Archive for April 26th, 2012

Author lessons from a sex quiz and Chicks with Picks

DISCLAIMER: There is a somewhat explicit sex quiz below. If you’re squeamish about sex or easily offended, please stop reading now – or just skip it. Enough said.

Last weekend, a friend and I went to the Arizona Ultimate Women’s Expo (hey, there’s that word ultimate again!). If you are a man, chances are you’ve never set foot anywhere near a women’s expo. If you are woman who lives in a good-sized American city, you may be one of the thousands of women who have descended on these expos as they’ve rolled out across the country.

“Lots of estrogen here today,” my friend quipped as we waited in line for the doors to open. I’ve long wished I could find a way to harness the energy of all that women power congregated in one place. Honestly, I think we should be able to do something important with it, like wipe out childhood hunger or put a giant dent in domestic violence.

It’s an interesting theory, though, bringing a bunch of women together to shop in one place. Wait – isn’t that what shopping malls are for? The expos are different in that every vendor perceives itself as somehow targeting the female audience. That’s great, right, a niche audience? But as half the species, women are a pretty broad niche.

On its Exhibitor Info page, AUWE claims, “Our successful track record in delivering upscale, ready-to-buy women guarantees that your small booth investment will create a profitable return on your time and money.” There were dozens of booths, vending everything from banking to cosmetics to home décor items. And jewelry. Crikey, were there jewelry booths, most of them selling the exact same kind of stuff, and some virtually on top of each other. There were also free samples, makeovers, massages, demos, and celebrity appearances. Maybe my friend and I just aren’t their typical demographic, because we didn’t buy anything. Granted, I was there mostly for the research anyway.

So how does one stand out among such a crowded field? Castle Megastore found a way. Castle is a sex shop franchise based in Tempe, Arizona, with locations in several Western states. At the expo, they had women with clipboards asking attendees if they’d like to take a sex quiz. Ever adventurous, I said, “Sure!” Come on now, you’re at a women’s expo with your pals. Who wouldn’t want to take a sex quiz?

I did pretty well – just missed two out of 15. And for my effort, I was awarded a travel mug that vaguely resembles the female form, some condoms, and a bunch of coupons. Woo-hoo! More than that, their tactic was memorable enough that I’m writing about it here on my blog. That’s more than I can say for 98 percent of the rest of the vendors.

In fact, other than the Castle goodie bag, the only other things I brought home were:

  • A flyer for a company that will convert my regular old pedal bike to an electric bike that can go as fast as 20 mph
  • A 20% off coupon for a local nursery
  • A 20% off coupon for jewelry-making and fused glass classes
  • A flyer for adult skating sessions at the local skating rink

One other point of note was the women with guitars in the foyer of the convention center. That’s right, “Chicks with Picks,” an Arizona organization that features/helps local women musicians, had their members performing at the event all day. And they were really good!

So I had three major marketing takeaways from this event:

  1. Find a way to stand out. Do something bold by being adventurous, even edgy.
  2. If you’re doing an event like a book fair, check in advance to see who the other vendors are. If you’re a romance writer, you probably don’t want to be set up right next to another romance writer. Some event coordinators are really good at making sure this doesn’t happen – but sometimes (as in the case of the dozens and dozens of jewelry booths at the expo) they aren’t. Take responsibility for your own success by speaking up when you still have time to make a change.
  3. Partner with the right people. Chicks with Picks didn’t show up at this event by accident. Someone picked up a phone, played on connections, or took other action to make it happen. When you see books for sale in creative locations (motorcycle shops, hardware stores, beauty salons), they didn’t get there by magic. Someone picked up a phone, played on connections or took other action to make it happen. You can do that, too.

Happy marketing!



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