Bottom Line Up Front: EnvisionTees CEO & industry expert Tom Rauen is back — and this time, he’s diving deep into what makes a marketing strategy successful. From pushing the envelope to stealing attention from the masses, he’s giving you his favorite pointers, & some crazy stories, below.

I know that if you’re already on the InkSoft blog, you likely already have a good understanding of the technical. You have a solid grasp of the hard skills, and you have a level head on your shoulders when it comes to the practical nuances of our industry. So I’m not here to give you more insight into that side of things. 

What I am here for is to give you the push you need to start thinking bigger.

The best-kept secret of entrepreneurs in every industry is that the key to success isn’t necessarily the most innovative product. It’s not necessarily the smartest launch team, and it’s not necessarily the most well-timed entrance into market.  

The best-kept secret of entrepreneurs is their willingness to Push. The. Envelope. 

To protect, defend, and sing the song of their idea at every turn. To capture attention, to stand out from the crowd, and to do it all without hesitating. Without worrying about others’ opinions, and without worrying that their voice was singing too loud.

Because in business, it’s the loudest voices singing about the most determined ideas that get listened to. Those are the voices that carve out their own stage in the digital arena, and those are the voices that get remembered.

I like to say that I was born to be an entrepreneur, because I’ve always been attracted to difference. I’ve always been looking for new ways to carve out new stages, and I’ve always been ready to sing a song that I believe in. 

The key to your business standing out in today’s day and age is making a splash. Through digital marketing, through viral video, or through any other remarkable feat — it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the momentum you have behind you. 

So let’s dive into what makes that momentum spectacular.

Personal Context, Professional Impact

My whole life, I’ve looked out for the things that promise wow-factor. Whether it’s a Guinness World Record or a local landmark, a celebrity icon or a silly (but unmistakably large) gesture, I’ve always loved the feeling of having my focus pulled. 

Of taking something in, knowing it’s extraordinary — and knowing that my experience isn’t something that everyone else has had. 

I’ll give you an example. One day I was driving through the middle of Iowa — and yes, this is absolutely a true story — and I saw a billboard for the World’s Largest Popcorn Ball. What is a popcorn ball, you might be wondering? A popcorn ball is just what it sounds like: a ball of countless popped popcorn kernels, glued together with sugar and syrup. 2,500 pounds of sugar and 1,400 pounds of syrup, to be exact.

With my penchant for the big, the wild, the wacky — it was right up my alley. I took the 15-mile detour to the small town of Sac City, Iowa, and got my picture of the 9,370lb popcorn ball. 

Would I have visited Sac City that day had I not seen that billboard? No, I wouldn’t have. Would I have ever had reason to bring that tiny town into a conversation — or a blog — had it not been for its popcorn ball? I can’t say forsure — but probably not. 

You see, it was the grabbing of attention — the carving of the stage — that made Sac City something memorable. Something that impacted my life, not just for the time that I was staring, slack-jawed, at the giant sphere in front of me, but for all of the times thereafter where I showed off the picture or retold the story, too. 

It’s a quirky anecdote, but it reminds me every day to keep chasing the extraordinary. To keep chasing the moments and the ideas that help my business, or my own reputation, stand out. 

Sparking ‘Special’ in the Digital Age

The ability to capture attention and leave an impact isn’t only useful for tiny towns off of freeways. It’s also useful — particularly in today’s world — for making a splash online. 

As you likely already know firsthand, digital marketing is integral to the success of a business. Your ability to reach new prospects, retain customers, and build a community all comes down to how effectively you’re marketing your business in the digital space. 

Are you coming up in their searches? Are you keeping them up-to-date with your new product offerings and services? Are you taking this time to enhance your brand identity, differentiating yourself from the competition?

I’ll give you an example of something my business, EnvisionTees, did to achieve a certain degree of ‘virality’ — and the positive outcomes that resulted. 

Our retail storefront sits on a busy highway that runs through our city. Twice a year, we have a tent sale. You might be thinking, I know how you got the traffic’s attention. You bought a giant inflatable tube guy. 

Well, no. Not exactly. 

I actually bought a 33-foot tall inflatable cow. Wearing sunglasses and a t-shirt.

I told you: go big or go home. The result? A whole lot of hype on social media, tons of cars coming through to check out the sale, and even a (surprising) handful of corporate customers asking us to rent the cow for their outdoor events and tradeshows. 

Of course, the hype on social media served as organic digital marketing, where we were letting our community do the promotion for us. That hype led to more profit at that specific sale, but it also led to increased brand awareness, new customers, and more sales down the line. 

An opportunity to differentiate your business from the crowd is never an opportunity wasted. Whether you see the profits immediately or get the dividends later, always strive for the extraordinary. Results will follow.

The Face Behind the Brand

Before I go, I’ll leave you with one more angle about this whole ‘wow-your-audience’ thing: remember that you are your brand. 

Maybe you don’t share the same name, and maybe you’re not even mentioned directly on the business’s website or social media pages. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that every time you meet someone at a conference, or at a social event, or at your kid’s school, and you tell them where you work, it’s a networking opportunity.

For you, but also for your business.

Everything that comes after that initial brand name drop will be connected, in their minds, to your brand. So use that to your advantage. Find ways to stand out as a person, and the people around you will remember your business. 

It could be as simple as offering some stellar, high-value insight into your niche. It could be showing off the ginormous American flags you bought for July 4th (ahem, guilty), or it could be doing something silly to make the kids laugh. Whatever you can bring to the table, bring. And it won’t just pull people into your stratosphere — it’ll pull them into your business’s too. 

Some time ago, I had the pleasure of playing in a celebrity baseball game with 13 Hall of Fame baseball players — the likes of Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Ozzie Smith, and Wade Boggs — and to sweeten the deal even more, the game was at the legendary Field of Dreams movie site. 

EnvisionTees did all of the uniforms, hats, and apparel being sold at the event, and that was enough to get me onto the diamond with my childhood heroes. Now, I was very aware that the 4,000 fans in the stands weren’t there to watch me swing my bat — but I wanted to do something big anyway. Something to make the experience even more memorable. Something to generate attention, cause a few laughs, and create another wow-worthy moment of entertainment.

So, I found the biggest baseball glove I could find. Yeah, the one intended for mascot use only. When I was introduced onto the field, I ran out waving this gigantic glove — knowing full-well it could be seen from all over the venue. 

The kids loved it. The Hall of Famers laughed. And across the stands, people were paying attention. 

I’m not saying that was the direct reason EnvisionTees closed any number of sales after that game, but I am saying it generated more brand awareness, and more desire to want to work with my team, than doing nothing would have. 

I’ll hit the point home. About a decade ago, I broke a Guinness World Record myself. Now, this was a dream that had been with me since childhood, and it had been something I was searching for for years and years. So when I found a way to align it with EnvisionTees, I knew I had to do it.

I broke the record for the number of shirts worn at one time. With 247 t-shirts — the largest being a 20XL — on me at once, it was nothing short of a spectacle. And it garnered my business quite a bit of international attention. 

It was covered by CNN Headline News, BBC, USA Today, New York Times, and those are just the big guys. Media outlets worldwide told the story to their audiences too. 

Go big or go home. 

That’s what I tell my team when we’re brainstorming new ideas. It’s what I tell my peers — in the industry and not — when they come to me for advice. And it’s what I tell myself, whenever a new idea pops into my mind. 

Go big or go home. Because the bigger you go — the louder you sing — the more people will notice. And at a time when markets are so crowded, and digital real estate is so sparse, you need their focus. So take it.