Alpa Shingadia founded Apex Business Associates in 2002. Why? "I was frustrated with the industry," she says. "I wanted to cut out the jargon, come in under budget and use a bit of common sense."
Shingadia was so disillusioned with the whole sector that she even refused to call her new business a marketing agency. "I say we’re an outsourcing company," she says. "We help SMEs stay in business. We don’t come in, sit down and ask useless questions like ‘What animal are you?’"
Apex specialises in guerilla marketing – clever, one-off campaigns that drive traffic to a website or assist with data capture and business development. Recent campaigns have involved mailing green chillies out to clients with the tagline "Spice up your marketing!" and sending out hundreds of pairs of size 26 white knickers with a press release entitled "Is your marketing pants?".
"3D mailing is a way to make sure your mailing stays on the desk, not in the bin," she explains. "If you send out something wacky – we’ve done fruit teabags, chocolate, wooden spoons – your mail is far more likely to be read than a boring letter. And, when you do follow up with a call, the decision-maker is more likely to talk to you. You say: ‘I’m calling about the potato’ and they listen because they think you’re either bananas – or a genius!”
When Shingadia and her team dressed up as witches and warlocks last Halloween, in an attempt drum up business at 27 business parks around Surrey, the stunt generated 28 leads, of which 15 have turned into new business. Not bad for a spend of only £50.
"In the current climate, low-cost, non-threatening campaigns really get your name out there," says Shingadia. "It’s not about being pretty any more – it’s about getting your message across. Cold calling is dead."
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