Disaster Or Marketing Mastery?

A Lesson In Outrageous Marketing

With Independent Business Owners from all across North America as clients, our team regularly hears from businesses in strange and difficult situations, many dealing with unexpected challenges. Sometimes the situations are more frustrating in nature: road construction, snowstorms, too much product, not enough product. But other times they are much more serious: floods, fires, community crises.

Being a Business Owner yourself, you’re likely nodding your head in agreement because something like this, something out of your control, has impacted your business too. It’s frustrating, distracting and in the worse cases, can impact sales and profits negatively. And though we often can’t control the cards dealt to us, we always have choices available to us. At Royalty Rewards®, we’re advocates of turning lemons into lemonade and today we’re giving a lesson in turning those inevitable, unexpected situations – even “disasters” – into… you guessed it, marketing opportunities.

We’ve been blessed with many long-time, loyal clients, and many of you reading this have likely been working with us for 5, 10, even 15 years. When we first got our start, we specialized in “teaching” Independent Business Owners how to market their businesses. Yes, we still do that now, but this was 20+ years back and before Royalty Rewards® came to be. It was in those early years that so many clients told us…. ”Wow! This marketing works great… I just don’t have the time to do it all myself.” And so, Royalty Rewards® was born. A complete, automated marketing system for Independent Business Owners, based on proven direct response marketing.

“We all know that people are drawn to a good story, to some shock and awe, to a bit of drama… and we used that to our advantage.”

And not only did we “teach” our clients proven direct response marketing principles, but those principles were also alive and well in our own business. We sent out frequent marketing both to find new customers AND to communicate with our existing customers. We used all media available to us – direct mail, email, and even FAX. Our marketing was elaborate, surprising, entertaining and creative.

Every business has a story to tell, and we certainly told ours. We all know that people are drawn to a good story, to some shock and awe, to a bit of drama… and we used that to our advantage. And truth be told, we sometimes exaggerated.

Our marketing minds were constantly on high alert, tuned into events that we could take advantage of. And whenever ANYTHING happened in our business, we’d get pictures. We had a folder filled with pics of our team in seasonal costumes, at team events, re-enacting disasters, managing product overages, celebrating events. We used every last bit of them to tell stories and develop marketing campaigns. And one theme we used with great success was… the unexpected DISASTER.

This storytelling (or leveraging) of the regular every day (or uncommon) event, is a strategy you can use in your communications too – your emails on demand, your social media posts, your custom postcard campaigns. So, buckle up for three of our favorite attention-grabbing, compelling storytelling, call-to-action driving marketing pieces we could dig up from the archives

Catch Them By The Eyeballs

In each of these examples, headlines are crafted with INTENTION to capture the reader’s attention, and they often speak DIRECTLY to the audience. People are naturally drawn to their name in print and when used in a headline, it can often increase response. (This is a tool we use on your behalf in any communications sent to your Rewards Members. It’s also a tool you can use when crafting communications in your Email on Demand program).

The headline’s main job is to draw the reader in, to evoke curiosity. They are most worthy of your creative juice, because without a compelling headline, your marketing may not get read. Headlines (aka. your email subject lines) should ‘jolt’ the reader, force them to stop in their tracks and demand, “Tell me! Tell me the rest of the story!”.

In those early years, we held one large event every year called Boot Camp. It was exactly as it sounds. A multi-day seminar with hundreds of Business Owners, speakers, and resources all in the same space, at the same time. The event was in such high demand, attendees would even pre-register for the NEXT year’s Boot Camp before they even flew home from the current event.

The first example we’ve included below is a letter we mailed to Boot Camp Attendees immediately after the event.

You’ll see a compelling headline, a full color photo and blue font designed intentionally to look like handwriting. The letter shares a story of an airline ‘disaster’. On the flight home, we mistakenly spilled hot coffee on a pile of pre-registration forms we had collected for NEXT year’s bootcamp. (Remember, this was before online and electronic forms. So, when a customer pre-registered for the next year’s event, they filled out an old-fashioned paper form).

And if we couldn’t read these forms, how would we know if YOU registered for next year’s event!?! Disaster or Marketing Mastery? If you guessed the latter, you’re right.

This was a perfect reason to communicate with ALL Boot Camp attendees who DIDN’T pre-register for next year’s event. And in doing so, giving them one more chance to do so… lest one of the ruined forms had their name on it. A teeny, weeny, white lie… a twist.

The next example is a little bit of a spin on the first. For many of us, sending or receiving a FAX used to be part of a regular day. And for many businesses, including ours, it was the lifeblood for incoming sales.

(That’s how long we’ve been doing this… before email marketing became a thing.)

In this example, we had a power outage and “might have missed your order”. How can you adapt this for your business? Maybe you mixed up your mailing list and aren’t sure if your ‘best’ customers got the offer you sent last week? Maybe you were so busy last Saturday you had to turn customers away, so you’re making one more special offer to make up for anyone who might have missed out?

Similar to the first, this piece was sent to customers who “might” have faxed us. Following the principles of direct response marketing, ALL our special offers were governed by a DEADLINE and typically we’d get a ton of response right before that date. In this situation, we had a power outage the night before the deadline and didn’t receive ANY faxes! We had no idea what orders we had missed…. it could have been yours!? Disaster or Marketing Mastery? By now, you might be catching on.

In this example, we had a power outage and “might have missed your order”. How can you adapt this for your business? Maybe you mixed up your mailing list and aren’t sure if your ‘best’ customers got the offer you sent last week? Maybe you were so busy last Saturday you had to turn customers away, so you’re making one more special offer to make up for anyone who might have missed out?

But call it Murphy’s Law… we were finally hit with a notable crisis outside our control. The 1st floor of our office was flooded and, although it could have been much worse, it was a major drain on our business and we lost a TON of product and inventory. But for our leads, it was an opportunity. Now, we had boxes and boxes of ‘nearly new’ marketing kits ready for the taking at a major discount.  Like the other pieces, we used a strong, compelling headline, compelling copy, and as you can see, our founder Rory Fatt was even caught in a photo cleaning up the mess. 


As you read through our three examples, take note of these common threads to incorporate in your next piece of marketing mastery:

Something disastrous has happened and it’s somehow tied into the target audience.
– The copy is written in familiar, everyday language, like the writer was talking instead of writing.
It tells the story and explains why the disaster has given us a reason to write to the reader with an offer.
– It’s compelling to read, it’s a little tongue in cheek, provides some behind-the-scenes secrets and creates a connection.
– When possible, it includes pictures to help tell the story.

So… if road construction is blocking your driveway, get a picture. If the snow is piled up outside, get a picture. Always be on the lookout for an excuse to send marketing and take pictures of everything. And if you need to recreate the disaster scene, that’s okay, have some fun with it. (Just be careful not to overuse the disaster tactic.)

Take Advantage Of The Unexpected.

Years ago, one client had extensive road work out front of his restaurant. And when we say extensive, think ‘entire road dug up for months on end’. There was no access to the front of his business, and it got so bad at one point that all access to his parking lot was blocked for weeks. It was nearly impossible for customers to visit his business. For some Business Owners, this could be all it took to close their doors. But in this case, our client had an extensive customer list and proven marketing tools in his tool belt.

His marketing got so creative that it included a map to show customers the walking path and directions they needed to find his ‘re-designed’ back door.

He rented a parking lot down the road and shuttled customers to/from the restaurant as needed. He peppered the neighborhood where his customers lived and worked with door hangers and put out large signage that could be easily seen. He sent out emails and newsletters giving directions. Bottom line, he took action. He couldn’t get the city crews to work faster or make them change their plans – so he had to work with the situation he had.

It's OK To Embellish.

Not every story has to be real or based on a disaster for that matter. Mother’s Day is approaching in May as is Father’s Day in June. What story can you create for either of those events? Can you re-tell a childhood story about your Mom or Dad? Even better, could Mom or Dad author the marketing piece? We once had a customer who sold thousands of dollars in take-home pancake kits… all based on the story of his Dad creating a delicious pancake recipe to go along with Saturday yard work.

What’s In It For ME?

The most IMPORTANT question to ask yourself with every marketing piece you create. Answer it honestly from the perspective of your customer. You MUST have something powerful to offer. There needs to be a benefit to the recipient; something they value, something that they want/need, something to motivate them to act. Customers’ lives are busy. They do NOT spend their day thinking about your business and how they can spend money with you. Your marketing must provide that reason to return. Don’t forget about your call to action and don’t do a halfway job of it. Create urgency and give explicit directions on what to do to receive the offer and by when.

As a marketer, your job is to build a connection.

Your customers ARE interested in what’s happening at your business. They DO want to hear the stories, see behind the curtain, know that you and your team are real people. And this is one of your advantages as an Independent Business Owner. Why? Getting personal and telling stories in this manner is something the big competition can’t do. They aren’t a person; they are an entity. They don’t have a convincing story to tell… but you do.

At Royalty Rewards®, we automate your marketing and provide you the means to get measurable results. If you pair that with a good story, some creativity, a little outrageous marketing, you have a recipe for Marketing Mastery.

The unexpected is going to happen, big or small. The secret of all the great marketers, is to view it as an opportunity.