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Self-promotion on a shoestring

By Richard Honey
Special to the Times-Call

How do you get your small business income stream high enough to where you can afford a sustained promotional campaign? This is a question every small business owner wrestles with. There are several low-cost options available to the small business owner ranging from leaflet distribution to partnerships.

Let’s examine partnerships. First question is who? Find a company who either: A) has a complimentary product or, B) utilizes the same type of client base as you need.

First, let’s look at a complimentary product example: A hair salon is involved in personal care services and products, so if you are selling personal care or health products and services you may be able to persuade them to partner with you and the two businesses can promote each other’s coupons and special offers. They may even give you counter space if you agree to give away their coupons with the products you sell.

Secondly, we could find a company who markets a product or service to the same type of buyer we need to buy our own products. An example of this would be a sports or recreation facility where you could sell a sports related product — such as a sports drink or an energy bar.

Another excellent way to get existing merchants to share their own client base with you, is offering a special deal, such as a gift certificate to the store, in exchange for allowing you to place a “business card jar” on the counter. You would place a sign on the jar encouraging customers to put their business card in the jar and get the chance to win the gift certificate in a special month’s-end drawing. Why wouldn’t the store owner do this? After all, you are the one paying for the gift certificate that some lucky person will spend in their store.

Next, let’s look at leaflet distribution. There are organizations that will distribute your leaflets, either as part of a package, or exclusively, for a minimal charge. This can be done for a few cents per item with a low minimum volume. If you cannot find an organization or you want to save the extra cost then you and your family or employees can “pound the pavement” and distribute them yourself. Just don’t place items in people’s mail boxes — that is against the law — and respect people’s “No Soliciting” signs where posted. If you decide to do this, you will have just the cost of the printing or copying.

To keep your printing costs down you may decide to share advertising with another small business that does not compete with yours. Finding a complimentary business will work even better.

A good example of this might be a company that sells cleaning services and you sell natural “earth-friendly” cleaning products. Maybe they will even use your products to help you promote them. Often, giving people free product to use works out cheaper than printing and advertising costs.

As with all advertising and promotional campaigns, frequency and consistency win the day. Don’t expect to grow your business only advertising once or twice a month, or doing one leaflet drop every three months. Design your message, sell the benefits of your product or service (remember, people buy benefits — not product) and place that message in sight of your audience consistently. Most people need to see something three or more times before they will notice it and take action.

Happy promoting!

Richard Honey is a personal coach and trainer with an emphasis on productivity in the workplace. He can be reached at 720-935-0287.