Proven Self-Promotions Drive Sales And Profitability

The late, great vaudeville comedian Milton Berle once stated: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

It’s an apropos quote to begin an article on self-promotions. The mere name—self-promotions—conjures up a basketful of thoughts and concepts. Typically it’s based on a “special” on a product that the vendor thinks will sell, overflow stock or just a new item the advertiser wants to get out in the space. I have no issues with that. The reality is everyone’s doing it or, at a minimum, has access to utilize the offer.

We take these “specials,” place our logo on them and send them out via mail or deliver them by hand with the hope and expectation that the client or prospect will buy them by the tractor-trailer load. At times, this happens. But this process begs the question: could we do more? Could we demonstrate to our clients the remarkable power of our medium? What could we add? How could we package the concept? What theme could we develop and what verbiage could we wrap it with that would resonate with our clients and prospects for an actionable response?

Years ago I can remember supplier reps coming to my office and saying, “Here is the latest product, it comes in 15 color options, it costs ‘X’ net and it’s on special for ‘X’ and we are offering 100 units for ‘X’ for distributor self-promotion.” In looking at this scenario I felt I could do more with this opportunity. So I built a door.

When I consider self-promotion opportunities, I look at ways I can take the gracious offers our suppliers give us and take them up several levels. I determine specific markets I want to target. I develop a theme and creative copy that will resonate with that audience. I look for creative packaging that will augment the message and develop a creative way to deliver that message. I do detailed research to ensure that the audience I am reaching needs what is being offered, has the ability to pay and that the person I am targeting is indeed the decision maker. This is why, in most cases, the self-promotion programs I have developed have netted upwards of 70 percent positive response rates.

Taking It To The Next Level

Marketers—yes that’s you—have a tremendous opportunity to do more with the tools you have at your disposal. I want to share a few of my recent case histories and the success of these programs that I have developed for myself and my distributor client, iPROMOTEu.

Case History No. 1: Puzzled On How To Stay Relevant Puzzle Invitation

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Needing a creative way to invite clients and prospects to a lunch-and-learn event, I worked with iPROMOTEu affiliate Theresa Gonzalez, president of stay Visible, Inc., and we decided on a nine-piece puzzle to drive the messaging home. The well-crafted theme—“Puzzled About How to Stay Relevant with Your Marketing?”—drew recipients to open the can and engaged them to put the puzzle together to get the full message. Once completed, the recipients got information about the event and a brief introduction to the speakers. Interestingly, when we followed up, we found all of the recipients had put the puzzle together. Eighty-eight percent of the mailed recipients attended the event.

Case History No. 2: Accept No Substitutes

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Our client was plagued with the problem of having to compete with other photographers and videographers in Washington D.C. and the outer suburbs. We learned the client typically sent targeted media buyers and ad agencies a portfolio of work, which was a major expense. When the client was called in for a meeting with a prospect, he often noticed that his portfolio was one in a stack of other portfolios—his did not stand out. Utilizing a tear-sheet format that was borrowed from a media buying guide, we made a replica of the piece on a hardboard, cork-backed coaster. The tear-sheet coasters were placed in a bed of straw along with a cover letter detailing the client’s services. The art on an accompanying card showed a scarecrow similar to the one from The Wizard of Oz holding a plastic replica of a brain with a very inquisitive look on his face. The tagline read: “Accept No Substitutes.” The box was mailed to 300 media buyers and art directors in the Washington, D.C. area. To add to the impact of the campaign, the pieces were mailed Express Mail the night before Halloween. The campaign generated a massive response rate of more than 86 percent, garnering nearly 230 prospect leads who were interested in his service.

Case History No. 3: A New View On Creative Marketing

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A marketing piece dubbed “A New View on Creative Marketing” was designed to specifically target marketing directors. The viewfinder selected to accompany the piece had seven windows on the reel where six successful and creative case histories were highlighted. The eighth window had text that carried the message, “… now that you’ve seen our vision, let us help you with yours …”

The piece was custom packaged to include the viewfinder, custom reel, business card and a mini book that explained each of the case histories in full detail, outlining the client brief, objective of the campaign, execution and strategy, and the overall results. This piece netted some amazing results. For example, a distributor who used this campaign had been trying for 14 months to make contact with a prospect. He had sent emails, catalogs, notes, etc. As a last-ditch effort, he sent this piece to the prospect in an effort to gain a meeting. A few days later the prospective client took a call from the distributor and scheduled a meeting. The distributor generated a major order from this client and was still working with her months later. The client mentioned to the distributor how impressed she was with the piece; she said she had never seen anything like it before.


Case History No. 4: The Jury Is Out … You Be The Judge

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Targeting vertical and lateral markets is a process that I not only believe in but encourage distributors and marketers to embrace. Similar to the previous campaign, this campaign was targeted at marketing directors at major law firms with a message that resonated with them in a big way. A box was designed to look like a briefcase with a printed note on the outside that read: “The Jury is Out.” In lawyer speak this indicates a decision has not yet been made. When the box was opened it revealed the inside of a briefcase with messaging that continued, “Now you be the judge. Give us 15 minutes to state our case, then judge for yourself.” Additional copy spoke to creative marketing. The copy was innovative, creative, memorable and measurable to get noticed. To round out the campaign, we included a mini gavel, business card and a mini manila folder with three case histories marked as Exhibits A, B, and C; these were each of the campaigns. Once again, this self-promotion gained incredible results for the client.

Another distributor utilized this idea and targeted 10 marketing directors at large law firms. When I followed up, the distributor mentioned he could not believe the amazing results. One of the first contacts he made invited him in for an appointment and said he was so impressed with the piece, that it really spoke to him. The client mentioned that he wanted to do something different and creative to target a core group of businesses and that his annual budget was between $350,000 and $500,000. Currently the distributor is still working with the client and having a remarkable year. And this is just one of many successes.

I see this industry as more than just logoed stuff to hand out. While our products certainly have their place in branding, keeping a name in front of clients and prospects and making them pick up the phone, creative marketing is the next step. Merging creative copy, packaging, products and unique themes all aimed and targeted to specific audiences with a call to action will set you apart from your competition every time.

The next time you go to an industry trade show, a supplier’s website or look through a supplier’s catalog, think beyond the product. Look at ways to target specific markets with engaging messages that will cause your prospects and clients to want to speak with you and take your call. This is a huge differentiator in an industry that has become classified as the “trinkets and trash” business.

We are more than that and together we can make a change, but it begins with us first. Become more for your clients and your families will thank you for it.

Cliff Quicksell, Jr., MAS+, serves both as a consultant and acting director of marketing for distributor iPROMOTEu. He has been in the promotional industry for more than 30 years in various capacities. Additionally, Quicksell is president of his own international speaking and consulting company, speaking, coaching and consulting on ways and methods that companies can grow, expand and prosper. He has helped and spoken to audiences in more than eight countries and has published two books and more than 800 articles on sales, marketing and creativity. He can be reached at 301-717-0615, via email at or on his LinkedIn profile.