Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Halloween Marketing

A Sweet Promotion!

Halloween is the biggest retail holiday except for Christmas. What does that mean? That it’s very popular! Consider supplying your friends and neighbors with coupons that the kiddos (with their parents) can redeem at your place of business for a candy bar or other treat (be specific, ie: Redeem this coupon for a FREE SNICKERS bar at ........ Stick to the treats. Don't add anything about your oil change special or closing costs discount or other offers. The idea is to give people an excuse to come visit your place of business, with no strings attached. Handing them a flyer or coupon along with the candy bar when they come in however, is a great idea. Give the coupons a week or so for expiration so they can come in at their convenience.

You'll want the coupons to either be numbered, or a less expensive way to go, have a space for "authorized signature" to avoid counterfeits. Using colored paper is also a good idea. That way you can budget for a maximum redemption, assuming every coupon is brought in. Of course you wont get 100% return, so once the coupons expire, leave out the left-overs for your walk-in customers.

You can get black ink coupons on AstroBright Cosmic Orange paper for as little as 2 cents each, depending on size and quantity at from Easy Street Designs (call 719-390-5080 for details). Shipping is a flat $7.50 to anywhere in the continental US.

In any case, it's a great way to enlist the help of your friends and neighbors in your marketing efforts, It actually helps them out in that they can give out more goodies without spending a dime, and it gives parents a safe place to go get a treat for the kiddos, while making them more familiar with your business.

If you do a 500 piece promotion, giving, say 25 coupons each to 20 friends and neighbors, you'll likely wind up spending less than $100 including printing and candy and you get free distribution.

Don't wait too long. Candy can get scarce just before Halloween, and keep it in the fridge between now and the time they come in to pick it up. If you want to give out something healthier or even a non-food item, that can work too, but it has to be a "treat", something people will make an extra stop to pick up on the way home; something the kids will insist they stop for on the way home. Celery sticks wont cut it. Slim Jim's might.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Marketing to a Sluggish Economy

It's been a tough year economically for many independent business professionals. The mortgage and housing market has been decimated. The stock market is stuck in the mud. Credit in general is tough to come by. Customers are struggling so businesses are struggling. Given the latest economic statistics, a rapid recovery is probably not in the cards. So what type of marketing strategy do you employ in this kind of environment?

Customer retention is always important. During slowdowns it's even more so. The whole point of marketing and advertising is to acquire new customers. If you're not keeping the ones you have, you're spinning your wheels at best. Take care of the customers you have. Take every opportunity to exceed their expectations. Send them updates, greetings or special offers at least once per quarter. Even if you do no other advertising, do not neglect this group.

Don't go away. It may not be a good time to engage in massive, aggressive advertising campaigns. All forms of advertising are going to be less effective in a down market than in a healthy one. However, if you don't keep your brand visible, you'll be starting from scratch when the recovery arrives. Shift more resources to "top of the mind" advertising. This is marketing designed, not so much to spur a quick sale as to keep the public aware of who you are and what you have to offer. These ads can be small and simple. They may consist of nothing more than your logo, name, tagline and contact information. Lasting promotional items are a great way to go for this type of marketing. Things like refrigerator magnets, car magnets, banners at local sports events, calendars, pens and other free goodies can all help keep your customer base "brand aware" for a prolonged time at a one-time cost.

While you may have the time to engage in more new product and service development and testing, don't put too much stock in sales results at this point. Put the new stuff out there, but don't bank on it. Also, don't label it a loser because it didn't catch wind in this economy. Save the aggressive roll out for better times. What people are looking for right now is value. Try new ways to package and bundle current products and services in a manner that creates a better value for the customer.

Misery may love company, but company doesn't like misery. Stay upbeat and pleasant. If a customer wants to vent for a few minutes, listen, offer empathy, but don't pile on. You don't have to be a Polly Anna, but keep your own problems to yourself.

If you want referrals, give referrals. In good times, a referral from a network partner, friend or associate is a pleasant surprise. In times like these, it's solid gold. It will be appreciated and remembered. Remember the first question a good capitalist should ask him or herself is "How can I help?". That's how you find and create opportunity, generate goodwill, acquire and retain customers and relationships.

In good times and in bad, all you can do is the best you can do. So, do all you can do.