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e-tailing On the Campaign Trail



Mitch Goldstone

With the elections behind us, let's pause to reflect on just how smart all the candidates were. That's right, smart. Where else can you get other people to rally behind your campaign with the passion, money and fervor that entrepreneurs always hope to garner to promote their own businesses? As a local Orange County, CA, political leader and as an entrepreneur, I've found a way to inspire the same mania that circles a political campaign to help promote your business. In the past, "buy-one-get-one-free" offers were the photo industry's promotional pattern. Today we must be much smarter. We need to get the attention of area businesses and have them know you as the civic leader in your community.

But how can you do that? Start running your business like a political campaign. If you study the dynamics of a political campaign, you'll quickly recognize that there are many parallels to your business. The question is, how do you get others to follow and get involved with your campaign to grow your business? Here's one recent project I launched that anyone can replicate and expand upon.

The project: Help your local municipality increase sales taxes, not through added fees, but through increasing purchases within your city. In Irvine, CA, nearly half of all revenues received by the city are derived from regular sales tax income. When more people buy products in the city, the revenues to the city increase as well. Like most municipalities, the auto center is one of the largest sales tax generators.

The project I am working on is called "Keep It in Irvine." When you purchase an automobile at the Irvine Auto Center, you'll receive $5,000 in vouchers for free services and products from Irvine businesses. The voucher encompasses 100 Irvine companies contributing a minimum of $100 gift certificates with no minimum purchase necessary. Examples of participating companies include restaurants, cleaners, supermarkets, gas stations, car washes, photo labs, tire centers, auto repair centers, bookstores, optometrists and theaters.

Make sure there are no gimmicks. The value must be real and without any purchase requirements. The value to the businesses is building up goodwill and bringing in new, highly qualified (they just bought a car!) people into their establishments. To benefit the business community, you should require that all participants be a member of your local chamber of commerce.

If you study the dynamics of a political campaign, you'll quickly recognize that there are many parallels to your business

Managing Your Campaign

As the founder of the local program, you should promote the service and manage the campaign. That way, you're in charge, and those 100 area businesses get to personally know you and bring their vouchers to your business—always make sure that you are the designated drop-off place. Remind the companies that the real cost of attracting just one new lifetime customer is much greater than this $100 investment. You become the catalyst between the auto center, the business community and the chamber of commerce.

To promote your own Keep It Local campaign, write a press release and share it with the local paper and the chamber of commerce, auto center marketing managers and city hall. Then go on the attack. Just like politicians use the airwaves to garner free publicity, you now have a cause that will rally the entire community behind you. Show up and address the city council and the onlooking cable TV audience with your campaign to benefit the city. You're a superstar; the city is served. Consumers from distant cities will flock to buy cars in your city, because this is really one of the only ways to specialize and differentiate one auto dealer from another. A BMW is a BMW, but one purchased in Irvine gets you an extra $5,000 in substantial and real benefits.

Case Study

In my case, we'll provide in $100 online gift certificates toward ordering photos from digital cameras and camera phones. The recipient will log onto www.30minphotos.com and enter a prearranged promo code. They can share the code with others, and because our same-day service is national, anyone can use it.

This marketing strategy plays off political campaigns but also fashions your business as a civic leader. Beyond the benevolence and goodwill, it's always important to get involved and help your community. A by-product of my firm's year-round championing of civic programs was the recent Orange County Philanthropy Awards. Because we already provide the photographic 5 x 7 enlargements for many local events with our compliments, they sought us out for a recent award program. One hundred and seven organizations were nominated, and each group was instructed to visit 30 Minute Photos Etc. to receive a complimentary publicity portrait headshot for the program. Imagine 107 of the most important groups in your city being told to visit your store!

We captured all the portraits for the awards, and we also captured everyone's e-mails, too. Why the e-mails? We sent each group a personalized link to view their portraits online. Over 20 separate high-quality portrait shots were captured for every attendee. Therefore, each received a link to over 20 unique publicity portraits of themselves. Pressing one button enabled them to order enlargements and share with others. Of course, we love the share feature because it gets family members across the nation to become familiar with 30minphotos.com.

Setting Yourself Apart

Another easy way to differentiate your services and promote your holiday photo greeting cards is to have your lab photo technicians choose a favorite photo within each order and automatically select a holiday photo greeting card. Make sure the card is nonreligious—you don't want to offend anyone. If there are several great shots within a film or digital order, make several samples.

Show the customer how special year-round cards are by typing a sales message on the card. We use Aperion greeting card templates (www.aperioninc.com), which are preloaded onto our Kodak DLS software. This makes for a seamless method to instantly add an extra print to the order. In addition to all the added perks we randomly include within completed print-at-retail and online orders—from lottery tickets (for CA residents) to Starbucks gift cards, chocolate and candy—these holiday card samples are so appreciated and lead to enhanced sales.

But don't let it stop on January 1. Whenever your lab technicians see images of new baby photos, graduations, weddings or other special occasions, have them include a similarly themed photo greeting card within the order. These types of marketing and promotional innovations are essential for growing your business.

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