By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, July 3, 2017
I have a story that may sound unbelievable yet I believe it to be true. The story goes hand-in-hand with building a brand that people will remember. So here goes, believe it or not; your call.
I have always taught that when marketing yourself in sales SHELF LIFE is critical. For example, I see a lot of people not just in sales but in almost any business buy things like calendars (good for only 12 months); Mardi Gras Parade Schedules (good for only about 4 months); sporting scheduled (good for about 4 months); pens (good for only as long as it writes well and there is ink in the cartridge; most are simply put in a drawer never to see the light of day); kitchen utensils (what are you selling? Real estate, cars, insurance, or cooking receipts?) Again they go into the drawer and maybe used but usually when the drawer becomes full, those things are typically the first thing to be trashed. Meals! Glad I did not forget meals as they are routinely given. Do meals contain your name? Do they scream that you are in the widget business? What if the customer gets a bad meal? It happens. What will they remember as they hover over the thunder jug giving up what they just ate on your dime? I hope you get the point. What do you intend your marketing products to do for you? Hopefully you want them the recipient not only keep them but to also to think of you and WHAT YOU DO – FOREVER.
So I am on the prowl looking for something that screams real estate and when someone sees it they think of who gave it to them – ME! But here is the rub. The Internal Revenue Service rules and regulations written I think before George Washington, limited me at that time (about 20 years ago) to be able to deduct as a business expense of only $25.00 per customer. To the IRS at that time the singular customer meant family not individual members in the family. So what on Earth could I give to a customer that they would want to keep? One that was not all that expensive to buy even if it was slightly over $25.00. We are talking about making a large commission on the sale of their new home. $25.00 does not sound like much and today it is peanuts. I don’t know what the IRS limit is in 2017.
I’ll know it when I see it. See it I did. A local picture framing/sales store only a block from my house bought a large number of thank you cards that featured pen and ink drawings of sights peculiar to our town where most if not all of my sales occurred. Thank you cards by themselves would make a great gift but once gone; then what? The owners were creative. They cut the cards in two where they had a card that was about 4” x 6”. Then they set them on a colored background in groups of three cards one above the other. I was able to get creative when I ordered the product because I knew what the dominant color in the home was and could change the background accordingly. Brilliant; right? Then they framed them. The finished product was beautiful and here comes the good part, they sold them for only $29.95. What a deal. But will a customer remember me if they keep the framed cards? Maybe but then maybe not. So what could I do to remind them of me every time they see the framed cards hanging on their wall? Go it. I will write something on the back. The frame shop used the brown heavy paper you see on the back of framed prints and I could write on that. But what could I write that would be worth keeping and remembering? What would you write? Thank you for the business? Nope; not my style. Call it corny if you want but I wrote a poem and then signed the bottom. The poem…….
Shutters, shingles, wood and boards,
In themselves they are nothing,
Yet when combined with love,
They form the essence of a house.
A house so proudly standing empty and alone.
It protects, it shelters,
Sometimes it looks good,
Sometimes it looks bad,
Yet through the years, it remains a house.
Not until you add the people, families, friends and events;
And all the furnishings, special moments and personal touches;
Then add all the good times and even the bad;
Suddenly the house has become your home.
Move away and the home once again becomes a house.
And your NEW house has become your HOME.
Although time tends to widen the two;
Memories will forever keep your old house a home.
Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown
I have been in homes that I have sold years earlier and there it is, hanging proudly on their wall; my three Slidell, Louisiana pen and ink cards and you guess it, my poem on the back. What would you do with a gift like this? Throw it out? I seriously doubt it. Would you remember it and hopefully me whenever you see it? Probably and that’s my point. It is all about the shelf-life of the item you are giving as a gift. This one lasts years and years and I’ll take that every time.
But as Paul Harvey use to say, now for the rest of the story. One family I gave the frame to proudly hung it on their wall. Years later they moved out of the area. It was then I received a call that asked if I remember giving it to her and I said absolutely I did. Then she told me the most remarkable story. She was touched by the poem and wanted to frame it separately from the three card prints. She cut it out and took it to a local framer and this is where the story gets really weird. She said the framer was working with it and she was so touched she began to cry and her tears dropped onto the brown paper staining it. So they got creative and burnt the edges and then framed it. I have not seen it but I bet it looks good.
For the record, the poem was written with a magic marker in long hand or if you prefer cursive (sadly some schools don’t even teach it any more). And there you have it – one for the book of life.