Thursday, March 12, 2009

Free Marketing Ideas - Part I

Originally Published 10.24.08

1. Adopt A Highway (Adopt A Busy Highway/Road With Lower Speeds)

My service club adopted a busy street. One Saturday a month we meet at 8:00 a.m. and pick up trash along a two block section. With two people, it takes 45 minutes. With more than two, it takes less than half an hour.

In return for maintaining the strip, the city put up signs acknowledging our effort. More than once while I’ve been picking up trash near the traffic light, a driver has pulled to a stop, found he was even with me, rolled down the window, and said thanks. Talk about great PR!

Adopting a highway isn’t going to make your phone ring off the wall, but it’s not going to cost you anything either. Make company t-shirts or reflective vests with your logo big and bold on the back.

It will build goodwill. It will build awareness. It will also build your sense of self-worth because you’re doing something good for the community.

2. Ask For Reciprocity

People like to do business with the people who do business with them. It’s natural. When people patronize our businesses, we feel a sense of obligation to return the favor. So remind people of their “obligation.”

Years ago I was visiting a friend whose shop was located in the sticks. At lunch, I noticed a several employees of the contractor were eating in the same restaurant. I asked him about it.

“There’s not many places nearby, so a lot of us come here. It’s close.”

“How many people from your company eat here?” I asked.

This lead to several back of the napkin calculations. We determined my friend, through himself and his employees, was spending thousands a month at the one restaurant. Yet, there was no reciprocity. He didn’t get any work from the restaurant.

We called the manager over, complemented him on his food and service, and showed him our quick calculations. My friend followed up the next week and walked away with a maintenance contract that would ultimately save the restaurant owner money. It was a nice reciprocal arrangement where everyone won.

How can you get started generating reciprocity? A simple thing we put together for Service Roundtable members is a back-of-the-business-card template that asks for reciprocity. The card states, “Who gets your business? I like to do business with the people who do business with me. How about you? The next time you need _____ work, call me. Let’s do business.”

Print this on the back of your business card and hand it out to every business you patronize. Do it EVERY TIME. The message will get through. If the business owner needs your services and doesn’t already have a strong relationship with another company, you’re probably going to get called the next time he needs work at his company or home.

And why not? You’re giving business to him. It only seems natural to reciprocate.

3. Conduct An Employee Business Card Collection Contest

At a Nexstar meeting I attended, a business card collection contest was held for new members. The alliance managers were using the contest to encourage new members to meet as many people as possible. They certainly put forth more effort to meet people than they likely would have without the contest.

It got me thinking. While I generally try to find out other people’s occupations, there are lots of people I know whose occupations are a mystery to me. Mine is probably a mystery to them. These are people at church, involved with youth activities, volunteer work, and so on.

If that’s true for me, it’s probably true for you and your employees, right? Between you and your employees, you probably interact with hundreds, if not thousands of people who might patronize your company if they only knew what you did or where your employees worked. So how do you get the word out?

Well, when someone hands you a business card, what’s the most natural thing in the world to do? Hand one back, right?

So why not start a business card collection contest with your employees? Offer a nice incentive for the winner and a few good consolation prizes for runners up. The incentive should be attractive enough to motivate people to action.

Instruct employees to approach their friends and simply say…

“We’re running a business card collection contest at work to see how many people everyone in the company knows. If you wouldn’t mind, could I get your business card? The company won’t add you to any mail lists, though you might get a thank you card with a coupon.”

Most people will be happy to give your employee a business card. You can run the contest over a long enough period of time that people who may not normally bring business cards to church, bowling, or some other weekly event can bring one the following week.

When someone hands you or your employee a business card, hand two or more back. If the friend or acquaintance tries to give you one back, refuse. Say, “Oh, I’ve got plenty. Just give it to someone who might need it.”

After the contest ends, mail a thank you post card or letter to everyone who gave your employees their business cards and enclose a coupon. Don’t do more. You’ve accomplished your purpose, which is to encourage your employees to spread the word about your company among their circle of friends and acquaintances.

If you need your carpets cleaned, don’t care what company you use, and know a parent on your kid’s t-ball team who is a carpet cleaner, who are you likely to call? Because of the relationship, you assume you’ll get more conscientious service and maybe even a price break from the guy you know, even if you don’t know him well. However tenuous, there’s already a relationship and business is built on relationships.

© 2008 Matt Michel

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