Let's face it - you can't get past the news that something is wrong out there. However, if you want to be a smart startup, take some advice from marketing master Jennifer Gilbert of New York-based Event Planning firm Save The Date. The 15-year-old firm gets paid by venues and vendors to represent them. So, they basically are "free" to corporate or personal event bookers. This is a good selling proposition; Gilbert notes she saved a company $30k last month with one call to a venue. However, everyone in her industry was sending out emails with the "Save money in this economy" theme. She wanted to stand out.

Her headline for last month's note? "New Job Opportunities at Save the Date...know anyone?" That's quite a statement right now - "we're growing." One of Jennifer's eight employees is going out on maternity leave, and Jennifer has too much work to leave the position open. So, in her note she described the need to bring someone in now to learn the employee's role and transition her work. With so many people out of work in the event planning space, the email generated 300 leads for sales and relationship building. Actually it generated resumes, but Jennifer told me

"Each resume is an opportunity for us to reach out to a planner who is at a job that is being eliminated, a job they're still in but looking to move from, or someone who will eventually land at a place where they'll need my firm's help."

One week later, Jennifer is still looking for the right person, and plans to eventually contact each one of the 300 applicants directly. From her conversations so far, she's generated seven new appointments with companies she hasn't worked with before. And, she's generating even more good will - passing people on, sharing industry information or connecting people with each other. We can all learn something from this kind of "pay it forward" bailout.

What kind of tactics is your firm using to stand out from the competition? Share them in the comments.