Making Viral Marketing and Videos Work for Local Small Businesses

Unclog my drain video for contestViral marketing campaigns and YouTube videos are much-touted marketing strategies today. But for who?

A common complaint from small businesses is how difficult it is to make such strategies work for them. How do you build a viral marketing campaign or create videos that people want to watch when you’re in a necessary yet not-so-glamorous industry such as plumbing or HVAC or some other household service?

I get asked this question often. That’s why I like to point out examples of local small businesses — “regular” businesses — taking creative approaches with videos and viral marketing.

One business doing just that is a New York City firm, named A$49.95 Any Sewer or Drain. They advertise that they will unclog any sewer or drain for just $49.95.

They are running a series of contests involving videos.

One contest calls for a member of the public to come up with a jingle for their television commercials.  The 4995 spokesperson, in announcing the contest (via video, what else?) , says:  “You know how you always get that song in your head when you see one of our vans or maybe our commercial on TV?  No?  You mean you don’t know our jingle? THAT’S because we don’t have one. Hard to believe, I know.”  He’s got some humor, too, going on to say, “your song could be the next annoying jingle that people can’t get out of their heads all over  the country.”

Here is one of the finalist entries:

Rick Maselli submitted the above jingle and video.  Rick was a construction company exec for 40 years who founded  Showroom 411, an online resource for homeowners planning remodeling or building projects.  His is one of 2 finalist entries in the jingle contest. I know Rick and I’m quite sure he’s spent many hours underneath sinks working on drains (although the musical skills were a surprise!).

You can vote on both finalist submissions here.  Other contests can be found on the Contest Homepage.

I have not yet talked with anyone from A $49.95 Any Sewer or Drain to understand their goal with the contests or whether the contests are meeting expectations.  My guess is that the company is in a highly competitive environment, and management felt they needed ways to stand out from the crowd.  Perhaps someone from the company will share their results in a comment.

Meanwhile, your thoughts?  Is this the kind of contest you could try in your business?


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.

31 Reactions
  1. Anita – thanks for posting this – it’s inspiring. I’m currently reading the book “Riches in Niches” and this is another example of how powerful a good differentiator is and that creative differentiation isn’t just for BIG companies.

    I think small businesses could really thrive by taking soome time to let loose and think about fun ways to set theselves apart.

  2. Classic “That wont work in my business” thinking results in you being absolutely right.

    How would a small business owner know that this YouTube tactic (or any other) wouldnt help them unless they actually *tried* it?

    Obviously they wont.

    “That wont work in my business” is a self-fulfilling prophecy until they focus on testing and not on assumption.

    Thanks for the post, its a good example to show others:)

  3. I have seen this video and apart from being fun to watch I remember it.

    Sometimes we can take ourselves and our business too seriously. It will be interesting to see the results.

  4. It’s a funny thing working in the creative field where businesses expect you can run a ‘do my logo, or website or jingle for free’ contest …and people respond.

    I wonder how a ‘do my bookeeping or legal defence for free’ comtest would do?

    It shows you how what value ($0.00) people place on the product.

    …and you usually get what you pay for.

  5. Martin Lindeskog


    I haven’t watched the video yet, due to problems with my old headset. I have to get a new one. I am thinking of getting Plantronics Audio 625 USB computer headset. I saw them on Skype’s web shop site. Any take on the product?

    I hope that the 4995 co. could keep its price, otherwise they will have a hard time to make an impact and be remembered by its URL, don’t you think? The company could have similar effect as the Geiko commercial and the local “ice cream” delivery van jingle here in Sweden! 😉 (Think of Schwann’s with a “jingle bell” tune, driving around in your neighborhood.

    Talking about contests, Carolyn Wilman of Contest Queen gave several good tips on how to running a contest of sweepstake on Small Business Trends Radio.

  6. in these times i don’t think companies can afford the expense of trying things. you have to go with what works to keep your head above water. when you’ve got the extra cash then try something.

  7. Hi Dave B,

    Do you really think the company’s primary motivation is to get an amateur to create a jingle for free just so they can avoid paying a professional?

    See, I didn’t interpret the purpose here as being about expense avoidance. Rather, I saw it as being about marketing and creating buzz.

  8. @Recessionista:

    Hi, you have your point esp. if budget is so tight. However, an entrepreneur must not get contented of just allowing himself to always go with the flow. That is why RISK management is born. Because, we must always learn how to risk and win over that gamble you took.

  9. @recessionista,

    Not trying anything is a great way to close a business – regardless of when you do it.

    Now is the time to try *more*. Trying stuff doesnt have to be expensive – especially if you track your results and take action on them.

  10. Net Profit Rocket

    This is sweet!

    A nice idea, I think, would be to hold a kind of “Instore Oscars” for all the entrants.

    Y’know, a kind of wine and cheese, meet’n’greet networking event (encourage folks to bring their business cards and flyers and have a table for them)… and then do a little awards ceremony where you screen all the submissions and get a popular vote (which gets a prize — related to your business if possible, otherwise, ask for a freebie from a local business as a free promo to them (to a local audience!)).

    And make your own choice for the winner.

    Collect all the people’s sheets who chose the same as you (do this one unannounced otherwise they’ll be trying to second-guess you and not just vote for what they think is the best), and then do a draw for a bottle of wine or something like that!

    It could really add some jazz to your biz.

    Ring the local press who are always hungry for a “warm, fuzzy, and quirky” story like this and invite a journo down to cover the event = Free press release!

    Just a couple of ideas of the top of my head.

    Nice one, Anita. I’ll definitely be visiting this blog again.

    And thanks to Maria Gudelis who tweeted this post and put me onto this site.


  11. With the 4995 domain showing to accompany the song, this is certainly a memorable one. Thanks for posting this niche video.

  12. Anita,

    I watched this vid and then went to see the other. If I were at that company I’d use both jingles, for different markets, because they’re aiming at two very different and equally likely customers—young, hip, and don’t want to overthink or overpay, and older, nostalgic, and… don’t want to overthink or overpay.

    They’re both excellent ways to communicate at people who have characteristics, not demographics, in common.

    I’d also love to hear why use the contests, and as you said, whether the contests themselves are having any effect on business.



    (Martin—I have the Plantronics 625 and I love it!)

  13. Anita,

    Thanks for the Post!

    Our course I had to comment on this post, because it’s about me and my video. First thanks so much for writing this.

    When the guy from A $49.95 Any Sewer or Drain mentioned about always having that song in your head, well you can only imagine what it’s like to write a jingle like this and then not being able to get the song out of your head. Even my grandkids walk around singing, “A 4995 and sewer or drain”.

    I want to mention that the concept this company has of offering a service like this for only $49.95 is amazing. If you watch my video and see the “Estimate” sheet that shows up briefly with a price of $200.00, the fact is that it’s not uncommon to get an estimate like this from plumbers and drain companies for drain service.

    I think it would be great if more service companies picked up this concept especially now, with the economy the way it is.

    Oh, and just one more thing, watch and rate the video please. Thanks.

  14. Both the videos, and the contests, are great marketing tactics. Even better they’ve created social media ‘buzz’. Rick’s jingle IS stuck in my head. And so is this concept for small business marketing. Thanks.

  15. Martin Lindeskog

    Kelly Erickson,

    Thanks for your comment on Plantronics 625! 🙂 I will order the headset this week.

    It was interesting to read your post, The Contrarian Edition.

    Do you have Scandinavian heritage, hence your last name?

    All the Best,

    Martin Lindeskog – American in spirit.
    Gothenburg, Sweden.

  16. Martin,

    No, I’m a Irishwoman masquerading as a Swede. The ex handed over his surname, and I forgot to give it back. 🙂

    Glad you like the blog!



  17. Martin Lindeskog


    Hilarious reply! 😉



  18. Wouldn’t it be rather risky for a small business to venture with Viral Marketing though? If it goes sour, it could really cripple a business, can’t it?

  19. @recessionista

    We can’t achieve anythingh if we just wait and stare to what will happen next. That initiative to try something new must come within ourselves if we wanted our business to succeed. And success in business does not just mean you managed to keep your head floating, but it must include growth.

  20. Great idea to get customers involved and excited about your company and products. Now’s the time to do whatever you can to stand out. This contest definitely achieves just that.

  21. Anita – you are right – the campaign was definitely created for buzz and not to get a jingle for a cheap price. (BTW if its a jingle you want I can get one for not much more than than that).

    While the idea came from the owner of 49.95 – we do some of his advertising and all of his video production. My company, Nelson Communications International – wrote and shot all of the contest videos. So I can confirm the idea is buzz and not to actually end up with a usable jingle – of course if that happens that is great – but considering the public votes for a winner – buzz is definitely the desired outcome. More questions? I can be contacted at or 631-647-4730.

  22. Hi Susan Dorsey,

    I assume by “all the contest videos” you mean the videos that the company did to announce and promote the contests, not the entrants’ videos, correct?

    Because the user-submitted videos would be created by those entering the contest.

    Just wanted to clarify so that somebody did not get the wrong impression. 🙂


  23. @ Anita

    Oh yes, I did NOT do any of the contestant videos – we shot the videos promoting the contests, we’ve also produced corporate videos and commercials for this client. I’m sure that would be a conflict of interest to produce contest videos! Of course, the one you chose to put on your website is adorable. He definitely spent some time on it – I wish I could claim responsibility!

    I’m glad to have found this website. Lots of interesting useful info!


  24. We have been using it for pr spots that have had us respond to help job seekers. Since we are a staffing company, many think if us as an expert due to youtube.

    take a look:

  25. Dear Anita,
    My name is Frank Delano, owner of A $49.95 Any Sewer or Drain, Inc. I appreciate your interest in our company and the positive feedback we have been getting. Approximately, 14 years ago I came up with the idea of $49.95 Any Sewer or Drain. My idea was to be different and think outside of the box but as I have been told, I’m so far away I can’t see the box, which I have taken as a compliment. I have set a standard price for sewer and drain cleaning where there was none. I wanted a new business plan that would actually care about our customers. I believe we are the most customer oriented sewer and drain business in the NYC area. We spend a lot of time and money creating new ideas and unique ways of advertising to bring in new customers. Once we have that customer we do everything we can to keep that customer. Our best advertising is referrals from our customers. Our business has been growing steadily each year and we now have 30 trucks. We have been successful in building our company and now we are in the process of selling franchises. It is unfortunate that other copy cat companies are trying to benefit from us by using certain trademarks and because of that I have sent out numerous cease and desist letters in the last 2 years. I would like to Thank You Anita and thank both of the jingle contestants for participating in our contest and wish them Good Luck. Be sure to visit our website to see or participate in our new monthly contest. We were featured in the Cleaner Magazine, which is a trade paper for the whole United States.
    The link from the May 2008 issue of the Cleaner Magazine which featured our company.
    Thank You
    Frank Delano

  26. looking at this websites ranking, apparently their traffic has more than doubled from last month ( their quantcast traffic data is hidden (their ranking is still visible) and did anyone notice they have a blog too!!!! It is a sewer and drain company which seems to be limited to ny only, why are they trying to take on the net while they do not sell anything online? Are they planning on expanding and opening online plumbing shop?

  27. These small business are the backbone of our economy. I am sure they have a competitive advantage in terms affordable pricing.

    I am also curious how they manage to keep price at this level and keep growing, amid restrained consumer spending coupled with high input business costs.

    Are there any additional variable costs associated with $49? ( like emergency calls, night and weekend charges etc …)