Play the Game to Win and to Have Fun! Marketing Promotions from the “Beast of the East”
By Ray Luden
I still look back at all the fun I had working in the portable restroom business with my dad.
Fun cleaning toilets?
Everything can be fun if you do it with a spirit of competition and enthusiasm! Sure, not every day was a “walk in the roses,” if you know what I mean; but almost every day introduced me to new people and reacquainted me with old friends. The job got me outside with people, making things right for them, and it gave me plenty of time to promote the business and make it grow.
Promoting the business was the best part of the job, but one I often find my clients having trouble with. So here’s my advice – make it fun and make it memorable!
For example, in 1994, we turned our 20-restroom transport trailer into a float for the town’s 200-year anniversary parade. Initially the parade committee was reluctant to include a portable toilet float, but after we submitted the design proposal, they
let us in.
The theme of the parade was “Yesterday and Today.” Our float depicted restrooms then and now. At the front of the trailer we placed a wooden outhouse that dad and I built from old barn wood. The floor of the trailer was covered in dirt and we dressed it up with hay bales and a split rail fence. Our friends dressed up in bib overalls and straw hats and played the roles of old-time farmers.
The back of the trailer was done up like a modern day backyard wedding with our pink and blue wedding units set on Astroturf. I was dressed like the groom in a tuxedo jacket with tails. The bride wore her actual wedding gown, and another friend was dressed as a minister. We even had an authentic church pew.
We got a lot more calls for backyard parties and weddings that summer than we had ever received before.
A few years later, we hooked up with the local AHL hockey team, the Beast of New Haven. It was a farm team affiliated with the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL. We contracted to do some sign advertising within the arena and with it came the opportunity to do on-ice promotions between periods.
We tried a few different promotions, but one of my favorites was “Let’s Make a Deal,” where we would drive the company pickup truck out to center ice and deliver two units. Randomly drawn contestants would have to choose door number one or door number two in order to win a prize. There was always a gag prize involved and the crowd really got into it.
Another of my favorite promotions was the Portable Restroom Relay. We would dress two contestants in hockey uniforms and they would race by pushing the units from one end of the ice to the other and back again. The catch was that they weren’t allowed to lace up the uniform pants they were wearing; and more times than not, the pants ended up around their ankles. It was hilarious! We topped it off by tossing company t-shirts into the crowd along with Baby Ruth bars for effect.
We helped make the time between periods at the arena a lot of fun, and we also got a lot of recognition for our service. I became famous for my promotions and earned the nickname—“the Beast from the East.”
In New England, everybody loves their hockey. So when I’d run into people at the store, or see construction guys on job sites, they would mention the hockey games and ask when we would be doing the promotion again. We helped make the game fun, the promotions were memor-able, and we got tons of great exposure from it.
Probably the best thing that came from the hockey promotion was the connection it helped us establish with the Smith & Barber morning radio show at 99Rock WPLR. I would often call into the show from the road to talk about an upcoming game and the two DJ’s would turn it into a discussion of portable restrooms and the restroom business. I became a “regular” on the show and actually went into the studio a few times to be on the air. Some of the bits lasted 30-40 minutes. The free radio time was priceless!
The radio exposure made it really easy to go into a meeting or sales call and have people say, “We heard you on the radio!” Or, “We saw you at the hockey game.”
Talk about breakin’ the ice!
In any business, large or small, you need marketing to take it to the next level. I suggest joining the Chamber of Com-merce and the Home Builders Association as a start. But don’t just pay your dues and expect good things to happen. Commit yourself and get involved. Have fun and be creative. You will thoroughly enjoy your-self and people will want to do business with you. Getting to know people you can help, and who can help you is the most fun you can have in business. The return in friendships will be long lasting.