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Ideas are the Only Currency in the New Economy

Creative Marketing and Social Media Strategy from Jerry Aulenbach

April 6th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Marketing

Big Ideas:

  • Real estate agent, Jerry Aulenbach (@ZoomJer) creatively markets himself with … bacon.
  • Twitter now accounts for 39% of his business.

Edmonton based real estate agent, Jerry Aulenbach has brilliantly marketed himself to stand out in the competitive housing industry. What is his secret? Bacon.

I was seriously impressed the first time I saw Jerry’s bacon business cards that are actually smoked with real meat so they have an authentic smell like all bacon business cards should. The cards are a fantastic conversation starter but I later learned that Jerry has a whole selection of bacon products and bacon has become his identity. This creative marketing, along with an active social media presence seem to be working. Jerry was kind enough to answer some questions about his marketing efforts.

How did you get started with the bacon focus?

It all started with an idea to do something different for breakfast: the bacon weave, a 4×5 strip masterpiece that I posted to twitter in 2 photos. One was of the raw bacon cooking; the other was a finished, plated weave. Needless to say, they did more than make people drool. I quickly became the outlet for everyone’s interest in and love for bacon. “Hey, have you seen [insert random bacon product here]?” Every day, I get multiple mentions of this nature. I favourite most of them, so you can see them here: @ZoomJer/Favorites

You have an iPad, shoes, tie and business cards with bacon images, is there anything else?

Branding an iPad

I have several different bacon-themed t-shirts (Bacon makes everything better; push button, receive bacon; bacon bits video game, nature’s greatest miracle). I have bacon socks, a bacon wallet (not the one available online, but a vinyl one I got at the 104 Street Farmer’s Market, a bacon air freshener hanging from my rear-view mirror, the costume, bacon dental floss, maple bacon lollipops, bacon bandaids, bacon tooth picks, baconnaise. Most of these things have been given to me (which is awesome). I’m always on the hunt for more!

I love the custom book your wife created, can you please explain what that is.

@ZoomJer's Bacon Book

Well, she actually stole the idea from me! I was making a book with dozens of my friends from Royal LePage dedicated to the former Executive Director of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation. I stole her nameplate from her office and we shipped it all across the country-to every province-and I presented it to her in Toronto. It blew her mind. However, just a few weeks before I was to do this, my wife hands me a gift at my birthday party. With everyone watching, I opened it to discover that she had done the same thing for me, but she mailed out my business cards to people across the country and in about 4 other countries. I was entirely stunned. In the book were several people who were also at my party. It was surreal. Not only that, but many of the people involved in the nameplate project were in this book, and several of the images were exact replicas of the ones they sent me, except instead of a name plate, they were holding my bacon business cards, of a bacon plush. I love that book and still take it with me wherever I go. (P.S. -both books were made in iPhoto).

You had an article written about you in the Edmonton Journal, how did that come about?

For my birthday last year, I decided I was going to wear my bacon outfit to Wendy’s and order a baconator. It was of course a tweetup, and about a dozen friends came along for kicks and giggles. On my way over, I was contacted by a reluctant writer for the Edmonton Journal, who informed me of a LifeStyles two-page spread on bacon. I burst into laughter (which probably didn’t help her feel much better), told her about the tweetup and said to send down a photographer. This she did. One of my friends ordered me a special baconator. One with no patties and 20 extra orders of bacon. It was probably a 2 lb sandwich of purely bacon. I’m pretty sure it inspired EpicMealTime. No, I did not eat it. I actually took it home and froze the bacon! Photos of that sandwich have been circulated in the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald, etc, under health articles that usually speak unfavourably about bacon. I get no respect.

Has your unique marketing gotten you more business?

It sure has.

Sources of Income, @Zoomjer

You can’t just make a lot of noise on Twitter if you run a business that requires face-to-face interaction. I’ve never much liked the general public perception of realtors. It can make things like handing someone a card feel awkward, because you can easily come off as just another useless pushy salesman. When I (somewhat timidly) had my first batch of bacon-shaped business cards made up, I soon became aware that there was a way around that awkwardness. Instead of just giving them a “call me when you need to buy or sell” card, I was giving them a piece of creativity, art even. I was giving them an automatic conversation, which would quickly turn to me. “Why bacon?” “What does that have to do with real estate?” etc. I was also branding myself at the same time, and I knew it was working because people would tell me that they couldn’t look at bacon without thinking of me. My bacon card has evolved since. I’ve used increasingly better photos of bacon (instead of stock images, I now shoot my own), they are getting larger (the last one was about 4.5″), and I now have them smoked at the same place where I buy the actual bacon. Now I get a double effect. The shape of them plus the spot UV coating to make them look greasy is usually enough to blow people away (“these are the best business cards I have ever seen” is a regular comment), but when I tell them to smell it, I get the added bonus that most people were hoping it offered anyway!

I’ve also used the bacon costume to make a scene on more than one occasion. The biggest impact it has had was at a national sales rally for my company in Montreal. I wore it on the dance floor for a few hours. Needless to say, the image stuck. Combined with the cards, a lot of people know who I am now, and it’s leading to more referrals from other areas.

You are very active on Twitter, how do you use it?

I’d like to think that if I wasn’t in business, I’d still use Twitter in the same way. Most of what I do is simple socializing. I reply to virtually every mention, I follow back most everyone with a human-run account (but I refuse to use automated follow services-totally against what I do). I also run a daily search for people saying that they are moving along with some reference to Edmonton. I have to filter most of them out, but in a lot of cases, I’m the first one to know when someone is moving to the city, and I can give them a friendly greeting without being spammy. Some people respond well, some don’t respond at all. I automate that search through, and I also run a search for “aulenbach OR aulenback”, as it is a rare name, and it’s interesting to see what comes up. Other than that, I basically let the business come naturally as it would through the people you meet from daily interaction. If they know what you do, need your services, and like you, chances are good they will call you when the time comes. Seems to work for me so far. (Jerry has a great blog post on how to use Twitter.)

How much timeĀ  do you spend on social media everyday?

The time question is difficult to answer. It would probably amount to a few/several hours each day that I spend interacting with others online with twitter and facebook, but it is so spread out that it isn’t like doing just that straight for that long. It fills a lot of gaps between appointments, standing in line, down time, etc. I also enjoy it so much that it doesn’t seem like work.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Bigger and better parties. I love planning and promoting events (birthday parties, fund raisers, small tweetups), and I believe that you should never eat alone where possible. I raise money for the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, and I am always trying to find ways to raise more money for their efforts to protect at-risk women and children. Philanthropy is a very significant part of what I do with my tweet cred. I’ve been asked to be on panels and to present at various events, and I quite like that. I usually have a chance to show social media skeptics how I use it and what it can do for them in a practical way. They always want to know “what’s in it for me?,” when a better question is “what do I bring to the table?” My motto for Twitter is “put out,” and I always do my best to be original, informative, entertaining, and sincere.

Links from Jerry’s Website

Follow Jerry on Twitter.

Just for fun. (Some of the items from the Bacon Store)

How I became bacon.

Twitter tips for n00bs.

A more comprehensive article on social media.

Action Items:

  • Can you come up with a fun and interesting way to differentiate yourself?
  • Jerry is “the Bacon Guy,” What kind of Guy or Gal are you?
  • Can you use Twitter to more effectively engage with potential customers?

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