The Practical Application of Important Marketing Principles

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Here are some great tips from Brian K. Sullivan Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in the Charleston, SC area.  Dr. Sullivan was kind enough to share some of his marketing success stories and I want to thank him for his efforts!

You can learn more about his work and his practice at

It’s the Thought that Matters

Several years ago, I decided to include a give-away product in my marketing efforts.  I’d never done this before, and I wanted something that was tasteful and actually useful – not something that would likely be thrown away or tossed into a drawer and forgotten.  So, I found a unique gift in the form of a Victorinox Swiss Army “knife” that wasn’t a knife really at all.  It was instead a flat plastic card, about the thickness of three credit cards and the same general size of a credit card.  That card contained a small pen knife, a pair of small scissors, a small ball point pen, a tweezers, and a nail file with a screwdriver tip.  Because it was flat, it could easily be imprinted with my practice name, address, and telephone number, which is exactly what an imprinting company did for me.  They were a big hit with women and men alike.  Interestingly enough, most of the people to whom I gave the gifts to were physicians.  They’re given so many things by others, and so often, that these relatively pricey gifts eventually lost some significance.  Some of the physicians told me that as much as they valued the “credit card knives,” they were not what made them think of me.  It was the novelty of my having included a nice gift in my marketing outreach visits coupled with the apparent sincerity with which I described my passion for my work that prompted them to send referrals my way.  So, I learned to reserve those relatively pricey (about $30 each after imprinting) items as thank-you gifts for people after they’d made three referrals to me, and focused more on the conversations at the initial meetings than on the gimmicks.

People Do Judge a Book By Its Cover

When I decided to move from a third-party payment based practice to a fee-for-service practice, I also decided to improve the look and feel of my marketing materials.  This included hiring a graphics designer to create customized stationery and business cards, including a custom logo for my practice.  This one decision has made a big difference, as evidenced by the frequency with which people say things like, “Oh, hey, that’s a neat card” or “Love your materials – who did these for you?”  The coordinating colors (which match those predominating in my offices) and the logo are, indeed, quite professional in appearance, but do you know what really strikes people?  The shape of my business cards.  On the graphics designer’s advice (she knew the value of distinguishing one self with materials), I chose a card that is a normal width but only about 2/3 a regular business card’s height.  This results in a slim, streamlined appearance.  And, I chose a heavy cardstock, glossy finish, and eye-catching full-color – certainly NOT something I could easily produce or print on my own desktop computer.  These cards always seem to make a lasting impression and, just as importantly, I try never to miss an opportunity to give them away.

Sell Yourself by Creating Memorable Moments

Several years ago, I heard the term “guerilla marketing” (Click here to see the book by Jay Conrad Levinson) and decided to give it a try.  I bought some regular, do-it-yourself card stock at a local office supply store and designed simple little cards onto which I printed some eye-catching phrase on the one side (e.g. “think, feel, heal” or “relax, reflect, regroup” or “hope is here”), and my website address on the other.  The logic was for one side to catch a reader’s eye and create some tension, while the other side provided the only source of tension release.  In other words, the cards would entice a reader with a quick, memorable phrase that would intrigue the reader, and create a desire to visit the website to see if some explanation could be found.  I then proceeded to print several hundred of these and started leaving them all over town.  If I picked up a box of cereal in a grocery store, I put one of these cards in its place.  When I left a restaurant, I left one under the salt shaker and one in the door jam on the way out.  If I noticed someone’s car tire was a little flat, I’d write “I noticed your left-rear tire needs a little air.  Take care” on one of them and tuck it into the gap around the driver’s side door.  Several people contacted me via the email address posted on my website to say they’d found my card, and that they liked the website.  Some of those emails turned into referrals.  The beauty is, those cards cost literally just a few cents each.  And, they’ve been great fun to create.  I have about a dozen different little phrases that I use now, and I keep a stack in my car’s console so I can easily grab a few for my pockets when needed.



  1. Barbara Jordan  September 30, 2009

    Wow! These are great, unique ideas! Thanks for the brilliant pointers. I do agree that standing out apart from the competition is VERY important. The locations may not have been quite this original, but I too have dispensed my business cards in some “untraditional” places. Thanks for the practical, fresh ideas.

  2. Brian Sullivan, PsyD  October 6, 2009

    Hi Barbara,

    I’m glad you liked these ideas; I’m so glad David created this post. I was just reading David’s latest post about businesses that “get it.” It’s good to see that you’re receptive to thinking a bit differently about how to go about the business of helping.

    I know these sorts of things, and the whole concept of marketing, rub some the wrong way. I’ve been hoping to see replies by some who might NOT find ideas such as those Dave posted appealing.

    And, I’m hoping to see some ideas that others have tried whether they were successful or not.

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