Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Aspirations of a Marketer – Chris Teague – Social Entrepreneur

Chris Teague What do you aspire to be? What things do you do that represent who that person is you aspire to be? These questions represent the core of who we are as people, but are often difficult for many of us to answer. My story begins as a man in search of answering the question, “What do I aspire to be?” As you read this story, you will learn that you too can use your skills to create a position that enables you to help others.

“I Chris Teague, will utilize my communication skills to help bridge the gap of communication that exists for many organizations striving to improve the quality of life for those around them.” In October, 2007, I wrote this statement on a piece of paper one evening as I faced life’s professional cross-roads. My decision at the time was one not so many are facing these days: “Do I take the promotion or not?” Being in marketing and advertising in a corporate setting taught me a lot through the years, and my current job definitely was opening doors to financial security, so I wondered even why I was questioning taking on a new role and increasing my salary.

As I began questioning my doubts, I looked over the statement written in front of me. I had all kinds of thoughts rushing through my head and really felt overwhelmed. Then, a wave of emotion washed over me and I began thinking how tired I was of working to simply line profitable pockets. Sure, my campaigns “helped” our company sell their products and services, but I really wanted to answer that core question some men ask: “Is there more out there waiting for me?” I went to work the following day and refused the promotion, which ultimately resulted in me being laid-off. How funny, right? Now what?

Instead of worrying about finding another job, I immediately began working on building a communications firm built on the principal of creating awareness and instilling action through effective marketing messaging. Yes, I was going to use the experience I had in creating award-winning marketing campaigns in the corporate world and actually sell people the idea to make a difference in their lives. Financially, I knew I could not take the time required to start up another non-profit organization, or sit around waiting for my “dream job” to suddenly appear. I went out as a lone marketing consultant using the name, Teague Consulting, in search of non-profit organizations that were making an impact in helping my local community of Johnson City, TN. I knew many local charitable organizations lacked funds to really pay for my work, but I had a plan.

Every job you have can teach you something to help you. Working for a corporate company, I learned charitable giving was a big part of their public relation’s efforts. In fact, today there are many corporations in our world seeking to follow a new order of social progress and change, which means they actively seek involvement with charities. Using this knowledge of corporations striving to make a charitable footprint in their communities, I decided to develop a working relationship between the charity I partnered with and a corporation by creating a cause marketing campaign for the partnering corporation. This was the answer to making some money to pay my bills while truly doing something I was passionate about.

I first began developing relationships with local charities in my community to truly determine their marketing needs and understand their mission for serving the people of my community. I guess this should be the part of the story where I tell while in graduate school, I wrote grants for a local school system to create after-school programs for underprivileged youth. This information is important, because I learned how to design effective programs that demonstrated success. Having the experience of successful grant writing enabled me to know what programs my local charities were doing that were effectively designed.

Now, my big break through! The first organization I helped in my community was a local museum. The museum was actually owned by the local university and I had been in contact with the museum prior to working with them on my own. Following a series of meetings and presentations, the museum decided to hire me on a shoe-string budget to promote their first exhibition, a traveling T-rex named, Sue. Sue was and still is the largest complete T-rex ever found in the United States, so this exhibit was huge for the museum.

I partnered with a friend and began creating a communication’s strategy and promotional strategy to help the museum take off. While working on ways to effectively promote the museum on a tiny budget, my friend and I thought of many grass-roots strategies we knew were effective for other organizations. During this planning process, I was fortunate to attend a Christmas party where I met the person who could truly make this promotion a success!

I met a local car dealer that sold Volkswagen and Subrau vehicles. We conversed during the evening and like a true marketer, I made sure to take his business card with me before I left. The next day I thought about one of the ways this gentleman told me he advertised. He bought thirty-minute time segments on Saturday’s during the fall that were on what he called, “In-between channels.” What he meant by this statement was, he cleverly bought time on channels that people would pass through while flipping from one college football game on Saturday afternoon to another.

Thinking more about this clever form of advertising, an idea popped into my head. I thought, “We will have this car dealer promote the museum during his thirty minute segments and create a skit featuring the museum’s curator and a branding element, a dinosaur.” I immediately made a phone call, set a meeting and pitched the idea. You see, the car dealer already paid for his spots, so he really was not making any investment; rather, he was donating commercial time to the museum. Topping this free promotion off, the dealer helped me contact Subaru to see if they would be interested in sponsoring the museum’s opening exhibit. I worked hard on a presentation that enabled Subaru to do what we marketers call, “Product Integration,” and place cars in front of the museum’s entrance for during the exhibition. I created a litmus test for Subaru to measure the interest level by museum attendees for the new Forester. Subrau agreed to donate money to the museum and pay my partner and I to conduct this litmus test. Success! We raised over $50,000 of free advertising for the museum, creating a very effective promotional campaign.

After the success with the museum, I began developing some solid relationships among local charities and approached corporations that were seeking to make an impact in chosen fields; such as, children’s work, or fighting hunger. With this work, I changed my firm’s name to The WIN Firm, Inc. As you have read, the name is very fitting for our organization. Today, we have grown to find responsible corporations helping organizations in my community help others. We have many success stories ranging from writing a grant for the local food bank to receive a refrigerated, box truck valued at $90K from the Wal-Mart Foundation, to partnering with a health care organization seeking to promote and raise awareness for medical inefficiencies in our region of northeast Tennessee. Everyone at The WIN Firm also is required to work with a non-profit they choose for six months out of the year, helping create awareness campaigns and volunteering labor. Lastly, every quarter we either donate a portion of profits or our time to raising funds for a local, national or global organization.

Recently, we launched a new division of The WIN Firm called, “Know Brazil.” I was chosen by Rotary International’s Rotary Foundation to partake in a Group Study Exchange in Brazil. A little not for you, I studied in Brazil for two and a half years while in college, so I think I was chosen because I speak Portuguese fluently. Okay, back to the story. While on my trip, I learned of so many organizations lacking the infrastructure we possess in the non-profit realm and decided to open up the same approach we use in the U.S. in Brazil. We are working out the logistics of how cause marketing will work in Brazil, so keep up with us to discover how we take our model internationally.

As you have discovered, I have been blessed to find “Something more.” I encourage anyone seeking to create a socially-based company to do it. I meet people here in Johnson City and across the U.S. that have seen or heard about what I have done, asked me to mentor them, and are now creating cause-oriented companies to help communities grow. You too can help us reach other charities by sharing this story with them as well as companies that seek to support them. Our work is designed to help others while benefitting the company creating the funds to help. Thus, The WIN Firm works to create WIN, WIN relationships. As one of my high-school Chemistry teacher’s said after every class: “Go make a great day!”

by: Chris Teague

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