>> Article Archives >> Marketing Concepts >> 19 Unusual Marketing Ideas That You Can Adapt For Your Business

Marketing Concepts
19 Unusual Marketing Ideas That You Can Adapt For Your Business
By John P. Hayes, Ph.D.

This idea helps build credibility and leads to more sales! On the reverse side of your business cards, print the names and phone numbers of three of your top customers who will give you great references. Give these cards to your prospects and encourage them to contact your customers for references. Get permission from your customers beforehand, of course.

This idea helps build credibility and leads to more sales! On the reverse side of your business cards, print the names and phone numbers of three of your top customers who will give you great references. Give these cards to your prospects and encourage them to contact your customers for references. Get permission from your customers beforehand, of course.

This idea helps build customer satisfaction, plus it can be used to market your business, leading to more sales! Ask your customers to grade your report card. Rather than send customers a standard satisfaction survey, send them a survey in the form of a report card. Ask your customers to give you letter grades, i.e. A, B, C, etc. By the way, if you're afraid to ask your customers to grade you, don't be. They're already grading you, and telling others what they think. Use the report card to find out what they're saying. Also, use the report card to improve your business. Ultimately, use it to promote your business. If your customers give you straight As, don't be afraid to tell everyone!

This idea will help you get a better response from your customers when you ask them to rate your services. When you mail your customers a report card, or customer satisfaction survey, include something to prompt a better response. For example, include a small magnifying glass with the explanation, "we're focused on our customers. " Or, send a measuring tape with the explanation, "we're asking our customers to tell us how we measure up." Or, send a free lottery ticket with the explanation, "we're not about to leave your satisfaction to chance!"

This idea makes better use of money you're already spending, and promotes your business. Your business envelopes probably consist of lots of white space. Why not turn that white space into a billboard? Create a " teaser" statement - perhaps a one-line description of your business, or a special offer and imprint it on the outside of your envelope, right under your return address. Time-sensitive billboards, and curiosity-builders, are ideal for this purpose. (Keep the message clear of the upper right corner of the envelope, which is reserved for postage). With available technology, you can easily change your billboard whenever you so desire by running your envelopes through a laser printer. Here are some sample lines you could use:

Win $$$ when you visit our website at

Clean two rooms for the price of one when you respond by March 15

Save money with a mid-year consultation --- book it by June 1

Free gift when you open this envelope and call our office.

This idea helps you focus on your market and get more of the same types of customers. An accountant already serves a large number of chiropractors. With his experience, he can focus on finding new clients who are chiropractors. He can do that by buying lists of chiropractors (or using the yellow pages to build his own list), and then contacting those prospects via direct mail and other forms of marketing. Of course, if he gets his existing chiropractor clients involved in his marketing efforts, he will get better results. His clients can refer him to other chiropractors, as well as personally introduce him. They can write letters to their peers on behalf of the accountant.

This is yet another idea to help you focus on your niche market. Go to the Equifax site on the worldwide web at and play the Lifestyle Game. By entering a U.S. postal zip code, you can learn more about the demographics of that particular market. You can use this information to plan more effective direct mailings!

Here's an idea that makes people happy and brings them closer to your business. When you were a kid, did you belong to a birthday club? Did a restaurant, or an ice cream shop, entice you to join its birthday club just by filling out a card? Probably so. And it made you feel good, too, didn't it? So why don't you use this idea in your business? Doesn't matter the type of business. On a customer's birthday (or anniversary), an accountant could provide a free hour of consultation . . . a carpet cleaner could offer a free bottle of stain remover . . . a contractor could offer a free inspection of a previous job . . . an HVAC business could offer a free filter cleaning . . . a swimming pool cleaner could offer a free cleaning . . . etc. etc. How about calling up your customers and singing Happy Birthday to them by phone?! That ought to make them remember your business.

Similar to a Tip Club, here's an idea to help you get more customers by networking with a friend in business. Think of another business owner -- someone with a customer base similar to yours, who could promote your products or services, and in exchange you could promote their products and services. For example, you're an interior, residential painter. You know a contractor who specializes in remodeling kitchens. Or, you own a maid service. You know a carpet cleaner. The idea is that you both have similar customer bases, but you sell different products and services. Call that other business owner and suggest a networking event for just the two of you. Reserve an entire morning or afternoon for this. The two of you get together with your customer databases, or rolodexes. Meet at an office, or in a home, where you can have access to two separate phone lines, preferably in the same room. Each of you gets on a phone and starts calling your customers to recommend the other's products and services. At the end of three or four hours, you'll both have several appointments and opportunities for new business. Do this quarterly, or more often if you can think of enough business owners with similar customer bases.

Use this idea to show your customers you're going out of your way to help them feel more satisfied. The Broadview Hotel in Wichita, KS has developed an idea that's phenomenal in the hotel industry. If you can adapt it to your business, it will be powerful! If you make a reservation at the Broadview, a week before your arrival you can expect a phone call from the hotel's concierge asking if there's anything special you will need during your stay. Isn't that terrific! Have you ever heard of such service before from a hotel, or any business? A manager at the hotel says guests are always shocked, but pleasantly surprised, to receive the concierge's call. The interesting thing is that while no one asks for anything all that special, or unusual, almost everyone comments on the brilliance of this idea. The Broadview's concierges make 6,000 of these calls a year . . . can you imagine the goodwill these phone calls generate? If each guest just tells one other person, that's an extra 6,000 people who hear about the hotel . . . How can you adapt this idea for your business? How can you show customers you're willing to go out of your way to help them feel more satisfied? Maybe it doesn't make sense to call your customers before you provide your service . . . but how about a follow-up phone call?

Here's an idea to help you build your marketing budget. Small businesses spend three to five percent of gross receipts annually on marketing. When you price a job, or provide an estimate, add a percentage for your marketing budget. Then, when you collect your money, be sure to set aside the percentage for marketing. Businesses that say they can't afford marketing are losing ground to their competition, even if they don't realize it!

This idea piggybacks on an annual event. There are plenty of ways to adapt it for every business. Every year, the U.S. Government require people to pay all taxes due and outstanding on or before April 15. You can piggyback on that date by offering "April 15" specials. For example: 2-for-the-price-of-1 when you place your order by April 15. Or $15 off when you order by April 15. Or, you could mail a tax refund coupon to your customers, offering a percentage-off on purchases made by April 15. Keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of consumers receive tax refunds in the Spring of every year. For many, this extra money will be re-invested in their homes or automobiles, or used for leisure activities and products. Help consumers spend their tax refunds by offering them "tax refund specials." Piggyback on other annual events . . . Mother's Day, Father's Day, Secretary's Day, etc. etc.

Here's an idea to help you introduce new products and services. Many times, customers are surprised to discover that a business they've frequented for months or years offers products and services that they didn't know about, but would buy if given the opportunity. When you introduce a new product or service, how do you spread the word to your customers and prospects? Here are three easy ways to get the word out: List products and services on (1) your fax cover sheets, (2) your invoices, and (3) postcards that you mail to your customers, or include with outgoing correspondence or packages.

This idea will bring you closer to your best customers and encourage them to help you find more customers like them. Do you know your top five customers? Shame on you if you don't! Not only should you know these customers, you should make it a point to take each one to dinner once a year to celebrate their loyalty to you and your business. This is a terrific way for you to say "thank you" and at the same time discuss the development of your business. Ask these customers to help you identify prospects who might want to become customers! Remember, it will cost you six to ten times more money to find a new customer than to sell something again to an existing customer. The price of a dinner, even a really nice dinner, may pale in comparison to the cost of replacing a good customer.

Here's an idea that big companies use all the time . . . no reason you shouldn't use it in your business, too! A meeting with a marketing executive from almost any Fortune 1000 company sooner or later will touch on the subject of "industry drivers." It's important to understand what "drives" your industry. What are the compelling reasons that make consumers buy your product or service? Why do people decide to remodel their bath rooms and kitchens? Why do people decide to have their carpets cleaned? Why do people replace plumbing or pipes or heating and air conditioning units or electrical wiring? Get the point? People make buying decisions for particular reasons. What " drives" those decisions? By studying the "drivers", you can leverage them for your business. Look at the pizza industry, where there's plenty of competition. What drives people to buy Pizza Hut over Domino's over Papa John's over Caesar's? You can bet the pizza marketers know! And they use their marketing dollars to play off those drivers. No reason you can't operate similarly. Look at the demographics of your customers. What do they have in common? What are their preferences? You've got to understand your customers, and the psychology that drives their buying decisions, to identify the all-important industry drivers that can result in more business for your business!

This idea requires you to " get physical" with your marketing strategy. The unique quality of this idea will draw more customers to your business. Want to grab a customer's or prospect's attention? Get physical. In other words, use something more than literature to promote your business. A computer software trainer sends a bottle of aspirins to prospects to get them to sign up for his seminars which are designed to "ease the pain" of learning a new software program. A travel agent uses sand to sell vacations. What could you send to your prospects and customers? Think of the benefits of your products and services. Now think of an object to associate with the benefits. Send that object to your customers and prospects!

Here's an idea that suggests you don't do what you think is good for the customer . . . you do what the customer says is good for the customer! US Airways recently formed an employee task force to improve customer service. While the airline receives 50,000 complaints annually, the #1 complaint is late flights. So US Airways decided to get its employees involved in at least reducing the problem of late flights. After studying the issues involved, and implementing the ideas of the task force, US Airways moved to the No. 1 spot for on-time performance in the fourth quarter of 1996; previously the airline was No. 7. Written complaints to the airline have dropped from five a day to 3.5 a day! "We're listening more," explained an airline representative."In the past, we did what we thought was good for the customer." The airline uses customer complaints as a measurement of how well the business is performing. How about your business? What's the #1 complaint you hear from your customers? Could a group of employees help you reduce, if not remove, the problem?

Follow these ten ideas from Carl Sewell, author of the best-seller, Customers For Life, and you'll build a more successful business. Carl Sewell is one of the most successful auto dealers in the world. Here's what he says you should do to build a successful business:

  1. Ask customers what they want and give it to them again and again.

  2. Saying please and thank you doesn't ensure you'll do the job right the first time, every time. Only systems guarantee that.

  3. Under-promise, over-deliver. Customers expect you to keep your word. Exceed it.

  4. When the customer asks, the answer is always yes. Period.

  5. Fire your inspectors and consumer-relations department. Every employee who deals with customers must have the authority to handle complaints.

  6. No complaints? Something's wrong. Encourage your customers to tell you what you're doing wrong.

  7. Measure everything. Sports teams do it. You should, too.

  8. Salaries are unfair. Pay people like partners.

  9. Your mother was right. Show people respect. Be polite. It works.

  10. Learn how the best really do it; make their systems your own. Then improve them.

This idea suggests a new way to look at your marketing efforts. Why do businesses lose customers? Here's why:

  • 3% Move Away
  • 5% Friends lead them elsewhere
  • 9% Competitors provide a better offer
  • 14% Product Dissatisfaction
  • 68% Indifference towards customer by owner/employee

Not much you can do about the 3% of customers who move, or the 5% who are persuaded by friends to shop elsewhere. Interestingly, even though it's the most competitive area, most businesses go to battle over the 9% who switch for a better offer. It's tough to win in that category because a competitor can always offer a better deal. Quality control tries to ensure that 14% of customers remain loyal . . . still a small percentage. But look at the 68%. Do you know any businesses that work hard in the area of keeping customers by showing them that they're cared for? While the 68% is usually ignored by most businesses, overcoming indifference represents the best opportunity for you to build customer loyalty. If you haven't already created a customer retention program, this may be your best opportunity for capturing and keeping more customers.


This Free Report is not intended as business advice. Consult with appropriate advisors prior to franchising a business. For information about further assistance from Dr. Hayes, call 972-985-8044.

John Hayes is a prolific writer, popular speaker, seminar leader and consultant to businesses in the United States and internationally. He is an advisor to small business owners, independent distributors, franchisees and franchisors.

More articles by John P. Hayes, Ph.D.
More articles on Marketing Concepts