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Small business owners try marketing with art rocks

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The art-rocks craze that’s sweeping the country is coming to Delaware – with a commercial twist.

At least 20 business owners will be painting rocks they hope will lead the finders to their businesses.
Call it hide-and-seek marketing. Members of the Delaware Small Business Chamber of Commerce will be riffing off the popular summer game of painting rocks and leaving them around to put a smile on a stranger’s face. Fans call it a low-tech, community-focused alternative to last summer’s Pokemon Go.

The chamber’s version is ever-so-slightly different. The tops of the rocks will still be decorated. The bottoms will carry a surprise – possibly a promise of a discount or a free gift for customers who post their finds on Facebook and return the rocks to the businesses.

When Bob Older scrolled through the list of painted-rock pages on Facebook and noticed one of them had more than 150,000 followers, he said he thought, “Wow. This could be huge.”

Older is the founder and president of the 200-member small business chamber that sponsors an annual FunFest that draws 2,000 participants to Glasgow Park. He figured the painted rock craze could help his members market their businesses. “It’s saturated the world, really, over the last seven months,” he said. “We want to take it to a whole other level.”

When Lynne Robinson and Rosemarie LeNoir of Paws for People, a pet therapy nonprofit, heard about the plan, they immediately thought of how their distinctive green signature paw print with a heart in the middle would look on an artfully painted rock. “We don’t know how it’s going to work, but we just think if there’s going to be some painted rocks around, we would love to be part of it,” LeNoir said.

The chamber’s board members are still working out the rules, but the basic idea is to hide the rocks in plain sight so customers can see them and to leave them within two or three miles of the business.

The small business chamber focuses on businesses with 100 or fewer employees, especially on the 15,261 that have one-to-19 employees and the 60,734 that have none.

The chamber is known for novel events, such as its recent Dining in the Dark event, where diners were blindfolded during a seven-course Mediterranean meal.

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