By Andrew Neitlich

An idiotic way to market your business

By Andrew Neitlich

It happens every Flag Day, Memorial Day and July 4 in the USA in my neighborhood: Some real estate agent plants a small flag in my lawn, and the lawn of every homeowner in my area, with a business card. To me, this kind of marketing is the ultimate intrusion, not to mention a misuse of an important symbol, and I can’t imagine it results in much business.

What’s this have to do with you?

Well, lots of IT professionals market in equally foolish ways, by hiding behind brochures, business cards, advertisements, and blatant sales pitches — all the equivalent of planting flags in a stranger’s lawn.


It is much more effective to get visible in your community, speak and write articles to become the go-to professional in your market, demonstrate your value without making a blatant sales pitch (e.g. with a powerful marketing message), and build relationships that result in referrals and new business.

This is a common theme in most writings about professional services, and so it still amazes me that some realtors rely on such a tacky marketing approach.

So, are you marketing by planting flags on strangers’ lawns, or are you building trust, credibility, and business relationships that last?

  • Thankfully I’ve never seen that marketing technique used in Australia. I agree, it’s a crazy idea.

  • Word of mouth, reputation, relationships and subtle marketing techniques work best.

  • Ravedesigns

    Actually, I think I’d rather get flags in my lawn than the flyers w/rocks stuffed in ziploc bags that I get here occasionally. ;-)
    I agree completely though – this is a really tacky way to get noticed.

  • annoyingly tacky, and yet probably effective.

  • Heh…a real estate agent using tacky marketing? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    Eveyone might want to check out a new book called Freakonomics. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 2, “How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?”

  • Andrew – You are so RIGHT! I can tell you from personal experience that what you say is true. I’ve been developing websites for the past 7 years and while I made a good living, I could not seem to expand my market in the community. It wasn’t until I became involved in the local business community that I saw my business start to take off. Chamber functions, community events, advertising and marketing meetings, small business networking opportunities abound. The value added benefit? (to me) My social circles have also expanded. I’m invited to more parties, gatherings and after work social hours than ever before. As the social circles grow, business opportunities grow and vice a versa. One of the key ingredients however is sincerity! Don’t show up with your game face on and your fee on your sleeve. Just participate and let things happen. At least that’s worked for me.

  • -demonstrate your value- great read thanx :)

    also glad to see sitepoint redesigned the site. Finally they deicded it reads better when the leading is greater that the word-spacing

  • Maybe they subscribe to the ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ school of thought.

  • ctownsend

    Good post. I have found the same to be true in my market. You really shouldn’t expect to take out of your community if you don’t put in. I’ve found that taking pro bono project from time-to-time have been some of the best advertising opportunities. Although, this will probably sound bad. The pro bono work I take on always has a catch. I try to find high exposure projects with media publicity attached or an opportunity to sit on a board that has other influentual members within the community to rub elbows with.

  • Steven List

    What you’re talking about is what Seth Godin refers to as “Interrupt Marketing” versus “Permission Marketing”. While many of us don’t use those terms, we understand them.

    What you’re discussing here – flags, flyers, rocks in bags (yes, I get them too) – is interrupt marketing, like television advertising and print advertising. If I’m watching a TV program, or reading a magazine, I have no choice about the advertising, nor any way to select WHICH advertising I see.

    In Godin’s view, opt-in mailing lists and web sites represent “permission marketing” – a situation in which the person receiving the information has elected to receive it, and has choices about what they receive, how often they receive it, and whether they continue to receive it.

    Read Seth Godin’s works (www.SethGodin.com or search for him on Amazon). They’ll enlightening. Also read Roy H. Williams’s work (he’s known as “The Wizard of Ads” and can be found at http://www.wizardofads.com and http://www.wizardacademy.com) – he’s brilliant.

  • I am still undecided whether Permission Marketing by itself actually works – I think combining Permission and Interruption works better than just relying on one form – if you shut down all doors you leave no room for opportonity – marketing should be like water.

  • Jay Stoler

    I’ve been building sites for clients for nearly seven years. I have been involved in the Chamber Of Commerce, I go to city council meetings and volunteer about a dozen hours a week. I have more clients than I can handle and I do not have any advertising, no business cards, no brochure, no personal website (i use my clients as a demo) and I have not ever made a cold call. Never asked for any business, by getting involved in the community, my phone, which was unlisted until just a year ago does not stop ringing.

  • wOoo… national day is coming up. now if only I could find a toy maker to make action figures of me with hip phrases and weird actions so I could give to the orphanages. :P

  • MickoZ

    And then… apparently 11% of spam result in sale. I don’t remember where I read this. But if this is true, then no wonder there is thing that seem idiotic to us, but that apparently just work. If you think business as a good thing to improve, help people, etc. that is one thing, if you think of business only in doing the most money, that is another thing.

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