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Easy Marketing Ideas That Make (Common) Sense

by Alf Nucifora

Some months ago, I asked readers to write in with examples of "cheap and easy" marketing strategies and tactics that they've used…and that work. The submissions came in by the hundreds. Many were focused around on-line marketing… email newsletters, DIY website development, etc. I cannot do justice to all the worthy contenders who operate in that space. What follows, however, is a sampling of ideas that caught my attention. All are simple, mainly inexpensive, and possessing of good old marketing common sense (plus in some cases, admirable chutzpa).

Cheap Advertising: You have to check out Cheap TV Spots (www.cheap-tv-spots.com). They'll produce a 30 second TV spot for $499, no add-ons, no extras and produced within a week. The work isn't pretty, but it works.

Cheap Shtick: When Jim Dutchess started a mobile wash business he called the wire service UPI, told them he had a truck with portable washing equipment and made an offer to go anywhere in the US and wash a UFO for free if he could get there in time. After the reporter stopped laughing, he ran the story. Jim got national coverage, became a celebrity in his home market and saw his start-up business boom.

The Personal Touch: Friday Saha makes beautiful paper lamps customized to order from 100 different papers (www.alluminare.com). She sends hand-written thank-you notes and swatches of new papers to all of her customers on a regular basis. She also makes all of her stationery out of red, hand-made paper which customers automatically recognize as hers. (Good branding!). Says this ex-techie, "I was responsible for purchasing multi-million dollar systems. Sales people always tried to affect my decision with trinkets and freebies. But after a very large purchase, I never received a personal thank-you note. Not once!"

Niche Marketing: Anthony's Restaurant (www.anthonysfinedining.com) fought the post-9/11 dining blues by turning to the ever-fruitful wedding reception market. Brides-to-be (names from purchased lists) receive a personalized email from this Atlanta restaurant detailing amenities (visually of course), prices, suggestions for rehearsal dinners and even a wedding cake service. Plus the obligatory coupon offer. Niche marketing is basic…and it never fails.

Pro-Bono Benefit: Wilson Black, a professional photographer in Allentown, PA, (www.wilsonblackphotography.com) routinely seeks charities and other worthy organizations which are having auctions (live and/or silent) as part of their fund-raising effort. He donates a photographic package, the nominal cost of which is offset, in the vast majority of cases, by the amount of additional prints or other photographic services purchased by the winner. A profitable sampling program if ever there was one.

Community Outreach: It always works. For example, the Wisconsin Bankers Association's (www.wisbank.com) Personal Economics Program (PEP) combines financial education and marketing by sending volunteer community bankers on education forays into schools, community centers, senior and cultural centers. The presentations are particularly effective with the parents of children whom the bankers reach at school…old-fashioned cause marketing that's even more relevant in this depersonalized age of low-touch.

Postcards: Corporate Identity Solutions (www.identify-yourself.com) created and mailed a set of 4 postcards celebrating Spring and featuring beautiful flowers and their symbolic meanings. A fifth card served as an introduction to the set, bearing the company's wishes for a happy Spring season and explaining the significance of the selected flowers (respect, wisdom, distinction, devotion) and how each relates to the company's approach. The reverse side of the postcards was left blank for the recipient to mail to a friend or associate. At a little more than a dollar a pack including twine-tying and packaging, this direct mail effort delivers viral impact with a deft, light-handed approach.

Trade-Out: NickelWeb.com (www.nickelweb.com) received free billboard advertising from a commercial real estate company in return for web development work. Nickelweb erected free billboard signs on the real estate company's many sites including those at busy intersections. They've also traded out for reduced office rent, PR services, and even free meals from a pizza place. A reminder…VIK (value-in-kind) can be just as valuable as cash.

Internet Search: Consider the now-popular on-line directories. For example, KnowledgeStorm (www.KnowledgeStorm.com) delivers half a million IT users to its directory each month, 67% of whom are in the buy-cycle. The marketing firm, Advanced Marketing Consultants generates 500 visitor sessions every day through search engine marketing. They come up #1 when you do a Yahoo! search of "small business marketing". You pay for these services, but they do work.

And Finally…Good Books: Want to get the real low-down and "how-to" on effective advertising and PR technique, then check out the following gems:

Public Relations Kit for Dummies by Eric Yaverbaum and Robert Bly Feeding the Media Beast by Mark Mathis How to Be Your Own Publicist by Jessica Hatchigan 10 Ways to Screw up an Ad Campaign by Barry. H. Cohen

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