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The Art of Unconventional Marketing

Digital Library > Defining and Serving a Market > Advertising, general “The Art of Unconventional Marketing”

Cindy Houston Hazen uses gifts that stick to raise her profile.

Every December business owners typically send holiday cards to their customers, suppliers, and other contacts. Not Cindy Houston Hazen.

"Christmas cards just get thrown away," says Hazen, president of Sales Executives LLC, an executive search firm in Brentwood, Tennessee. "If I'm going to send something to clients, I want it to stand out."

In recent years, Hazen has bypassed Christmas cards in favor of sending greetings at other times of year. For example, she commemorated the Fourth of July by sending 200 of her clients and business associates a "Salute to America" CD with patriotic music.

Each CD cover featured her company's logo and contact information. Hazen, who took FastTrac in 2000, received many calls and e-mail messages from appreciative recipients.

"They liked that it was practical," she says. "They received it before the holiday weekend so they could play it on July 4."

Another year she skipped Christmas but sent New Year’s cards. And the cards doubled as a useful gift: a mousepad.

About 120 people on her mailing list received a mousepad with a 4×6 pocket to insert a photo. When they opened their gift—which arrived the last few days of December—they found a New Year’s message from Hazen slid into the pocket.

Because most people kept the CD and mousepad, the giveaways became ongoing visibility-building tools for Hazen's business. And the cost per item was not much more than customizing a nice Christmas card, she adds.

Hazen, who founded her business in 1999, invests in her best clients by finding other ways to keep her company's name in front of them. Once a year she sends them a special gift. Examples include shipping George Foreman grills emblazoned with her company logo to her top thirty-six clients on Thanksgiving, and sending a six-CD set of motivational recordings on "The Power of Achievement."

Hazen's creative marketing extends beyond her unconventional greetings through the mail. She convinced the editor of a regional business journal to let her write a book review for the publication. The resulting article—with her byline and contact info—reinforced her expertise among her clientele.

In another bold move, she noticed a television reporter in her neighborhood and struck up a conversation with him. Now he serves as one of her influential media contacts.

Hazen's grassroots marketing flows from her FastTrac experience. A guest speaker told her group "to always keep marketing, even when you're busy," and Hazen has followed that advice. After a strong second half in 2004, sales increased another 40 percent in 2005, and she projects continued success in 2006.

Writer: Morey Stettner

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