In a previous life, I used to own a paint-your-own pottery studio just outside Boston Massachusetts, in a town called Danvers. It was summer, and as is usually the case, business was a bit slow. Chances are, families were either down at the Cape or on vacation.
I decided it was time to do a little research into ways that I could generate a little more foot traffic and thus... more business. What I found challenging was that my customer radius was fairly small, perhaps five miles from downtown at most; needless to say, my options were pretty slim.
Here it was Friday afternoon, I had my head down checking off my list of available resources and exploring the cringe-worthy possibility of having to advertise in everything from church bulletins to the Yellow Pages, when the bell on the door rings and a guy walks into the studio from Citizens Bank interested in speaking to me about the possibility of switching my business accounts over to his branch. I listened to what he had to offer, cut the meeting short, and told him that I would consider it.
The next morning I was sitting in the kitchen going through the mail and a light bulb went off over my head. I thought "HEY! What about direct mail?" Now I know what you're thinking. Oh, what a revelation Duke, you're a genius! Yeah, yeah, yeah - let me finish.
Monday morning I got back to the studio, pulled up my computer, and began to put the finishing touches on a tri-fold brochure that I had been working on. Once it was finished, I grabbed a business card from my desk, made a quick phone call and then darted out the door to Kinkos.
A few days later, the banker walks into the studio. He said "I have to be honest, I was a bit surprised to hear from you on Monday. You really didn't appear as if you were interested in moving your business." I replied... "I wasn't, but perhaps we can help each other out." I got up, went over to my desk and grabbed one of my new, bright tri-fold brochures printed on vibrant yellow stock, sat back down at the table, and said "I have a proposition for you. I will transfer not only my business accounts, but my personal accounts as well, in exchange for one thing." He said "What's that?" I said "I'll transfer the accounts if you agree to put this tri-fold in with your next bank statement mailing." His eyebrows went up; he sat back in his chair and said "Well I don't know, I'm going to have to check with my boss at the bank and see if they would be willing to do it." I said "Fair enough, check with the higher ups and let me know."
The previous Saturday morning, as I sat in my kitchen and went through the mail, it was at the moment when I opened my bank statement that it hit me... "Hmmm... everyone opens their bank statement." Not only was I certain that my brochures wouldn't instantly be tossed in the trash as junk mail, but the bank's customer radius was very similar to mine. - Perfect match!
A couple of days later the banker calls me and says "I have some good news!" Now my only problem was I didn't have enough tri-folds printed. - Back to Kinkos.
I was able to do a direct mail campaign at no cost to me aside from printing the brochures. I got local market saturation with a 100% open rate in addition to the increased credibility we received by being associated with the bank.
Was it successful? Yes indeed! But the moral of the story is this. Don't be limited in your thinking. Get creative and explore possibilities that you can not only leverage, but that can offer you a distinct strategic advantage. Keep in mind that just because it hasn't been done before doesn't mean it's not an option; it's simply an option that hasn't been explored.