A bit of fun makes rough times feel smoother

Everyone’s been grumbling for months, it seems, about something and  everything.  The economy is the most prominent object of our  handwringing, but there are many sub-topics to keep it in  motion—bailouts, bonuses, bankruptcies and more. And since “bad news  sells,” the media has had a field day, building these and other  depressing stories to epic proportions. The American public is offered little relief from the continued spin.

That’s why it can pay off to have a little fun.

To offer up an opportunity to smile and forget the junk  that’s filling the air and the airwaves is to make a potential customer,  or an existing
customer, a little happier.   And with that, an  association with well-being takes place: good feelings come from a  contact with YOU, in their minds.

Even in not-so-bad times this has been a pretty solid  direction to take. One of my longtime clients, who does TV commercials  for
attorneys, had a prospecting newsletter that promoted the  advantages of using TV commercials to tout a law firm’s capabilities.  One
year, we changed the newsletter so that instead of it being simply promotional and informative, we used stories about attorneys who were
living much better lives as a result of using these commercials.

The Strategist Summer 2011
Stories about attorneys who enjoy life more, as a result of smarter marketing provide other attorneys a chance to consider the pros and cons of their own practices

We  showed photos of them with their friends and families, and described  through interviews how their time was easier to manage. We  demonstrated the ultimate benefit of my client’s service:  attorneys were able to make better money from higher quality clients—which afforded them time to coach their kids’ Little League teams or go fishing or write a novel.

The response to this reformed and more  personal (and frankly, more fun) newsletter has been extraordinary, and  it’s continued to be an ongoing source of leads.

Businesses are showing strong imagination and fun  through their email and web promotions. Lehman’s has a wonderful, brief  newsletter called Lehman’s Front Porch that has as much space devoted  to stories and philosophical country wisdom as it has to product.  It’s a great ‘read’, so be sure to sign up for it!  I  always look forward to their latest email. It’s true to their  company’s personality and its sincerity makes it work.   Simply put, this makes you want to  spend more time with these people!

Another one that’s quite different but highly personal is  Annie’s Annuals.   If you’re not on her email list, it’s one that will give you a big blast of fun every time.   Her sales always seem to have a  kooky theme that steps beyond the usual bland ‘spring sale’ approach. And to spice it up more, she encourages readers to write back with  ideas.   One of my all time favorites is an email where she encouraged  customers to name a very unusual and suggestively shaped plant she had  acquired.  Customers wrote in with many imaginative suggestions and in the next email  they named a winner, who received a $50  gift certificate to Annie’s.

But here’s the interesting part:  It was so engaging that the product continues to be a bestseller.

Telling stories works well, too—one story Annie told about a plant actually germinating from seeds in her damp  sweater was such an attention-getter that the lead plant on that email  sold out by noon the day of the email blast.

Among B2B clients, New Pig continues to impress with success, with their line of silly, inexpensive and collectible gifts, ranging  from pig mugs
and tee shirts to clocks.   They refer to this as their  ‘Squeal Deal.’  I must admit, I ordered a few safety kits for our home  (my excuse: we’re in earthquake country and our kits are old…) just to  get a cool mug shaped like an industrial drum.   OK, I admit it, salesmen (that’s me, as a creative) are often the biggest suckers, but I love the mug and the kit is great too.

Do you have a story to tell?  A special voice you may be able  to develop? I’ll bet you do.   Notice that in none of these cases is  the product itself funny—it’s all in the way the story is told, or the  sale is presented.   The outcome is not always funny, but it is  engaging, as is Lehman’s Front Porch.

By doing a little bit of extra work on the way your sale is  announced, or your story is told, your emails can become something your  readers will
open first—and respond by making your cash register ring  more than ever.

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