Building Your Image with Sponsored School Magnets: featuring Gary Shapiro

The Sponsored School Magnets idea is one of our favorite suggestions for companies looking for a new way to build their business.  One of our customers has taken this idea to new levels that really impressed us, so we want to introduce you to him in order to inspire you to come up with your own unique concept.

Gary Shapiro has been a real estate agent in Scottsdale, Arizona for the past 40 years. He’s built his business on volunteering in the community, being active with the school district and the city, and through a leadership program that he founded.  One way he connects with schools is to sponsor a School Contact Magnet each year, and using a very innovative technique.

“I designed an art contest using the school’s mascot as the theme.” said Gary. “Every year the magnet is different and would showcase someone from the school. The winner has their design as the background.”

As an example, here’s the winner from Laguna Elementary School for next year’s magnet:

These magnets are given to the parents of each student in the school to use throughout the year as a reminder of their phone numbers, website, address and hours. From the school’s perspective, it’s a clever way to provide useful information in a way that celebrates the school and the students. From Gary’s perspective, it’s a great way to connect with the neighborhoods that he targets for his business which are those surrounding the schools.

“It’s primarily image-building,” Gary said when asked how these magnets impact his business. “When I meet with sellers in those neighborhoods, I give them a magnet because they may not have a student in that school, but it shows that I’m connected with the schools. I’ve also been able to set up appointments for new buyers in town to meet with principals because of my relationships with them.”

Gary first pitched this contest by scheduling appointments with the two principals that he already had built relationships with over the years. “My son went there and my friends kids are there. I wanted to be the source in my area for school and real estate information. I decided to approach the schools with my art contest idea,” said Gary.

The principals ended up loving the idea so much that they pitched it to the principal of the third school in Gary’s neighborhood. “Today, a third school is signing on. I’m now volunteering to do the magnets for Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale,” said Gary.

The sponsorship has gone so well that now each year, Laguna Elementary has an award ceremony for the winning student.  “The winning design is framed and put up in the school,” said Gary. “Laguna has seven plaques on the wall in the library showing their artwork along with the magnet. This morning we were on cable TV presenting the winner with a framed magnet as well as an ample supply of magnets for their grandparents and friends.”

“Someday the winners will be able to come back with their children and say ‘look what I did.’”

Gary also had two pieces of advice for other businesses considering sponsoring a school magnet:

  1. Be prepared to do it for the long haul. If you do it one time and expect to get rich, that’s not realistic. They’re looking for commitments, not flash-in-the-pan ideas. Be prepared to go the long haul.”
  2. “The attribution that I get from this…my name is in mouse type. It’s really small. You can’t be an ego-maniac and make this work. You have to put the school and kids in the front of your more selfish interests.”

Take it from Gary, Sponsored School Magnets are a highly-effective way to build your image in the community. Parents love to see that you genuinely care about their children and the school they attend. It’s probably safe to assume that when one of the parents in Gary’s neighborhood is looking for someone they can trust to sell their home, the person that comes to mind is Gary.

What do you think about building your business with the School Sponsored Magnet idea?