Using Your Assets: Creativity

Creative entrepreneurs have existed throughout history. Creativity is timeless.

Creativity does not have to cost much — it can take the place of big expenditures. In fact, creativity can be a powerful asset if you learn to use it and not hold back.

Case in point: recently I attended the Small Business Marketing Unleashed Conference. As is typical at such conferences, each attendee received a bag with promotional materials from sponsors. In the bag I saw this:


It’s exactly what it looks like: a real U.S. dollar bill with a Post-It Note attached. The note says: “Are you looking for help marketing a small business online? Give me 10 minutes and I will trade you $1 for $10!”

Now, I’ve been to a lot of conferences over the years. But this promotion stood out.

It was remarkably creative. It was memorable. It was simple. For a matter of a couple hundred dollars in dollar bills total, and the cost of getting a Post-It pad printed up, the sponsor had a promotion that was a conversation piece. (See, I’m talking about it right now to the world.)

The sponsor that created this promotion is a small business called from New Orleans. Despite hurricanes, they managed to come up with a creative marketing promotion.

I don’t know how many people took Will Scott, the owner, up on his offer to trade the dollar bill and get ten dollars. But if 50 did, that’s an additional $450 the sponsor would have paid out. If 100 took him up on it, that’s an additional $900. When you consider the cost of printed collaterals or schwag, it may actually have been cheap.

When was the last time you used creativity to take the place of money or staff or anything else in short supply? Have you leveraged your creativity asset recently … done something creative to create a memorable marketing campaign or otherwise drive business results?


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

23 Reactions
  1. Matt | Small Business Entrepreneur

    Great example of what you can do with a little creativity. What I like about it is they got exponentially more bang for their marketing buck than printing up a bunch of pens with their company logo on them. Especially in times of economic uncertainty, this type of creative thinking will pay dividends.


  2. What a great example of thinking outside of the box. It would be interesting to hear from Will as to how many took him up on the offer, either at the conference or later to see how effective the promotion was.

  3. Wow!

    The customer is always your first and most important creative challenge. And in this case, Will Scott won it!

  4. Hi Anita,

    Thanks so much for the mention. I thought it was a pretty good idea too – it was the outcome of brainstorming session with my marketing team and the show organizers.

    In fact I had a pocket full of $10.00 iTunes cards at the show.

    Now here’s the bad news… I only gave away 1 card!

    As good an idea as it seemed it didn’t have the desired effect. Literally no one sought me out and my only opportunity to make the trade was because I happened to sit at lunch and quiz my table mates. So, I still have 11 (of the original 12) $10.00 iTunes cards.

    But there’s good news too. My sponsorship doesn’t end at the close of the show and I may yet be able to recover the promotion through an email blast to the attendees in the coming weeks.

    And, I still have 11 cards 🙂 So there’s other opportunities to leverage the promotional material.

    And, best of all, it got me a mention on 🙂

    Seriously though, if any of your readers is looking for help marketing their web site I’ll extend the deal here:

    If you area small business looking for help with internet marketing, through October 15th 2008, Give me 10 minutes to better understand your business and I’ll send you a $10.00 iTunes gift certificate.

    Thanks again Anita!


  5. One other quick thing. The offer above is limited to the first 100.

    Thanks again!

  6. Thanks Scott, for adding the backstory here. Well, I wish I’d known. I’d have stopped by and asked for my iTunes card. Every time I saw you, though, you were surrounded by people. — Anita

  7. Very interesting approach. I’m surprised that more people did not take him up on that offer. It surely got attention though, I’ve never seen anyone else with such an eye catching idea. Most people don’t read printed materials completely anyway.

  8. It’s definitely a creative idea, though I think the problem with this one was that, as creative an idea as this was, it was still an obvious marketing pitch. It sounds almost like a bribe, and from what I’ve seen, consumers are starting to become suspicious of these types of offers.

    People knew that if they took him up on the offer they’d most likely have to sit through a sales pitch they weren’t sure they’d be interested in. The $10 tells them nothing of what the business has to offer. It just seems like a sneaky way to coax people into giving him some time. This may have worked for an audience of average citizens, but at marketing conference, I think this kind of strategy falls on deaf ears.

    But as far as thinking outside of the box and using unconventional means to get people’s attention, I give Will an A+. It never hurts to experiment with different techniques and I’m sure there wre plenty of folks who visited his website after the conference just out of curiosity.

  9. This type of marketing could soon be the future of marketing. What Will Scott did was pay his customers directly for their interest in his product rather then pay another business to bring these customer to his.

    What’s next? Someone putting up a website and paying customers to visit it?

  10. Will Scott: You definitively got my attention. That is the first step, then it has to go to the next steps in the marketing process, e.g., Interest, Desire and Action. If you had written “In GoLd We Trust” on the the greenback and gave a $10 discount on a book, e.g., “The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit from it” by James Turk & John Rubino, I would have contacted you for a 10 minutes consultation! 🙂

    Best Premises,

    Martin Lindeskog – American in Spirit.
    Gothenburg, Sweden.

  11. Very interesting viewpoints, YFNCG and Curt. Thanks for adding your comments – I learn something all the time!!! 🙂

    See, for me, the dollar amount was so small — $10 — that it didn’t seem overly commercial. It was an attention-grabber — kind of the equivalent of finding a quarter lying on the pavement — I usually stop and pick up the coin. It’s enough to get my attention, but it’s not like it is going to make any real difference to my fiscal situation.

    And the way I look at it, what’s the difference between a dollar bill and a discount coupon or a special introductory $$$-off offer? The offeror is still dangling something that means money in front of you.

    But I think your reactions go to show that not every marketing technique will be taken the same way by all people — everyone perceives marketing differently.

    — Anita

  12. Nothing like good ole’ hard, cold cash to catch someone’s attention. It speaks loud and clear and people aren’t used to receiving something prior to giving anything – especially money. Very creative team you have there!

  13. I think this marketing attempt was pretty clever. I think at a minimum I would have walked by the booth just to see who it was that did it and grab a brochure. Appreciate the backstory Will. I was curious how it all turned out. Always fun to experiment.

  14. Wow, so simple yet clever. What’s eye catching about the idea is that both parties win. Will gets his 10 minutes and the other person makes a $9.00 profit. Infact, it’s very clever that it distracted me from my studying just to post this reply! Good job!

  15. What’s next? Someone putting up a website and paying customers to visit it?

    There are already a lot of these, Curt!

    Say for instance, My young daughter is an avid fan of She at first was just there to discuss some things and share to all visitors but is wise enough to give its members earnings and now, they must have been a lot of visitors turning them into members that are getting paid.

  16. I suspect that the message on the card was more of the problem here. “Are you looking for help marketing a business online” does not really tell me how he will make my world better. Remember, people are casting about for solutions to their SPECIFIC problems.

    Maybe he could have said something like … If your web site is costing you more than it is bringing in … “Give me 10 minutes and I will swap this $1 bill for $10 … and I’ll throw in 10 tips to improve your results by next month.” The 10 tips might be a white paper or eBoook that he would send them after the show. That gives him a reason to keep the dialog going.

    Gil Gerretsen, blogging at – Stupid Marketing Tricks & How To Avoid Them

  17. Wow thanks for sharing this. More proof that having “resources” can often be surpassed by “resourcefulness”.

  18. Michal Kondenstrockner

    Thank you very much for this review, I was actually looking for this software and i am glad that I found your review.

  19. I love the article – small businesses owner and entrepreneurs need to be creative – especially in a turbulent economy in order to maximize their opportunities.

    Try this – go to a discount store and buy a chap pair of either kids or toddler shoes. Put one shoe in a box and mail it to your prospect with a note that says, “Now that I’ve gotten one foot in the door, can you help me get the other in?”.

    It’s an aggressive action; however, very light-hearted and creative. Anyhow – just one of many potential creative ideas… The take-away from this article is that you need to get out of your ‘comfort-zone’ and think outside of the box. You will only benefit and, ultimately, find some great ways to reach your prospective audience.


  20. Certainly creative. Will, good work! I am a little surprised that it did not work. Here’s my postmortem of it. (Not to diminish the value of Will and his team’s creativity. It’s just a perspective.)

    When I read the post-it, this is what went in my mind.

    [Look at the dollar] “hm… interesting” [look at the post-it] “there’s a note. Let me check out what’s written. [Reading: Are you looking for help in marketing a small business online?] “Yes. I am.” [Reading: Give me ten minutes and] “And?” [Expecting something like “I will teach you 10 more techniques like this”. Reading: I will trade you $1 to $10…..”] “Oh… so whoever wants $10 should go talk to Will?… I don’t want to be seen like a person after that $10…” END.

    I would jump and go for 10 other tips like this one. But not for $9 more.

    Will, I would like to reiterate that the idea is great. Hope you can find a variant of this that works.


  21. Anita,

    Oh my gosh — I need to send all of my marketing ideas to you first so we can vet them with your readers.

    I want to thank everybody for their valuable input. Especially, Gil of and Chaitanya of

    If I’d run this by either of these two I’m sure I’d have had a markedly better response.

    Thanks again Anita for featuring this piece — we may try again sometime and then we’ll hopefully have a better response based on the feedback here!

    Thanks again!

  22. Will, I will be happy to help you any time. You can reach me at chaitanya DOT sagar AT Good luck!

  23. See this is what I love about this community — everyone so willing to help out another small business owner. You all are great!

    — Anita