Grab their attention

Taking your marketing efforts to the streets


Rosie Rayborn, co-owner of the Speak E-Z’s Memphis-style BBQ, shows off the pig costume that serves as the business’s mascot. The pig can be found dancing in the Fountain District several times a year.


From people dressing in pink pig costumes to pizza employees dancing around with signs in busy intersections, the current economic situation has seemed to cause businesses to step up their game in advertising. Businesses across Bellingham, from Speak E-Z’s in the Fountain District to Little Caesars on Lakeway Drive, are trying unique methods in order to grab the attention of the passerby.

Eric Grimstead, certified business advisor of the Small Business Development Center at Western Washington University, strongly believes the methods of grabbing store or street front attention will work only if they have been well researched.

“My curiosity has always been with those people dancing with signs out on the busy intersections and what their impact on traffic is, but my gut level reaction is that it’s not going to do a lot for them,” Grimstead said.

He recommends, if businesses are going to try this tactic, they would need to test the method for peak business hours, tracking the foot traffic on the days the signs are implemented and comparing the difference to when they are not used. Rather than hiring someone full time right away to hold the signs outside or dance with them, businesses should see how the method will affect their business first, Grimstead said.

Debra Lee, also a certified business advisor with the SBDC, agrees and emphasizes that owners must have the statistics of their businesses before implementing a new marketing effort method.

“Some businesses will just try a method without doing the research, so they will have nothing to compare it with,” Lee said.

For some businesses, however, the strategy of street-front signs and activity has been quite effective.


The tale of the dancing pig

Speak E-Z’s Memphis-style BBQ on Meridian Street has used some creative marketing techniques in order to appeal to customers on the street.

One is quite popular, and involves a person dressed as a pink pig waving signs that say, “Eat me, I’m Juicy,” or “Eat me, I’m Smoked.”

Rosie Rayborn, co-owner and manager of the Memphis-style restaurant, implemented the Speak E-Z’s pig a couple of years ago to save on advertising dollars and find a unique way to grab customers’ attention. She was originally looking for pig balloons when she found the costume, she said.

“We are thinking about what would attract people,” she said. “There is so much sensory overflow out there. I’ve been downtown and I see a lot of the same thing. If people don’t see anything different then they don’t notice.”

After putting out the pig, Rayborn noticed an increase in business of 15 to 20 percent almost immediately. There were mixed reactions toward the pig, as a couple of individuals took advantage of taunting the mascot by throwing things at it, though Rayborn feels the method has worked well and has used it ever since.

“I’ve read somewhere that it takes a person so many times to notice something, so you have to have that consistency in your advertisement,” Rayborn said. “We asked people who said they saw the pig, and they said it made them remember the restaurant. It helped raise awareness, and it’s more effective to have the pig sometimes and not all the time, as they remember they haven’t been here in a while.”

Rayborn has continued to use the pig in her advertising and pays $10 an hour for the roughly three-hour shift, she said. She offers the position on Craig’s- list. As many have probably noticed, the pig was out of commission this fall.

When the pig is not in use, due to weather conditions in the winter and summer, Rayborn has advertised with door hangers, fliers in the to-go menus, the Speak E-Z’s Web site, a commercial that aired two years ago, and occasional advertisements in local papers.

Lee and Grimstead recommend that businesses try adding or reallocating a small percentage of their budget, roughly 2 percent to 10 percent, depending on the business, for a new marketing method. In the last quarter of a year, owners should be evaluating and starting new plans for the upcoming year, and this would be a good time to consider new marketing techniques, Lee said.

Grimstead encourages businesses to evaluate their marketing spending every month and keep a method that may be old but still working.

“It’s not change for the sake of change,” Grimstead said. “If it’s still effective, keep it. There are a lot of businesses that won’t do that, much to their own detriment.”

In terms of how to bring the appeal of a business to the curb, Grimstead believes that an advertising method has to be trackable in order to work and that businesses should monitor where new customers and leads are coming from.

“Where the fish are, where your target customers are hanging out, is where you should market,” he said. “Market where they are congregating, or paying attention.”


The seven musts of advertising

Grimstead said there are seven key areas of advertising that every business should be familiar with. The first one is literature, which includes brochures, cards and flyers. The second is market education, which could be holding seminars, trade shows or writing articles, and the third is direct mail via newsletters, postcards, etc. The fourth involves advertising through TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, or the Yellow Pages.

The fifth incorporates public relations through events, featured experts and awards, and the sixth involves personal contact with training, networking, entertainment and demos. The last must, a recent addition with the growing technology, is utilizing the Internet for affiliates, blogs, social networking and search engines. Successful firms consistently use these musts in their markets, Grimstead said.

To keep up with the changing economy, there are some inexpensive ways to use these seven musts of advertising to increase business, Grimstead said.

Grimstead and Lee recommend that owners create strategic partnerships with other non-competitive businesses by looking at what their customers are also buying. For example, a business could utilize its Web site by having affiliated links to other like-businesses, such as a business that refurbishes musical instruments listing links on its Web site for manufacturers of musical instruments or musical instructors, Lee said.

“You don’t compete directly with those businesses, but they complement your business,”Lee said. “And you complement theirs. That will cross-pollinate your businesses.”

Another inexpensive method of marketing can be quite simple yet affective, such as word-of-mouth referrals. Lee suggests that business owners ask themselves what they are doing to make word-of-mouth happen for their business and not assume it will happen automatically.

“You have to be proactive with that and not just let it happen on its own,” she said.


Keep your name out there

Deana Reynolds, general manager of Bergen and Company, insists that every company should distribute promotional items such as mugs, pens, bags and consistently wear clothing that is embroidered or imprinted with their logo so employees and staff are always identified. The effect of doing so can be quite astounding, she said.

In June 2008 the Advertising Specialty Institute conducted a study on promotional products such as mugs, caps, bags, shirts and writing utensils that several companies distributed to a large group of people, Reynolds said. Eighty-four percent of the people who received the promotional items said they remembered the companies afterward, and 42 percent had a more favorable opinion, which illustrates the importance of a company keeping its name out in the public, Reynolds said.

“When you put items out there for people, it’s an amazing thing,” Reynolds said. “When something is in front of you all the time, you might not have a need for it at the moment, though when you do you will call that company.”

Bergen and Company meets with business owners to design and create logos, promotional items and clothing to help present their name and organization to the public with a specialty in embroidery and heat appliqué.

“Having an image that is recognizable is a key element to being a good business,” she said.

Both Lee and Grimstead are aware of how the economy is changing the way businesses advertise and look at marketing methods, and they strongly recommend to not cut back completely if possible.

“The first impulse may be to cut back on the marketing, which is really counter-intuitive to what we have studied,” Lee said.

Some companies might choose to limit their marketing to e-mail, which Grimstead discourages. A printed piece of information about a company will generate four to 10 times more revenue that an e-mail approach would offer, he said. If a percentage of marketing needs to be cut from the budget, a business should take the time to evaluate which methods aren’t working and cut those.

Though Rayborn and her husband Dennis, co-owner and chef, have tried numerous techniques to put an edge on their advertising and believe in their business, it is hard to keep ad consistency for a small business that cannot afford a marketing firm.

“I wish I had $1 million to advertise like crazy,” Rayborn said. “It would be nice to have enough funds to have someone professional develop a plan for you. When you work at a place, you really believe in a product and you just want to shout it out. We really take pride in our food.”

Rayborn believes the public has changed it’s spending habits during the current economic situation, however — and people will go to places that are consistently in their minds.

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