and No-Cost Advertising
There are many things you can do in the way of advertising,
promotion, and publicity that cost little or nothing. And when
you become successful enough to be able to afford more
sophisticated ad techniques, there are ways of measuring to some
extent just how effective these methods are in terms of your
business growth. As always, the chief concern is that the
advertising do what it is intended to do: cause more people to
purchase more from your business.
Like all entrepreneurs, let's start at the bottom and work up
— with a menu of ad ideas using freebies and mini-media up to
mass media and emerging techniques:
- Ask for referrals, consistently!
- Choose a simple logo that may be used on all printed
material to identify your company.
- Print attractive and informative business cards that
include your logo and hand them out everywhere,
consistently! If appropriate for your business, you can use
your card as a discount certificate or other incentive. Or,
you can have it placed on a magnetic backing so that it
(hopefully) winds up on a refrigerator. If you use
letterhead stationery in your business, have it match your
business card. Keep your identity as consistent as possible.
- Print up some gift certificates. These let your customers
introduce you to new customers. Since you get paid up front
for the product or service, these are cash-flow friendly.
- Birthday and holiday cards sent to clients could show your
logo and remind them of your continued interest. Customer
comment cards are a great way to solicit feedback and
involve your clients in your business.
- Brochures let you provide a lot of detail about your
product or service. Simple three-fold brochure stock may be
purchased from mail order suppliers such as Paper Direct
(800-272-7377) in small quantities. This type of stock comes
in attractive cuts and colors. Template software can be
obtained that permits you to use your computer to generate
classy looking brochures at minimal cost. Make your headline
stand out. Use clip art or graphics. Give your customer as
much quality information as you can pack into this identity
piece. Keep it up to date and personalize it when possible
(by writing in the margins or underlining specifics that
might interest a particular prospective customer). If you
have a slightly bigger budget, go for a slick four-color
piece. You'll need a printer who can do four color
separations, so if you're in a small town market with few
hi-tech services, you may want to call a national firm that
specializes in doing short runs. Firms such as MultiPrint
(800-858-9999) do high-quality, low-cost work for small
businesses. They also have a wealth of samples to get your
creative ideas flowing.
- Flyers are the thrifty entrepreneur's dream. You can
create them very inexpensively on your computer, or your
local print shop can do them for you. You can use as much
color as you like, with either a color printer or
old-fashioned colored paper stock. Pack them full of
information and post them on every bulletin board you can
find that'll allow you space. Easy to distribute in bulk,
these handy attention-getters can also be used as bag
stuffers or inserts to put in with billings or to include
when mailing payments to your suppliers. In fact, don't mail
anything out of your business without including some little
sales piece. Take advantage of piggybacking on that postage
stamp. Placing stacks of flyers in building lobbies and
tucking them under windshield wipers are done frequently,
but you must be willing to alienate some people if you use
these methods of distribution.
- Doorhangers are very effective and widely used by fast
food and home delivery and service businesses. If you choose
this medium, don't scrimp on the stock. Make it heavy so it
won't blow off doorknobs and litter the neighborhood. Add a
coupon or some other incentive to your copy. Doorhangers are
a good way to focus in on a specific target buyer.
- Inserted ads include mailbox inserts and free-standing
inserts. The science behind the mass distribution of inserts
is beyond the scope of our discussion here. If you think
that inserts could successfully reach your market, call one
of the big distributors and learn how much it would cost you
to try this kind of program. The industry leaders are ADVO
(call 860-520-3200, and they'll give you the local contact)
and Val-Pak which is so big that you can look under
"V" in most local phone books and find your
neighborhood outlet. If you're just starting out, you may
want to wait a bit before venturing into this zip code math
contest, but keep it in mind as an opportunity for the
- If you could afford a billboard or a blimp, you probably
wouldn't be reading this. But often you can create little
traveling billboards at low cost. Matchbooks or boxes with a
logo and vital information were always the thrifty solution,
but nowadays smoking is on the wane. So try something
different such as boxes with little toothpicks instead of
matches. This has been very successful in several markets,
particularly with upscale restaurants. Keychains, pens and
pencils, and calendars are premiums and ad specialties. If
they are appropriate for your kind of business, they're
worth their weight in ad dollars. People use them. They
don't usually end up in drawers or wastebaskets.
- Bumper stickers, balloons, buttons, decals, and even
T-shirts are examples of ad specialty signage that works.
Your local promotional supplier will have hundreds of
examples of walking ads you can adapt to your needs.
- Paper or plastic bags and packaging make economical
billboards too. Print your name, logo, and message on
anything you can, on all sides. Don't miss an opportunity to
get your word out. Mailing labels are a perfect medium.
Everyone who handles your mail will see your ad at no cost
- If someone says or writes something good about your
product or service, put out reprints and let the world know
how good you really are. Flyers are good for this purpose.
Try to remember that frequency and consistency
are key to effective advertising. Always send the same message,
and send it whenever the opportunity arises.