Friday, March 8, 2013

"Use All The Crayons!" unconventional marketing

I’m engaged in a radical new marketing technique sure to be ridiculed by the hipsters for its inherent fecklessness.

Yes, in a day when guerilla marketing demands buzz, incessant hype and the faux groundswell of social media, I’m relying on an institution even marketing Jurassics denounce.

It’s the United States Postal Service!

I’m taking about 10 minutes or so a day to send polite letters to Barnes & Noble book store managers around the country and to ask them if they’ll stock “Use All The Crayons!

Last week I sent 10 letters concentrating on saturating The Keystone State. The results so far: a store in Wilkes-Barre ordered books and the one in Altoona went what I guess you could call apeshit over my guerilla marketing.

They’re ordering 25 and bringing me in for a March 23 book signing. They’re doing a bunch of pre-promotion and I’ll be surprised if I don’t sell 10 before I set foot in the store.

As for the other stores, I yet to check. I’ll be surprised if the majority don’t comply with my simple request.

Why wouldn’t they? I’ve composed a dandy promotional letter and sign each one in crayon. I tell them about the 97-year-old woman who said the book changed her life and my new biker chick friend who had her motorcycle helmet painted to honor my book and her lifestyle.

I tell them to check their computers to gauge how well the book’s already doing in western Pennsylvania. 

The whole procedure takes fewer than 8 minutes and costs just 46-cents.

My happy experience is these store managers are eager to help a new book break out. It’s been wonderful.

Of course, the only thing better has been the most old-fashioned marketing known to man: word of mouth.

The best example of that happened two weeks ago when I was in Las Vegas talking with a local public relations rep near one of the Luxor crap tables.

We’d never met nor corresponded.

It’s always awkward for me to meet PR people because I never have a handy answer to their most essential question: For whom are you going to write this story?

It’s an easy question for reporters with steady outlets. When the host asks for whom do they work, they answer with some high-profile publication.

Me, I hem and haw, mention the blog and a few fly-by-night publications that might run my work. Then I sheepishly begin to tell them about my book.

I tell them it’s a self-help book. I know this is funny even as I’m saying it. Then they ask the title.

 I tell them it’s “Use All The Crayons! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness.”

It just sounds so bizarre, I know. I look nothing like a self-help author, especially after an evening of top shelf bourbon.

That’s why the reaction of the host made me feel like I’d hit a jackpot.

“I have that book. I love it. I teach it in my class.”

He was thrilled to meet me. I couldn’t believe it. My wife thinks I made the whole thing up.

It was probably the best moment I’ve had so far with trying to get the book noticed. There I was about 3,000 miles from home in a busy Las Vegas casino chatting with a stranger who has and loves my book.

How’d he hear about it?

A friend of his told him he had to have it, that it was funny and it would brighten his life.

That’s the same thing Arnold Palmer says!

I’d never heard of his friend, either.

It’s difficult to convey how gratifying this stranger’s enthusiasm was to me. Not only did he love the book, he gushes about it to marketing students he teaches.

It was the best evidence I could have that there’s a real chance the book might become a sensation.

He begged me to send him and his friend crayon-signed copies, which I did as soon as I got home.

In exchange, I asked that he just keep doing what he’s doing: keep talking about the book.

Of course, I’ll be thrilled with any success the book enjoys, but it would be particularly sweet if a book that mentions kindergarten staples in the title would succeed by breaking so many conventional wisdoms.

Crayons, the U.S.P.S. and word of mouth.

You can’t get much more old school than that.

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