“All businesses need to be young forever. The number one rule has to be: Don’t be boring!” —Jeff Bezos
Some entrepreneurs spend too much time and money on traditional ads and old-fashioned promotions that don’t generate new business. Whether it is local sports sponsorships, newspaper-ad buys or search engine marketing, they waste money on marketing strategies that may boost their egos by making them local celebrities, but don’t actually translate into sales.
What should they do instead? Entrepreneurs, especially those relying on customers in their local areas, should first focus on networking with other area businesses, major employers, schools, churches and other organizations. They should network and then create marketing strategies and events that are beneficial to all parties.
Here are some marketing ideas to consider before breaking out the big bucks:
1. Hand shake and business card.
There is this amazing new social networking tool that’s become popular lately: No, it’s not social media; it’s a radical concept called meeting people in person. Whether you’re a business owner or the general manager, make it a point to introduce yourself to at least five people every week. You might be pumping gas or going to the grocery store, but say something like: “I’m Jane Doe, the general manager of Jane’s Pizza down the street. Just wanted to introduce myself. Have you tried us out yet?” If they haven’t, pull out a business card, write a special freebie offer on the back, and sign and date it. Out of the 250 people you might meet over the year, odds are 185 will use your business-card coupon, and about 50 will become new customers. That’s a significant amount of new business with no advertising cost.
2. Cross promote with other local merchants.
It is time for you and your peers to scratch each other’s backs. Provide a special certificate for other local businesses to pass out to customers with a special offer from you – compliments of them. You get your advertising handed out for free, and the promotional partner gets to offer their customers a perk.
3. Make local employees your VIPs.
Got a major employer near your business? Offering a discount to workers who show their name badge seems like a good idea, but often doesn’t work because only those who are already customers take advantage of it. It’s better to persuade the employer to distribute a “VIP card” from your business to each of their workers. Most of them will stick your card into their wallets or purses, and then decide it might be worth it to give you a try.
Generally, you should offer something repeatedly for a set period of time to the VIPs – such as 30 to 60 days. A restaurant might offer a percent discount or free dessert. A photo shop might price 5×7″ photos as 4×6″ photos. Keep the offer lower than you generally would with merchant cross promotions.
4. Get some bounce-back action.
Ever have special circumstances in which you provide products or services to a group of people who normally aren’t your customers? Maybe you own a restaurant that also caters events. Maybe you own a T-shirt shop, and a big local employer asks you for 200 shirts for a summer picnic. Each of these people you’re providing products or services to could also become individual customers. So besides catering a retirement party, provide each of the 420 guests with certificates offering them each a $15 discount on their next meal. Chances are good that 150 of those 420 certificates will be redeemed and a third of those 150 will be first-time buyers. You might get an average meal ticket of $31. So you still made some revenue and got a chance to impress 50 customers who might turn into regulars. Let’s just say a regular customer provides $1,500 in annual revenue. You might increase your revenue by $75,000 from the promotion.
These strategies don’t take up much time. They cost little. But they generate business. They use a business’s own product as the incentive to drive people in – instead of major media dollars.
Even though there is some cost in products or services given away, the risk is small because people actually have to show up and buy something to achieve the savings. And once they see how great your products or services are, they’ll come back again and again.
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