New Business Marketing and Advertising Plans

Promotional Products: An Efficient Element of a New Business Advertising & Marketing Plan

Things to consider when developing an advertising or promotional plan for your new business.

Attracting potential customers, serving existing customers, and building a steady flow of traffic is what most new (and existing) businesses spend a lot of time and money working on.

Naturally, a new business won't have the budget to compete at the same level, or in the same way as, a more established business in its respective marketplace or industry.

So, what's a new or small business to do?

Start with some simple online market research to learn more about your industry and the market you are competing in.   Then put together a business plan and a marketing plan based on guidelines put out by organizations like the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Then your job is to work at getting the details of each element just right for your business situation.  Achieving the right balance among all of the components takes patience.  You won't get it perfect right out of the gates.  So, it is advisable to start small and do a lot of testing until you are able to figure out what vehicles (mediums), target audience(s), and messages will be most effective for your business.

Be sure to differentiate yourself  from your competitors in your message and your sales ad copy by focusing on your unique product or service benefits (not just product or service features).

Start with affordable promotional activities, such as simple print materials like flyers and brochures, and cost-effective promotional activities, such as promotional products.  Test your advertising and promotions in your local area first before investing in a wider reach.

Be efficient and creative with the resources you do have.  The best advice is to start small, test the waters, try new things, and be creative.  Then keep tweaking and re-evaluating so that your advertising and marketing plan can grow along with your business.

Advertising is just one component of your marketing plan. Start small and work your way up.

It's important to understand the difference between advertising and marketing so that you can accurately set goals for, track and measure the effectiveness of each element in your marketing mix. Advertising is one type of promotional activity, which in turn is one element of your marketing mix.

I recommend: About.com has a good description on "Marketing vs. Advertising: What's the Difference?"

A new business will have a different marketing mix than an established business.

Marketing consists of the four P's, i.e., Product, Pricing, Placement, and Promotion. Promotion is the communication part. Wikipedia further breaks down the Promotion piece as consisting of: advertising, public relations, word of mouth and point of sale. A small company won't be able to spend like a large company. A small company might be better served to first focus on reaching a local audience with a more affordable communication medium before targetting a larger (e.g. national) audience with advertising vehicles, such as expensive TV or national newspaper ads.

I recommend: Wikipedia clearly defines what Marketing Mix is; and this direct quote related to custom promotional items and products speaks for itself:   "One of the most notable means of promotion today is the Promotional Product, as in useful items distributed to targeted audiences with no obligation attached. This category has grown each year for the past decade while most other forms have suffered. It is the only form of advertising that targets all five senses and has the recipient thanking the giver."

Free samples, i.e., promotional products, cost less than other forms of advertising.

Especially when testing out the waters, try using promotional products imprinted with your business message and logo. Distribute these in your local area or at local events, or hold a contest with a higher valued promotional item as the prize, in order to get your message and business name into distribution. Once you start bringing in some steady business, then you can more comfortably start considering investments in direct mail or newspaper advertising. That gives you time to better understand your target audience and to fine-tune the message and image you want to communicate before sinking too much money into a big unknown.

I recommend: Entrepreneur.com has a good set of Advertising articles, especially one entitled "Get Your Message Out--On a Shoestring".

Have an online presence and include your website address on promotional items and in advertising.

You will use advertising and promotions to get consumers to know your business. In addition to a physical store location, also make sure you have an online presence. With that, all that your potential customer needs to have handy, in order to get more information about your business, is your website address.

I recommend: Distributing promotional products such as advertising pens or personalized notepads will get your business name, logo, and message into the hands of potential customers.  So, don't forget to include your website address along with your company logo, message, and other contact information.

Take advantage of your physical location.

If your physical location is your biggest asset, take advantage of that. Especially if your business is based on or near a Main Street in the center of town or in a big city where there is good foot traffic, use your store front to showcase your logo, your message, and/or your products or services.

I recommend: Have an appealing  front entrance to your busines to attract the local foot traffic.  Be sure to choose an appropriate style to reflect the image you want your business to portray.  Consider consulting with a custom door manufacturer, such as Steiner Doors to have your logo incorporated into Aluminum Architectural DoorsExterior French Doors, a Custom StoreFront, or a more durable Commercial Door.

Choose a promotional product that reflects your industry and your image.

You will want to choose a promotional item that represents or complements the industry you are in (e.g., schools, healthcare, corporate, sales, etc.) as well as reflects the image you want to portray (e.g., upscale; trendy; casual; socially-conscious; etc.).

I recommend: Promotional product suppliers often group their products by industry or type, for example:  families with children (e.g. coloring books, or summer fun);  a corporate or sophisticated audience (e.g., wine accessories, or golf items); the college scene (e.g., college trends, or cheerleading items); while other classifications are more universal (e.g. outdoor activities, or safety items).  There is a lot of room for creativity and cross-overs.  It is okay to think outside of the box, but make sure the connection is recognizable and appropriate.

Be resourceful with the resources you do have.

What you are able to achieve is not just a function of how big your advertising or promotional budget is, but is related more to how well you use the resources that you do have. As Anthony Robbins has said, "the ultimate resource is resourcefulness."

I recommend: In a post Katrina interview that I like to reference, Anthony Robbins explains that resourcefulness is about finding a way to get things done through emotional fitness such as:  "...  creativity, vision, courage, determination, commitment, compassion, connection, caring, love, playfulness..."  If you have to find a way to accomplish something, and you are determined to find a way, you will find a way.

Tips & Tactics
Helpful advice for making the most of this Guide

  • Small sized, affordable promotional products can be manually distributed or they can even be physically included in some direct mail pieces. If the postage costs of larger direct mail pieces is cost-prohibitive, consider mailing a coupon for a free promotional item that can be picked up when they visit your store or include an online promotional discount code in direct mail for online visitors.
  • The length of the purchase cycle of your product, i.e., how often people need to buy that type of product or service in a year, can be a guide for how much you might want to spend on each promotional activity you do. Decide if it is in your best interest to have one or two big promotions each year, or several smaller promotions (perhaps seasonally), or some combination of each.
  • A new business will want to test out several different approaches until an optimal combination is found. It will take a while until an effective promotional strategy is determined. Once achieved, it is important to re-evaluate your strategy on an ongoing basis and tweak it as needed.
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