Budget Marketing – Lessons in Kindness and Marketing from My Grandpa and Green Bagels

Sometimes the best ideas don’t come from business school, social media, or even this author (hard to believe though). Sometimes looking back at the traditions of the past can teach us a thing or two about marketing and connecting with people.

I bring this up this time of year because two of the most important marketing ideas and life lessons I learned as a child were from my grandfather. He was a lawyer in Boston during the days when lawyers didn’t advertise. Zero ‘have you had an accident?’ commercial. There are no “he took XYZ meds and ended up with warts on his tongue?” commercials. Back then, I’m told, the entire Bar Association would have turned a lawyer away just for placing an ad in the yellow pages. As an attorney, I understand the limitations that tie the hands of those in the legal profession looking to market themselves. Even today, it can be a challenge to promote the services of a law firm and comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. It was even more difficult in the days when my grandfather practiced. However, he grew his practice and connected with people despite these limitations. The way you promote yourself now seems so easy and so obvious. More importantly, it was so effective.

He knew that the only way to get clients was word of mouth. She had her reputation and that was it. There were no PR firms or image consultants to help people communicate back then. As a lawyer, you had your skills and knowledge to help spread your reputation. I was always amazed at how well known my grandfather was. And here in this article I am going to reveal the secret that taught me for FREE. The secret to his success, never revealed before (except every other St. Patrick’s Day when I write an article like this), was: be nice to people.

He knew his success was tied to his ability to connect with people and make them remember him. One way he did this was by being genuinely interested in all the people he met throughout the day. Whether it was a judge, an opposing attorney, the clerks or the doormen, he not only treated them with the same respect, but he also took a genuine interest in their lives. He took the time to find out about the janitor’s son’s 8th grade science project, as well as the tough case the judge just finished. People were people. He gave love and respect and in return received love and respect.

Take Away: Show everyone you come in contact with respect and interest in their lives, and people will not only respect you, they will remember you.

My grandfather’s 15 minutes of fame came every year around this time. Saint Patrick’s day. For those of you who live outside of the Boston area, you may not appreciate the BIG St. Patrick’s Day sale here. The city of Boston is literally on lockdown as one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades unfolds through the (always confusing, often one-way) streets of Boston. Well, in the day before email and Twitter, my grandfather discovered a fun and effective way to capitalize on the St. Patrick’s Day phenomenon. True to form, he did it by giving. However, the gift was unique. Green buns.

Now, remember I’m talking about the 50’s and 60’s here. Not only were bagels relatively unknown, green ones were unheard of. In fact, it was such a novelty that every year Boston newspapers ran stories about her eco-friendly gifts. It was a marketing campaign with great public relations value and one that stuck in people’s minds long after the last green bite had been gobbled up.

Take Away: Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. You just need to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time in a memorable way.

What unique marketing tools have you seen being used? Please share them. Post a comment here, visit our blog or send me an email. We would love to hear your stories. After all, none of us is as smart as all of us!

Lastly, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. (If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the Black Rose raising a pint and a green bagel in thanks to my wise grandfather.)

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