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The secret marketing resource right under your nose

Did you know that every company, even yours, has an untapped marketing resource?

Marketing is a lot like line dancing: the entire group has to take the same steps or it just doesn't flow. Everyone dances to the same beat and moves in the same direction.

To be clear, I'm not literally asking you and your office to dance. I'm talking about marketing that starts internally -- the most cost-effective way to increase your business: it's called "ownership marketing."

Here's an example of a way to blend traditional advertising with ownership marketing. A Denver dentist bought each of his 13 employees a car tastefully wrapped in signage with his company's message. Rather than purchase expensive ads in a local magazine for $8,000 per page, he spent some of his marketing budget and added an unusual employee benefit to literally get his name out there.

Now not only do his employees drive around advertising his practice; but they also have "ownership," literally. They talk about "their" office to everybody they know and have called, texted, blogged, MySpaced, Facebooked, LinkedIn and reached out to possibly thousands of people. In fact, that's how I heard about it.

It works because it's genuine. Rather than pay a mobile billboard service thousands of dollars, this dentist made it an employee benefit. It certainly is more effective coming from the people that work at the office. And the dentist drives one, too.

That might not work for all businesses. But by removing the lines between employees and management; the dentist literally has every one of his employees moving in sync. They're doing the line dance I mentioned earlier.

 This creates rhythm and a certain positive energy. A positive energy creates synchronicity and that's very good for anyone's business!

Traditionally, there are lines drawn between management and employees. Over the past 30 years, I have seen great advertising campaigns stopped in their tracks by a receptionist  who didn't know anything about the campaign or a sales manager who thought he should have been consulted about it.

I have also seen simple, inexpensive marketing efforts increase the bottom line 30-50 percent within 6 months. In both cases, it was the employees who made the difference.

You don't have to buy your employees cars; you just need to implement an employee challenge. Any business owner can do this for very little time and money, but it has the potential to increase their bottom line within six months.

In our case, it literally means playing with a full deck of cards. We use a custom card game that builds up internal marketing, resulting in more effective employees who then contribute to more effective internal marketing. It has also proven to have a bonus of team building.

It's a company-wide challenge. Everyone plays and anyone can win; including managers, partners and owners. The card deck, customized with a company's logo on one side, contains 27 different challenges on the other: check out the company's website and come up with one change; go on an email diet; or hand-write a creative thank you note to a current customer.

We have also customized decks for other companies ranging from 10 employees on up to 54. If you decide to implement your own internally marketing, remember that there must be a date (no more than 6 weeks) that the challenge ends and a prize at the end of the project. I find that $100 bill works quite nicely.

Be sure to design the challenge to be easy enough for anyone to do. No challenge should take  more than three hours. The winner should be determined by the team through a presentation and voting-scorecard process.

The goal behind any internal marketing effort is to make marketing a team effort. Your employees have the power to sabotage the best of campaigns or to increase your bottom line with a mediocre one.

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Melanie Goetz

Melanie Goetz is coauthor of "Roadrunner Marketing: Strategic Secrets You Wish You Knew," and president of Hughes & Stuart Marketing. She was executive director of the NGMA from 1996 to 2006.

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