaign had all the components needed to connect with both consumers and the media. A unique competition engaged their audience, including bloggers along with traditional media gave them a coveted spot in the blog-o-sphere, and competing bands helped spread the news through word of mouth. So for your next product launch, try to cover all your bases with a unique campaign to end up with a publicity homerun. And don’t forget to get the bloggers drunk – it is amazing that they can still post 85 twitters while passed out in a corner.