Tag Archives: New York City

Contests and Sweepstakes Work!

Contests and Sweepstakes Work!

Marla Altberg, President of Ventura Associates in New York City, dropped by our office the other day. It was a pleasure to see her and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pick her brain about the current state of Contests and Sweepstakes.

First of all, old fashioned as they are, contests and sweepstakes still work. In fact, they work better than ever. People pay attention to them because of the opportunity to win something for nothing. And marketers love them because they’re such great involvement devices.

She told me about some of her clients who had doubled or even tripled their Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers just by adding an inexpensive contest.

Inexpensive? Yes, indeed. I am amazed at how few marketers know they can launch an impressive contest or sweepstakes for not a lot of money. Best of all, it’s very little work because Marla’s people at Ventura Associates handle everything: hosting, creative development, social media platform, state bonds, winner selection, administration, and prizes. They’re especially good at getting all the rules and regulations right.

Results, results, results.

An apparel company, Bare Necessities, doubled their fan base with a top prize of $1,000 a month! Marla says that’s not at all unusual. You can make a significant impact with a budget as low as $10,000.

Just about any company can sponsor a contest. As a practical matter, it makes no difference that people can enter without buying anything. For instance, one of Marla’s bank clients recently had a sweepstakes you could enter by opening an account or just mailing in a free entry form. A lot of accounts got opened anyway.

Utility companies are getting into sweepstakes in order to promote conservation.

If you like, Marla’s people can come up with the core idea based on a client’s objectives, or work with an agency.

I asked her what companies want to achieve with sweepstakes promotions: more prospects, engage customers? She said “Sweepstakes can address all kinds of objectives: awareness, reinforcing product benefits, sell a product directly, generate store traffic, generate online traffic, build an email database.

We talked for a couple of hours and I’d love to give you a transcript here, because we wrote it all down. But the details don’t really belong in a blog like this. Who has time? Best to talk to Marla directly. She’s very pleasant to work with.

I did ask her, in closing, what was the funniest contest she’d ever handled.

It involved an elderly man from Maysville, Ohio, who’d won over a million dollars. But he refused to sign the release because he didn’t want to give out his Social Security number. He’d seen the local sheriff on TV warning against that.

Marla had to call the sheriff and ask him to drive over to the man’s home and tell him it was ok to do it. Then the old man turned down a fabulous trip to New York City: limo, dinner, fancy hotel, Broadway show, etc. He preferred a simple party in Maysville, at the Ramada with macaroni, potato salad and ham sandwiches.

You can call Marla Altberg at (212) 302-8277 or email her at maltberg@sweepspros.com

How do you win a client over?

How do you win a client over?

A few weeks ago, we pitched a bank for their marketing programs.

Since most of our clients have been with my agency since we were on Madison Avenue in New York City… I was thinking I was a bit “rusty” in presenting to them.

I always do a lot of research first.

So, I went into massive “preparation mode”, and did my homework on the bank…even went into three different branches. I was being a “mystery shopper”, though I already had accounts there.

I looked at their collateral materials and their mail campaigns and their social media programs. Their website really needed help. It was not memorable, or user-friendly. It also didn’t even mention business accounts, though the clients all said that was their major objective for this year.

Reviewed their competitors materials and checked out their social media programs.

Then I met with my creative brain trust.

We have a Creative Strategy Man here who always comes up with big ideas. He did in this case, as he had for three other banks we’d worked for in New York. It is a breakthrough idea and all of a sudden everyone in my office was getting excited.

My art director was drawing ideas, my account person was figuring out how it would work…and Voila! We had three great concepts.

We knew we’d “wow” them.

We went into the presentation with adrenalin pumping! We were so excited about the possibilities of our breakthrough approach. We even worked out a pro forma projection on the response we’d be getting, and then how they might re-invest the money in future programs.

Then we got the sad call.

The Marketing Director called me back last Wednesday, and said that they thought our program was great, but too complicated for him to understand. He’d decided to go with a graphic arts studio that would use one particular color throughout the campaign.

My thoughts….

Somehow, a tag-line popped into my head, as I hung up the phone. It was for Syms Clothing, and it was “an educated consumer is our best customer”. We didn’t get that bank and maybe thankfully so. The next one may understand marketing better, and be results-oriented. I can’t wait to meet that group!

In the meantime, here are the lessons I learned:

1.Listen hard to what the client wants, not what you think will bring the best results.
2. Discuss the ideas along the way with the client, prior to the presentation.
3. Have another program in mind for an easy way for you to begin working together. It can be as simple as some creative changes to their current programs.

Let me know about your most effective presentations for new business. Please post some comments.

Victor’s cars are all black

Victor’s cars are all black

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I was in New York City last week. When I get to the airport, Victor always picks me up, and drops me off at the end of my visit. He’ll drive me to speeches too…and this time he mentioned that he now has 10 cars.

Victor owns a whole fleet already. When I started calling him, it was just one car and Victor. He had a bit of a challenge because he’s Spanish and English isn’t so easy for him. It was a great opportunity to practice my español, though.

So, as he was driving me to LaGuardia, he mentioned he just bought a new car, a Cadillac. What color, I asked? Black, he responded, of course. Why? Because all limos and car services use black.

Well, then Victor, I said…why not try maroon with gold letters on the side, saying “Victor’s Car Service”? No, he said. I explained when I leave a building, I never know one car from the other…and it would be easier if his were all maroon, and it would stand out, and be memorable for everyone.

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He didn’t like the idea. He wasn’t taught about branding. He didn’t know that the high earners in Mary Kay won Pink Cadillacs, and it was their trademark. He just wanted to blend.

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Who am I to argue? He’ll probably have two more new cars by the time I go back in December.

It might be interesting, though if Victor:

1. Had gotten the new Cadillac in a “stand out” color, like maroon, or bright blue. He might have printed Victor’s Blue Limos on the side in gold.

2. He might have tried a tagline, like “our cars stand out, just like our service does”.

3. His brochures might read: we’re the only bright blue limos at the airport…we always hope you’re flying in blue skies

4. Had some fun with the uniforms in the same color.

5. Give out blue receipts.

All kinds of other branding extensions.

Well, I can try again with him, next trip!

You might want to treat your best customers like royalty.

You might want to treat your best customers like royalty.


When my Dad owned a jewelry manufacturing company in New York City, buyers would come into the showroom and look at his current season’s merchandise.

That showroom was really beautiful, a lot prettier than our own living room at home. There were plush couches and ottomans, and sparkling showcases with
figurines in them.  Black velvet showed off his costume jewelry.

One time I asked him why he had such a fancy place, when we needed a new couch (so I could show off to my friends too).

He said that “you have to make your best customers feel special”. When you stop doing that, they start buying elsewhere. Actually, the relationship regresses and when you see the person again, there is an awkwardness. This happens when companies start changing who they think their target market really is.

I think that happened with Chico’s. They sell women’s clothes, and had lycra kinds of outfits in black and other colors that were easy to coordinate. I bought them all the time, because they don’t crease in my suitcase, and I can put them in the washing machine.

Then Chico’s started going after a younger demographic. They added linen clothes to their racks, and the Southwestern look that might attract new customers. What happened? They lost me, for sure, and lots of women like me who travel all the time.

Who wants a Southwestern look in New York City?

So, consider who your best customers are, treat them very well, and don’t go in some weird direction…hoping to find more customers, and then alienating me (a power shopper)!