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Advertising and promotions
It’s very simple: for people to buy your product, they have to know it exists. There are a number of ways to go about getting the word out, but most of them can be classified either as an advertising strategy or promotional technique.
Advertising is bringing a product to the attention of potential and current customers. This is typically done through signs, brochures, commercials, direct mailings or e-mail messages, personal contact, etc.
Promotions keep the product in the customer’s mind and help stimulate demand for the product. This involves publicity (free mention in the press), rewards programs, community involvement and public relations.
Marketing on the cheap
In all likelihood you won’t have a huge marketing budget right at the start. So here’s a list of things you can do to sell your product without breaking the bank.
Your website is the easiest and most widely accessed form of marketing. It’s where people come to find out who you are, what you’re about, and what you sell. Websites can range from extremely cheap to very expensive; all you need, though, is a clear, clean, professional site that gets across the right message.
Fliers and brochures are not only affordable, they offer you more budget flexibility and greater selectivity in choosing prospects than most other kinds of advertising. Make sure the flier or brochure starts with straightforward, no-nonsense copy. Be specific and accurate. A clever, catchy phrase can help customers remember your business, but a clumsy slogan will deter them quickly.
Direct marketing is a cost-effective way to attract customers. It involves sending hand-picked individuals mail containing, for example, a brochure and letter.
Business cards are one of the most effective (and cheapest) ways of promoting your business. It tells customers a great deal. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to creating business cards: more and more businesses are straying from the traditional small rectangle-style card and are shooting instead for something a little more individual.
Testimonials from satisfied customers show how you can do a better job than your competitor. Testimonials are powerful. Show the person’s photo if you can. Use the most important sentence or phrase (i.e., the one most flattering to your business), plus the customer’s name. Use multiple testimonials if you can.
Trade shows and conferences are great places to make contacts and advertise your product—that’s what they’re all about. Keep in mind, your first foray into a trade show is your introduction to the business community. During the show, project a professional image and demeanor. And remember, while you’re there to sell your invention, trade shows are essentially about making human connections. Ask questions, collect quality information, and find out as much as possible about your prospects.
Networking is a powerful and indispensable tool for marketing your business. In fact, it’s so essential we dedicated a separate chapter to it. See “Networking” (3.5).
Word-of-mouth is an extremely important promotional tool. Customers talking about you with friends, family, and acquaintances have much more influence and credibility than any other kind of advertisement.
Bad word-of-mouth travels at least four times faster than good word-of-mouth, so make sure your customer service is spot-on right from the start. Many small businesses have survived without a huge advertising budget due to good word-of-mouth.
Promotional teasers such as freebies or give-aways are a great way to catch the attention of a potential customer. Use this tool to attract customers through coupons, vouchers, frequency rewards, competitions, and samples.
Set clear goals and objectives
No matter which of the above tactics you use, make sure you set goals and expectations for what you want to accomplish before you get started. For example, do you want to drive qualified traffic to your site, increase sales by 5%, sign up X-number of new customers, or just generate awareness? You can think big, but with a small budget you have to be realistic. Setting goals from the onset will help you determine what and how much you need to do.
Get out of the cave
“I believe that most business professionals are cave dwellers. They get up each morning in a large cave with a big-screen TV called their home. They go out to their garage and get into a little cave with four wheels called their car. They go to another cave with plenty of computers called their office. At the end of the day, they get back into their little cave with four wheels and drive back to the large cave with the big-screen TV, and they can’t figure out why no one is referring them. If you want to build your business through word-of-mouth, you have to be visible and active in the community by participating in various networking groups and/or professional associations."
From “Word of Mouth: The World’s Best-Known Marketing Secret”
Visit customers where they live
“I have a young mechanic friend who specializes in older model BMW automobiles. In his glove box are several dozen five-by-seven flyers that say “I specialize in fixing BMWs just like this one. Is it running like it should?” Whenever work is slow, he drives through big parking lots where there are hundreds of cars and looks for older BMWs. When he finds one, he slips the flier under the windshield wiper after scribbling a personalized note to the owner, such as “Arctic blue has always been my favorite color on this model. You should be proud of it.” He usually gets calls on his cell phone while he’s still out distributing fliers. Another friend specializes in replacing old picture windows with fancy bay windows. Guess where he puts his fliers? You guessed it: on the front doors of old houses with big picture windows. Works like a charm.”
Give it away
“A few years ago, I began working with a client in the frozen custard business who said he’d be happy to invest $10,000 in advertising if he were guaranteed 500 new customers. When I pointed out that this was twenty dollars per new customer, he reminded me that anytime a new customer tried his product, they were usually hooked for life and he would soon make back his investment. It was the middle of winter, and his two custard stands had no inside dining. I told him to prepare all the custard mix he could use if he kept his machines running nonstop from nine a.m. until midnight and to get a good night’s sleep. The next day, I began airing a sixty-second radio ad twice every hour on a midsized station in his town. I offered a free, full-sized cone to everyone in town—all they had to do was get there before midnight. We gave away more than 11,000 cones that day at a total cost of $1,900 for custard mix and $1,200 for advertising. His business literally exploded after that, and now he’s franchising nationally.”