They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to business advertising, that is certainly true. So, for those who are just getting a new business established, it is all about getting prospective customers’ eyes onto your pictures. It doesn’t matter if you are selling a product or a service, you must get people to look at you before anything else can happen.
There are, of course, many fine ways of introducing yourself on digital platforms, but there are also other ways which have been building businesses for centuries before the invention of the smart phone. Integrating some of these strategies into your overall marketing plan can reap large dividends and can, in some cases, prove even more effective than all your digital efforts combined.
Let’s look at a few ideas on the basis of the most essential and/or least expensive ones first and then move on up as your business grows and has a little bit of extra money to spend on better advertising. Make one thing work well, and then go on to learning how to do the next one.
Business cards are the foundation of any business advertising strategy. You must have plenty of them on hand at all times. In your wallet, in the console box of every vehicle, in your briefcase or even tucked behind your smart phone. No matter what is actually on it, a business card is your personal credential that shows you are serious about what you are doing. Give them away. Post them on every bulletin board you find. Leave them on the counter after you finish your lunch. Get them out and circulating.
Your next most important tool is a discount. Whatever ad campaign you may choose to run, you want to attach some form of discount or coupon to it. This is a picture that everyone can understand. The best discounts are real ones that actually save your customers some money. Because you are starting out, you need to win on price. Nobody will take a chance on someone new who wants more than an established firm to do the same thing.
Now your discount can be attached to many things. Simple 8×11 flyers can be stuck under windshields. So-called door hangers are just that, an advertising offer that is designed to slip over the doorknob so that your prospect has to take it off just to get into his house. This gives you a second or two to make your pitch even if he isn’t really interested.
Keep in mind that all ad campaigns are numbers games. Put out a thousand flyers and get four or five replies, for example. There is no set percentage except that it is always low, and you need to maximize the quantity of your offers in order to win enough business to make it worth your while.
Selling yourself is also an important part of the game. If you offer a service, for example, and see where someone else has done a lousy job doing the same thing, go in and talk to the owner. Offer to do it over at a cheaper price. If nothing else, this is a good way to get used to pitching people. You need to hone your sales talk anyhow, and practice makes perfect.
Now that a lot of the cheap and easy stuff is out of the way, you can open up the throttle a little bit and spend some money on experimental bulk mail ad campaigns. Print up some mailers and send them to every single address on one block. This will allow you to figure out if you need to change your approach or if it will in fact generate leads. If it does, expand the campaign to other neighborhoods elsewhere. If nothing else, you will discover which neighborhoods are worth your time and which are less likely to want you around. Good market research at a very affordable price.
Step it up to newspaper and weekly shopper advertising next. Never forget that you are trying to reach every possible demographic and not just the ones who are most likely to use you. There are always exceptions to the rule, and you can make a good living out of catering to demographic groups that “smarter” people won’t deal with because it isn’t worth their supposedly valuable time. Older people read hard copies and can be reached easily through these methods.
Now that you’re making money, plow a little bit more of it back into your ad budget. Order up some promotional products just for wider name recognition. These are convenient, and you can learn how to buy online for convenience. Everybody needs a pen. Redneck types love baseball hats, particularly ones with the American flag waving on the top of the bill. Unique coffee cups work well as nice handouts for people who have been nice to you. Office ladies love getting gifts, especially chocolate, so put a couple of mini bars in a coffee cup and get great service ever after.
Putting a vinyl wrap on your car gets you around all of the city regulations prohibiting billboards. As you grow, try a few radio spots and even TV if it goes well. You want to grow into the mass media arena, but you also need to be ready to handle any surge in traffic that it brings you. Nothing is worse than a big expensive ad campaign that produces more business than you can handle. Make sure you’re ready for primetime.
Like everything else in a new business, you have to learn as you grow. Don’t bet the farm on wild concepts, but it’s okay to test them out a bit and then see if they’ll work in a larger dose. Work hard, treat your customers well, and offer value to them in everything you do. Don’t give up. They’ll find you through one avenue or another.