Tuesday, January 14, 2020

My most unusual way to make money

The number of ways to make money boggles the mind.  For several years while doing other things I sold customized lip balms as contra for radio airtime.  Hard to explain.  Once I got rolling it was the easiest of all jobs with the best payoff.  Contra in this case meant my employer got to run radio ads and the radio station got a cheap promotional tool.  And somehow I was credited with a cash commission.

Lipbalms are small tubes filled with relief from dry or sore lips.  There is not a lot of space for a message, but it is known that they are used a lot so the message is constantly seen.  As time went by there restrictions increased.  I remember dealing with the bilingual requirements that annoyed some prospects in Canada.  Artists designed the layout and were very helpful to me and my clients over the years.

When first given the task I wrote to well over 100 radio stations of all sizes across Canada.  I had asked my bosses if there was any limit and was told no.  I kept contacting prospects not knowing how hard it would be to find someone interested  The idea of getting a popular promotional item in exchange for air time appealed to a wide range of stations.  My only self-imposed restriction was to avoid stations in the same city, but until one agreed I would contact several.

Second year some restrictions were placed on me.  This forced me to be more selective and I received a few complaints of favoritism.

One deal was negotiated as one Toronto radio station was doing some promotional work to Jamaica where my call had been re-directed.

My wife worked for an orthodontist and had explained to me that lips dry out during the process.  Like many professions they had to compete for attention and this useful tool seemed logical.  I actually got discouraged because I had written to over 100 orthodontists across Canada  and then was fortunate that an association promoted my services.  Still I wasn't getting any orders.  Learned that another salesman in the office more than me had taken my calls when I was working elsewhere and managed some orders for his  benefit.  Eventually I picked up some of the slack.  This was satisfying because I felt I was helping people with an annoying problem.

Salesmen love it when somebody expresses interest "out of the blue," but of course there is usually some explanation.   One of the radio stations had an employee giving out lipbalms who noticed a more enthusiastic response.  Awhile later she had a job with Canadian Blood Services and while trying to figure out how they could get more blood donations remembered the response.  They already had the idea that although most Canadians are reluctant to donate blood they all are interested to know their blood type.  They developed a promotional slogan "what is your type?"  I ended up dealing with different provincial branches to string together an order.

Once took over an account of heli skiing company who really liked the product having bought several times from another sales rep, but the one sale I made to them was a disaster.  The product didn't perform as promised and I found the supplier claimed lab test proved it was ok.  The company returned a huge number of lip balms so I decided to try one myself and sure enough within a few days my lips were cracking and very sore.  Using another one of the company products my lips quickly were restored.  There was a big impasse with our supplier refusing to accept them.  Eventually the problem was resolved,  (I would like to credit Kate Albanese) but I was no longer involved with that supplier.

Unfortunately the original partnership between my employer and their client broke.  But since I was just selling their actual product I was able to continue for another six months, but by that time there were other problems and I lost this opportunity.

I identified a number of possible alternate suppliers but the one with the most encouraging response specialized in hemp lipbalms.  He sent some samples which because I was unusually busy I put aside.  He called me from Vancouver and requested me to open the package right away.  At first I was stunned and didn't recognize what the image was.  It was a caricature of myself (at top of this post) taken from the company website, done by Eric Patte.  I had disliked it, but soon felt it was my brand image.

He insisted I send a certified cheque by courier to help speed up the order  It went smoothly and for my second order I thought it would be cheaper and fast enough if I sent it through the mail.  As time sped by I became anxious and so did my new supplier and it turned out I had the wrong address.  That was not a problem for the courier, but apparently the post office wouldn't deliver.  After this experience I was put onto Pay Pal and everything went smoothly as far as payments and deliveries.

I was able to combine these efforts with other efforts and actually picked up some business making my calls in other cities where I usually concentrated on veterinarians and pet stores.  Interestingly traveling to Sydney, Nova Scotia I met one of my earlier radio station customers and they gave me a special gift.

Unfortunately the hemp supplier felt I wasn't selling enough and dismissed me.  I learned a few things.  Life is one big learning opportunity and below are some of job learning opportunities of my career.






Another unusual job was on the other side of the counter:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/11/purchasing-life-on-other-side-of-counter.html

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