I went by our Chamber of Commerce office to drop off 350 of my Historic Tours of Texas flyers and stared in amazement at the hundreds of rack cards exhibited on their wall-sized wooden display case. There were brilliantly colored cards, bright with pictures, glowing with descriptions, covered with tantalizing invitations. How on earth could my one small card stand out?
Yesterday, as we were going out to dinner, we drove by a new business out on our Interstate, Imperiale Collision. I wondered how they recruit business. They have bright red lettering, a very modern stylized front, large picture windows, but is that enough to attract customers? Do they cut deals with the wrecker services? Pay-offs? Kick-backs?
What do any businesses do? Flyers? Radio? Newspapers? Facebook? Social Media? E-mails? Snail mail? How does one get the word out?
Advertising, and its attendant marketing, is a multi-million-dollar business and there are millions of salesmen out there to prove it. My late, great brother-in-law was in that business. “It is a cut-throat industry,” he said. Each artist had to come up with eye-catching and appealing images to tempt the client. If he or she didn’t approve, the pictures had to be changed, adjusted, or just thrown out to start over. And that was just the print media.
With the new technology, the artists had to learn digital media methods. The old guard, like my brother-in-law, were left behind as the new computer whiz kids took over. Multiple large screens, new code, complex computer languages. As my husband has insisted, if you need help, get a 12-year-old. I’m sure we’ve all seen our own grand-kids, as young as 2 years old, able to figure out a computer or a cell phone when we haven’t a clue.
And then there is radio. The lovely and talented @SherryIngram is the sales lady for #KSTAR 99.7 radio station. Tremendously knowledgeable, she had me signed up for three live calls a week plus 15-second spots to run during the day. At $800, the accountant said “No!” But is one or two times a week enough? And how likely are people listening to a radio show in their car going to stop and search for Historic Tours of Texas on the Internet?
I’ve also advertised in our local newspaper. Everyone knows the newspaper business is declining but here in our little town people still read The Item. But how big to make the ad? How much to spend on it? How often to run it? How many responses will we get out of it? After six months of running a small 2 inch ad, I never got any that I know of. But did people learn about Historic Tours of Texas? I hope so.
Another avenue is the new giant in the room—Social Media. The youngsters may not use Facebook that much anymore, and now with the Russians hacking it, many of the rest of us are begging off. But does it work? Yup, it does. Many of us do keep up with Facebook and perhaps Instagram.
My problem with Social Media is the overwhelming number of sites we have to check each day, or several times a day. Not just Facebook any longer, but Twitter and Instagram and Snap Chat and Linked-In and a million other sites. Every time we turn around one of these young millennials has invented some other form of communication. Someone “Messaged” me the other day and I didn’t know what it was. I had no idea even where to look. And who has time to check them all? I may post on Facebook, but I don’t have time to go through hundreds of other posts which seems notoriously selfish of me, I know.
So, I’ve resorted to the (now) old-fashioned e-mail method. I’ve sent out short notices to all the groups to whom I have spoken over the last few years. Hopefully, they liked my speeches, they will like the tours. And at least my friends will not just delete my e-mails, or perhaps they won’t. But that doesn’t mean anyone is going to go the extra step to click on the link to the web site and then the additional step of signing up for the tours. But blessings on Bobbe! She did! So it is working!
But what really works best is face-to-face contact. Last week I went to the Sam Houston State Alumni meeting in Conroe. When people asked what I’ve been doing, what better time to whip out the flyer and hand it around? And, it seems, my excitement is contagious. I really do have fun on the tours and I do want to help people learn Texas history. But I can also sign a contract with the Alumni association for a 10% kickback for any Alumni who sign up for the tours. Where there is a will, there is a way!
In the end, I guess that is what a salesman is all about. Sharing the excitement by whatever means necessary. Scary!