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"Great Ideas" that Became Marketing Mishaps

13 Nov, 2005 By: Ian Crockett imageSource

"Great Ideas" that Became Marketing Mishaps

I have learned plenty in my 21
years working with the copier/office technology industry. One of the most
important things lessons I have learned is I know what doesn’t work. This can
sometimes be as important as knowing what does work.

Some of the ideas I’m about to expose as losers may be very creative ideas and
may be very successful in other industries that have more of a business to
consumer slant than the office technology industry, which is primarily
business-to-business. Then again, some readers may have isolated case studies
that would dispute my experiences.

Probably, the worst idea for generating leads or sales is to advertise that a
charity will benefit every time you make a sale. This not only smacks of
opportunism, but the sad truth is that in a business-to-business environment,
people could care less.

Decision makers, especially if they don’t own a company, are more concerned with
issues such as maximizing productivity and generating a positive return on

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is important for my clients to be involved in
charitable activities, but they need to be involved for the right reasons, not
because it will generate leads or increase sales.

During the Gulf War, I had a high profile client that did business in a large
military market. He had the idea of donating money and other items to the
military families based on a percentage of new sales. On the surface it sounded
like a noble cause, but we weren’t sure.

My client decided to contact a high ranking officer and run the idea past him.
His advice was, “Please don’t. Whereas, it’s nice to bring awareness to the
plight of the families left behind, it’s not a cause to be exploited.”

Both of us were embarrassed for even taking the idea as far as we had. My client
made a very large donation to the military families, but there was never any
mention of it in the advertising.

However, I didn’t fully learn my lesson. Several years later, I had a client
that wanted to promote a new Segment 5 product his manufacturer had just
introduced. We didn’t want to peg anything to sales, but we decided to donate
$200 for every demo to a local telethon that raised money to combat childhood

All the advertising for two months leading up to the telethon was focused around
this product and promotion, so we figured my client would donate somewhere
between $5,000 and $10,000.

The telethon people told us that anyone donating $5,000 or more had the
opportunity to present the check live during the telethon, so it was arranged.
Sales were strong. In fact, my client was one of the top dealers in the nation
for the product, which later turned out to be bad news since the machine was a

The week of the telethon, my client called me up to report that the promotion
had bombed. When I pointed out that the overall sales results contradicted that,
he countered by telling me that only two prospects had mentioned the telethon
donation. Therefore, he didn’t want to make the minimum donation required for
the appearance. Worse yet, he had me call the telethon people and cancel the

What has been successful is featuring a local charity in the advertising and
providing information on how to support it. It’s non-commercial advertising,
which can create a positive impression for your company. It can also make
employees feel good about their employer.

Getting the employees involved in community service can also lead to networking
opportunities that produce sales, but once again, that shouldn’t be the primary

A customer golf outing is another idea that on the surface that sounds great,
but doesn’t deliver the desired results. Fifteen years ago, half my clients
sponsored a golf event for customers and key prospects, but dealers finally
realized the return on investment is minimal.

Inviting customers to a nice country club, feeding them and rewarding them with
prizes is usually a magnificent day for all involved. But when it comes time for
them to make the next acquisition, very few choose you again because they had a
good experience on the golf course. They may buy from you again because they
perceive you’re the best vendor out there, but it had little or nothing to do
with the golf tournament.

There are a lot of great marketing minds in the office technology industry and
they’re constantly thinking. Sometimes, the best decision is not to pursue one
of their ideas.

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