Three weeks ago I had never heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Then I woke up on a bright Sunday morning to see a video of my son-in-law in my Facebook news feed, dumping a bucket of ice on his head while his wife (my daughter) videoed the scene. I laughed so hard I spit my coffee all over my breakfast, then grabbed my iPhone to call my daughter and find out what this ice bucket thing was all about. She filled me on the details about the 24 hr. time limit, tagging 3 friends and donation amounts: $25 if you dump the ice on your head, $100 if you don’t. What??? No 5K walk or “please donate to my cause” beg-mails? Her friends raised hundreds for ALS by dumping buckets of ice on their head. Genius marketing! Somewhere during the next few days it went viral, and by the next weekend I was “nominated” by my sister, a friend and my future son-in-law to join the ice bucket party. I’m always up for supporting a good cause, so I accepted my challenge with bucket, and ALS donation, in hand. The challenge has spurned an offshoot of ice bucket challenge doubters who are making their own videos, complaining that no one is actually donating or talking about the disease. The numbers show another story. According to the ALS website, donations are over a staggering $70 million dollars, vs. 2.5 million last year, with 1.3 million new donors to The Association. I personally made my first donation ever to ALS, a direct result of my “nominations”. All those new donors had to go to the ALS website to make their contribution, so I’m thinking they learned something about the disease. I know I did. No matter what team you’re on, you have to respect the results.
Here are 3 Genius Marketing Ideas Small Businesses Can Learn from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (Ice & Bucket Not Required):
1. Engage Influencers. Even “Weird Al” Yankovic got in on the ice bucket challenge, calling out the Dalai Lama, Barack Obama and the Pope. Influencers typically have a big ego (in a good way), which is why Bill Gates built an entire structure to dump his bucket, one-upping Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who nominated Gates. You can do the same thing, connecting with influencers in your community to get the momentum (and the revenue) rolling for your small biz. Give a local influencer a shout out and invite them to be your VIP at your next event, rewarding them with swag for bringing their friends (aka potential customers). And they told two friends, and so on and so on.
2. Use a Limiter. According to the ice bucket challenge rules, you have 24 hours to complete the challenge and donate $25, or you have to donate $100 to ALS. Genius! There’s a social conscience that holds us accountable (all our Facebook friends will know, right?) to make sure we get the job done. Use a limited-time offer like “Ends in 24 hrs” to entice your customers to act now. And here’s a bonus email marketing tip: Add the words “time sensitive” to your email subject line to get your customers to open the email right away. It works!
3. Be Vulnerable. The ice bucket challenge is the social media version of a charity dunk tank. It takes courage to let your guard down and show your vulnerability, which for some reason (left to psychologists) gathers crowds. Show your customers you’re a real human, and you’ll connect with them on a higher level. Laugh at your faults, pop on a clown nose, share a hug, hand out smiley stickers, or use clappers to applaud your customers as they walk in the door. We’d rather give our money to real people who are just like us.
Hit play to watch Bill Gates Ice Bucket Challenge Video. Enjoy!
Lynn Bardowski is an award-winning entrepreneur, radio host and best selling author of Success Secrets of a Million Dollar Party Girl. She speaks to global audiences about entrepreneurship, vision and branding and is a resource for press, media and bloggers. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You may republish this article in full, as long as you list this paragraph and provide a link.