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.