Free Marketing Inspiration....

by roy mackey

aug 19, 2019

The store... the day after I bought it... 4000 sq ft of work....

     Four lifetimes ago I bought this second hand store in the small town of Invermere BC. When I first bought it the revenue barely..., no didn't... cover the overhead to run it. A year or so later it was the best cash cow I ever had..., I blame marketing.... low buck high return marketing.
     I called the store Valley Junque Shop. Partly because some of the junk was antique. Mostly though it was used furniture etc and about 25% was antiques. My sign even made the Readers Digest because it said "New and used antiques" : ) This was equivalent to "going viral" today.
     It was a crazy how much money you can make in that business. I ran it mostly by myself but the odd time hired someone to fill in when I was out buying more stock. Oh... My bird worked there with me also. It took the first year to get in the air but after that the place took off like crazy. Demographically I bought the store at the perfect time as the boomers kids were leaving home and old couches were needed.
     I had two rusty old beaters to drive. One little Dat-Shame pickup and a Chevy fuelhog van. I almost never carried less than ten grand in cash on me, and this was thirty years ago. Ten grand was a lot of cash back then compared to now. Most thought I was just scraping by. After all status in North America is determined by how new your car is. Anyone driving a rusty truck could not be doing well.
     After buying the store I realized that in order for it to work I had to make it different in some way. Being the creative type I was up for the challenge. Of course number one priority was getting the stock up and making sure that stock was good. That was a lot of work but it caught on quick got the sales going fast.
     One of the things that helped it grow was carrying all the cash I did. Every time I went to buy something off someone I would exaggerate the action of pulling this wad of cash out of my pocket. I would then thumb through the mostly hundred dollar bills until I found some smaller stuff to pay the guy. After I left I would bet a dollar that the guy would be telling his neighbor how I pulled this wad of cash and paid him first chance he got. That led to more people calling me with stuff to sell. Before that most people never thought I would actually pay them for their stuff and that I was more like a thrift store where you dropped stuff off for free. There was hardly a day went by where I did not have to go look at someone's junk and of course do the "pull the wad of cash" trick.  
     Now of course these days carrying that much cash would be a little more crazy as most have been trained into being scared shiteless of cash. Not only that if a bank caught you they would tell on you. Next thing you know you would be tagged terroist and have the swat team at your door.  
     Now when it came to marketing eventually I got an artist to draw me up a professional looking ad for the local paper. It was a large display ad and showed my large parrot etc thus was pretty eye catching for a small town. It only cost me twenty eight bucks a week to run.
     Well after running that add for six months I realized that my mom was the only one that commented on my big add. This seemed crazy so I decided to dump the ad and come up with something better. I figured if I stopped the ad I would have twenty eight dollars to work with each week for something new. So I got my brain going.
"Sweetie" my one full time employee.

She was my main drawing card.

     The first gimmick I came up with was a blast! I started throwing loonies into the parking lot each morning. The new looney had just come out in the city but very few had made it to the country yet. They were a novelty. Thus every couple of days I would hit the bank to see if they had any. If so I bought a roll or two. When I first got to the shop if no one was around I would toss one at each end of the gravel parking lot. Eventually a customer would spot it and bring it into the store raving about what they had found. I would act all surprised and take a look at it. Within the next month I must have had ten people in who said they never knew this place was even here but their friend told them about the new fangled looney they found in my parking lot!!! Now that was some serious ROI on my marketing investment!!!
     You see everyone loves to tell their story of finding free money. Even though it was not a lot of money it was still free and most had not seen them "looney's" yet. This cost me only ten bucks a week and the returns were incredible.  

     Another gig I did was selling money for cheaper than it was worth. This one was also a riot. Back then the money was a lot more paper like than the plastic it is now. Thus quite often I would get one in that was all beat to shite and torn etc. If it was really rough I would put it in my show case for cheaper than the face value.

     For example I sold ten dollar bills for eight fifty and sometimes less. Fivers were three fifty. People would jaw drop thinking I was totally stupid. I would tell them the only catch was they had to have the exact change. The reason for the exact change was the fact I sold so much stuff I was always short on change so this added to my change. I never told them that though.
     One summer I had at least three people come in from Europe that asked me first thing "Is this the store that sells money for less than it is worth?" That pretty well proved to me that these marketing gigs were more than paying for themselves. Not even counting the amusement and laughs that so many people got from them.
     Whenever there were times that I got too busy to use up my twenty eight dollar marketing budget. I would roll up the money into a wad of usually smaller bills and put a "Free Wad of Cash" sticker on it. Then I would stash it in some obscure part of the store and forget about it. Strangely I never heard any feedback about this one. My guess is it may have been a little two weird. Mind you I only did do it a few times.
     Now often I would have stuff marked for free throughout the store. Not junk either but good useable stuff. This gave me a huge return on that investment. People often referred to the place as the store with free stuff. You see the markup in used stuff is so big giving the odd thing away was not a big deal. Often someone would sell me a truckload of good stuff for a hundred bucks. I would sell one thing out of that truckload the first day and get my money back thus everything else was virtually free. This meant giving away the odd thing not a big deal. It also gave the store a fun feel to it.
     Also all my stuff came with a full money back no questions guarantee. At least all the stuff that could break like stereo's and appliances etc. If someone brought something back and wanted their money back I would just spot them the cash no questions. When they left I would toss it in the dumpster. That meant they could trust buying from me. Very unusual for a second hand store back then.
    Another good one that maybe did not pay as well marketing wise but was real bonus. That was all kids toys in my store were free. You have to realize this was back before parents started wiping out their kids immune systems by giving them only new sterile stuff. For me it worked great because it kept all those heathen little rug rats from wrecking the rest of the store!!! Anal parents, the ones killing their kids immune systems, were just starting to crawl out of their dark fear laden caves then. Thus the free toy box only put a few into shock and panic running out the door.
     The whole thing for me was bucking the conventional wisdom. I often tried talking people out of buying stuff if it was not what they really needed. That always surprised people. My goal back then was to make the store an experience for the customer. I figured if I did that the sales would take care of them selves which they did. It was definitely a lot of fun.
     My favorite gag there was I took some really fine fishing line and hung fly hooks from the ceiling down at about eye level. I took an area right in front of my cassette tapes (see this was awhile ago) and had about twenty fly hooks hanging randomly in an eight inch by two foot area. To get over to the cassette tapes you would walk right through them if you were not careful. These scared the hell out of tons of people who could not believe I could be so stupid. Well what I did not tell them was the fact that I had cut off the hook on all of them. There was no way in a hundred years you could have gotten snagged because the hook part was cut off. I left just enough of it to hold the body of the fly. Of course unless you looked closely you could not tell. You just saw these deadly fly hooks hanging there right at eye level. Younger people would bee line right over to my tapes to see if I had any good ones or maybe their stolen ones. I would last minute yell out. "watch your eyes on the flies!!"  Course I would never do that one again even though it was a lot of fun and got a lot positive response.
     The whole goal with the store was to stir in as much crazy as I could get away with. Make it fun and memorable for the customer. The parrot of course helped that a lot as most people never saw large parrots like that much back then. This was also prior to the beast and youtube.
     Now this was thirty years ago when people had common sense and could still think on their own. Today's snowflakes of course could never handle a lot of these ideas. Especially the fly hooks. Just the same though it gives you some ideas about breaking out into something new when it comes to your marketing ideas.
     You see the problem today is people are too sterile and digital when it comes to their marketing. We get examples all the time. Things like the very irritating "like my page" farcebook bullshite. Who hasn't been assaulted with enough of those already.
     When it comes to marketing don't get lost in views, likes, shares or followers. The thing that matters is sales.... If you want to stay in business that is.
     You see most people seem to forget that no one is really "following" them. Instagram used that term because of how it makes you feel. Most people are following everyone else so everyone else will follow them. It feels good when you have a hundred followers. Makes you feel like a leader and thus keeps you on the team posting stuff.
     In truth unless you are selling sugar coated styrofoam donuts you don't even need marketing. You see if your product is seriously good then word of your offering will spread all on it's own organically. Seriously if you got a frog that will sing and dance you will have crowds flog to your establishment. Thus the real trick is to make your business stand out from all the rest. The more you make it stand out the better your business will be..
     Now if you doubt me when was the last time you saw a Tesla ad? Tesla is the only car company that has not marketing budget!!! Why??? Well they have a great product plain and simple. Their cars are hugely faster, quieter, environmentally cleaner, require hugely less maintenance, have less moving parts, start in any weather, are totally cutting edge, are virtually self driving and not just the latest version of an old worn out gas technology.
     You see good products will market themselves word of mouth. When you buy a Tesla there is no fast talking, chain smoking, bag of colologne and testosterone trying to high pressure you into buying one of their smoke belching dinosaurs. Instead you go online and order it there. No expensive dealership you have to slog off to. You can order your new car, without a middle man at two am if you choose.
     Not only that but if you listen to radio you won't have to tolerate back to back car ads with some yelling idiot acting like you are some kind of idiot. Especially with their thousand dollar cash back or 0% interest offer. Keeeripes!!! how stupid do they think you are. If you take the 0% interest option you don't get the thousand dollar cash back offer. There's your interest!!! I still hear those idiots barking out those high pressure bone grating ads.  
     Thus by making your product or business as memorable as possible the people will do your marketing for you. This is third party marketing and has always been valuable but nothing like it is today. Today it is king but if you think I am going to rave about your sugar coated styrofoam then good luck. 
     So if you have a small business don't try to go corporate with your marketing. You want results. It took me a long time to learn that the add salesman was a bad guy to ask for how much advertising I needed. After all he sells advertising!!!
     Back when I ran my display add in the local paper the guy told me you have to run the adds steady and eventually after years you will get results. This is what all big companies do he told me. Fortunately for me I figured out he was full of it. Later I had that confirmed by people who were actually intelligent and extremely successful when it came to marketing.
     Now I admit if you are selling fast food donuts, cheap imported stuff that is going to break on the way home or some mass made sure to break electronics then yes you need to market like hell. After all most people see through that crap and have to be brainwashed so to speak before they want to buy. Thus you do need a huge marketing budget.
     Now if you are marketing your cheap crap what people want is heart warming experiences. You know the add showing the guy saving the hypothermic puppy by using his hot cup of fresh brewed and always good Skim Dorkens coffee. Most have jumped on this bandwagon now and in a lot of cases if you look beyond the fake story the add is more revolting than anything. Especially if the company sells crap that is thought to be fattening, cancer causing, or designed with planned obsolescence in mind.