My Best Promotion
To differentiate himself, Roberts focused on making as strong a pitch as possible to the airline. He decided to schedule an in-person meeting with the buyer to do a single-idea verbal pitch, similar to a classic ad agency, and also to figure out a way to use the shoulder rest as creatively as possible.
"I began to study that telephone shoulder rest," he said. "I held it up, looked at it upside down, looked at shadows of it on the wall. I just stared at it and dreamed about it until one day it occurred to me that this telephone shoulder rest looked a whole like the tail wing of an airplane."
Roberts settled on the tail wing premise as his idea. He modified the design of the direct-mail brochure, replacing it with a die-cut piece of plane-shaped cardboard, the phone rest to be attached at the back as the tail wing. "We graphically made one side look like the fuselage and the wings of the airplane, and we put all the information they wanted to say on the other side," he explained. "It required a strange, bulky envelope, you know everything that's right for effective direct mail." Roberts had a prototype made, and took it to his sales pitch meeting.
"They loved it," said Roberts. "The fellow I was speaking with excused himself for a minute, came back with two of his colleagues, and they loved it. They never even asked me a price." The actual promotion was very successful for Roberts and the company as well, earning Roberts not only accolades from clients and peers but also travel tickets around the world.
WORDS OF ADVICE
"Take a risk," said Roberts. He explained his gamble to limit himself to a single pitch based on a quirky direct mail piece could have cost him a huge sale with a client he'd been courting for a long time, but it ended up paying off. "I believe that we have to take risks, otherwise we're just standing still," he said.