Creative Advertising

Years ago and for over 20 years I owned my own Belly Gram business. That was before the Internet, and service based businesses were traditionally advertised in the Yellow Pages of the phone directory or local newspapers, or even on restaurant paper place mats.

My business was mainly like a telegram service. Someone would phone and ask if I would help them celebrate someone’s birthday or anniversary, farewell, or get-well, at their business, a home, restaurant, or hospital. I had a ten-minute belly dance routine, my Middle Eastern music on a boom box, and I traveled to wherever the party was, met that person in charge, who told me what my guest-of-honor looked like, where he (or she) was located, and I showed them which button to press on my music when they had their guest-of-honor in place. When I heard my music start, that was my cue to enter the room.

The first part of my routine was fun and lively and I circled the room set aside for me to dance in and zoomed in on my “victim”-er guest-of-honor. Then I had a lovely slow section of music in which I wrapped my veil around his head and presented him with a red velvet banner with his name and “Happy Birthday” (or whatever the occasion was), and the last part was fast again and I used my tambourine which ended up on my “victim’s” head on top of the veil so he appeared Middle Eastern. My aim was to make my guest-of-honor feel special that someone valued them enough to arrange a party and to hire me to help them celebrate the occasion. Although I didn’t take myself too seriously, I certainly did take my job seriously and enjoyed it until I retired from dance. I also did longer shows for groups like the Shriner’s, Greek nights, trade shows, etc.

I said all that to give you, dear reader, an idea what the service was about. The advertising that was most successful over the years was “word of mouth” with the Yellow Pages ad coming in second. But occasionally, I had to think outside the box, so to speak. I approached restaurant owners/managers to do party room birthdays for groups as well as individual birthday events. I spoke with an outdoor amphitheater management about my work and also our local Shakespeare Theatre, a football stadium for tailgate parties, night clubs for special entertainment nights. An events coordinator hired me to perform in national trade shows at  different resorts. The Leukemia Society asked me to become a fund raiser for their Celebrity Waiter’s Luncheons, which I did for ten years. I did military parties and shows on military bases and even a few Scottish céilidh events in a tartan costume. And, one of the Scottish events turned into a performance for the Finance Minister of Saudi Arabia. Several movie companies came to our town and I was hired for actor’s and producer’s birthdays. I could go on and on, but the idea I’m trying to get across is thinking outside the box for whatever it is you are interested in promoting.

I remember shortly before I retired from dance, my husband came home and told me he was in a local drug store looking at the greeting cards and he left my business card in several of the categories. I had to laugh. Apparently, I had him thinking outside the box, too!

Now I’m an author and advertising is different. And it isn’t. For one thing we have the Internet, but we still need to think outside the box. I’ve blogged and guest blogged, networked at conferences and conventions, made wearable book-cover pins, given talks and signings at libraries, etc. Authors, do you have some ideas to share on thinking-out-of-the-box advertising?


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under marketing

13 responses to “Creative Advertising

  1. Pat Gordon

    Wow, Coco, you are truly blessed with the gift of creativity, as well as hardworking and a very interesting woman. I am so pleased to have you as my friend.
    Much success to you, Pat

    • How kind of you, Pat, to say such sweet things, but, not to make light of your comment, a huge incentive for me, a divorcee, has been maintaining the ability to keep up my mortgage, provide a home for my son and afford groceries for many years. But thank you. I truly value your friendship. You are also hard working and very talented.

  2. It sounds like you are not only creative, but very energetic. As I get older and lazier I think I am also getting less creative or less willing to do what I need to do to advertise my products. I do still love talking about my books and sharing what I do at the B&B whenever I have a chance. It’s a blessing to have those things to talk about and a great way to make new friends.

    • Sherrie, I’m like you – getting less creative about promotion and less willing to do what needs to be done (and less idea of what that might be). I also still like talking about my books, but have a hard time finding people to listen.

  3. Susan Coggins

    I always enjoy reading your blog. We were states apart when your belly-gram business was born. As you know I planned weddings for over 16 years and used belly dancers for several weddings. Such fun to watch the grace of the dancers. Wish I could have seen you in action. I still think word of mouth is the best advertising. Never did a wedding when I didn’t gain a new client from one of the guests.

    • Thank you, Susan. I’m so glad you enjoy my blog. Yes, I wish I could have danced at one of your events. I did dance for several wedding receptions including a niece’s shortly after my sister and I met after our long search for one another. And you’re right about getting new clients at each event. I did too. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.

  4. Sherrie, I know what you are saying. I don’t do nearly what I used to do as I age, either, but your schedule is a lot busier than mine: running two homes, being a pastor’s wife, maintaining a beautiful garden, writing blogs, running a B&B and all that involves. I believe you are the busiest person I know. I’m out of breath just thinking about it. I do appreciate your compliment, however. Here’s to many happy years for you and your B&B and writing!

  5. Nope. Nothing to share. I’ve totally run out of ideas on promotion. Running out of ideas on everything else, too. If I ever get a bright idea (or even a dim one) for sure I’ll let you know.

  6. You’re cute, Pat! You’re taking a break, remember? Good girl! Yep, the next time you get one of your great ideas, let me know. 🙂

  7. I’ve seen you wow spectators when you dance and I’ve seen you wow attendees when you discuss your book. You are truly a woman who is extremely comfortable in your own skin. I am positive you will continue in your adventure for many years to come.

  8. I wonder if places aren’t more reluctant to accept advertising now. I always get a “no” when I ask if I may leave a book or a business card (except for one coffee shop – must follow up on that one!). But maybe proprietors feel they’d need to read the book to find out if they could approve it. Then I wonder, why can’t I tempt them to read. Not sure trying to tempt them will a belly dance would work in my case though.

  9. Sheila, you may have a valid point on businesses being reluctant to accept advertising these days. Now that I think about it, that approach may have worked for me because I was already known in the middle sized city I lived in at the time. I did contact several of my readers to recommend me for a book talk/signing at a bookstore and I supplied that store with a copy of my book. And after sending postcards of my book cover to all my friends (Christmas card list), one of my high school classmates asked me to come give a talk/signing at his book club in North Carolina. I combined a visit with friends with a bit of work. And another friend talked an art gallery into having me for their author’s night. I just tried all I could think of.
    If you want to borrow a costume, I’d be glad to lend you one. 🙂

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