Tightwad Marketing

Tightwad Media: spreading the word cheaply

John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com

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What do you think of when you hear the phrase “advertising media?” If you’re like most business owners, advertising media makes you think of buying ad space in your local newspapers, magazines, shopping circulars, and maybe air time on local radio or television stations.

Those are traditional advertising media, and they work great - if you buy the right one and if you can afford the cost. For many small businesses, the cost of running an ad outweighs the value of any additional revenue the ad generates. That’s why many small businesses buy no media - or, not enough media. They fail to market themselves, which often means they fail, period.

The fact is, to succeed, you must spread the word about your business. But how? If traditional advertising media are too expensive, how do you deliver a marketing message to your customers and potential customers?

One key is to use Tightwad Media: cheap, frequently overlooked ways to communicate with that target market. Like advertising media, Tightwad Media have a cumulative effect. The more of them you do, the more impact you’ll have; the longer you do them, the more that impact will grow. Unlike advertising media, Tightwad Media cost little or nothing to implement. Also unlike advertising media, which are generally mass communication vehicles, Tightwad Media are tightly focused. That makes them perfect media for carrying out low-budget, highly targeted marketing communications.

It’s important to note that these Tightwad Media Alternatives don’t replace traditional advertising media. You still need to advertise to a mass audience to bring in new customers and generate broad awareness. These ideas are marketing-smart, low- or no-cost supplements to your existing advertising media plan.

Quick Finder:
Tightwad Media Alternative: “radio”
Tightwad Media Alternative: “outdoor”
Tightwad Media Alternative: “brochures”
Tightwad Media Alternative: “door-to-door”
Tightwad Media Alternative: “take-homes”
Tightwad Media Alternative: “direct mail”

Your after-hours answering machine message.
Buying air time on a radio station is expensive, and your radio commercial will reach a lot of people who are not interested in your products or services. But, with your answering machine message, you can speak directly to customers and potential customers - people who are interested, because they called you!

If your after-hours callers are customers, they probably just want to know your hours. If they’re potential customers, they probably want more information about your business. So, provide that information!

“You have reached ABC Company. We are now closed. Please leave a message.”

“You have reached ABC Company, licensed general contractors and specialists in residential remodeling, second-story additions, and custom tile roofs. Our office hours are from 7 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday. You can visit us 24 hours a day online, at www.abccompany.com. Or, leave a message and we’ll return your call tomorrow morning between 7 am and 9 am.”

Now you’ve positioned your business, you’ve given the caller helpful information, you’ve directed the caller to more information about you, and you’ve made a promise. All you have to do is keep that promise, and you’ll have a good shot at converting that caller into a customer. And, you haven’t spent a dime on additional media - you’ve simply brought Tightwad Marketing savvy to a business communication medium you already use.
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Your vehicle.
Billboards are expensive. Bus bench advertising is expensive. However, you have a ready source of outdoor advertising: your business vehicle.

It’s well worth putting signs on your business vehicle’s doors or back and side panels. A basic sign should have your business name, a marketing message, and phone number or website URL. Having your logo on the sign is generally worth the added cost because it looks more-customized and helps extend your graphic identity.

By the way, the biggest mistake I see is that people don’t realize how big a car is, particularly a van. Whatever size sign you’re thinking of, you probably won’t go wrong by getting one size larger if it fits.

Magnetic signs cost $40-80 for two depending on size and complexity. They stick only to ferrous metal, so make sure the vehicle panel you have in mind for the sign will actually hold a magnet. They’re sturdy, and hold up well to being moved from car to car. But, they can easily be stolen. The background is typically a solid color such as white, which usually improves the visibility of your marketing message regardless of your business vehicle’s color.

Static cling signs cost $40-80 for two depending on size and complexity. Unlike magnetic signs, static cling signs stick to glass or metal, so they’re appropriate both for vehicle body panels or windows. Also unlike magnetic signs, static cling signs are available with a clear backing - a little less inviting to thieves because from a distance they look painted on. However, you must make sure the lettering stands out against the color of your business vehicle. Like magnetic signs, static cling signs can be removed and re-used. They hold up less well than magnetic signs to frequent moving around, but while they last they look nicer.

Decals are a semi-permanent solution, in that they can be removed but not re-used. They are custom-made, and will cost $50-$150 installed depending on complexity, size, and number of decals. Although decals hold up well to ordinary wear, they are more fragile than paint, and if they are severely damaged you’ll need a new decal.

For about the same price ($50-$150), you can find an automotive painter who will paint your sign directly on your vehicle. This is the most-rugged sign (best for vehicles that will see hard use such as construction vehicles). It can be touched up if damaged, and some of the newer automotive sign paints are removable. However, until removal it is essentially permanent - something to consider if your business vehicle is also your personal vehicle.

Even the most-expensive vehicle sign option is considerably cheaper than the smallest outdoor media buy using billboards or bus benches. And, they direct your marketing message to people in or around your existing jobs, clientele, or customers - a very targeted market indeed.
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Your business cards.
You could spend a fortune on brochures, handing out thousands to people who may not be interested enough to read through it. Also, brochures tend to get tossed aside for later reference.

Business cards, on the other hand, are cheap, small, and tend to be kept. Here’s the Tightwad Marketing secret: all business cards identify the business but very few market the business.

Think of your business card as a “storefront.” Like a storefront, it should look clean and inviting. And, it should show off your “wares” - the products or services you offer. Don’t clutter the front with a list, though; print it on the back, where it’s out-of-the-way, yet handy. Some businesses (such as a restaurant) may benefit from having a locator map on the back of their business cards. Other businesses (such as a hair salon) may benefit from having a frequent-customer program that uses the back of their business cards. See the article Tightwad Promotion: sales programs that sell for more ideas about promotional programs.

If you already have your business cards, you can print this information on labels and stick them to the backs of the cards. Or, you can have a nice rubber stamp made.

The added cost for printing on the back is about $30 for 500 business cards; labels will be cheaper but won’t look as clean; a rubber stamp will be cheapest to buy. Whatever you spend, the target market you’ll be able to address (and, the money you’ll save on brochures) will be worth far more than that.
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Great customer service.
Door-to-door sales are expensive. But, how about when the customer comes to your door? A cheerful tone of voice when you answer the phone, a smile for every customer, prompt handling of customer inquiries - these things sound almost trite, but you wouldn’t believe how many small businesses don’t make the effort. This is by far your most cost-effective marketing tool. After all, it markets your business on a personal level to the people who are most-inclined to be customers - because they already are. No other marketing tool is so targeted. And, it costs you nothing!
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Your receipt.
Imprinted pencils, pens, and other promotional give-aways work because they find their way into your customer’s home. Yet, your customer takes something home with every sale: a receipt. Most cash registers and receipt terminals can imprint a message on the receipt tape. Your business name should be prominent, of course, and also your phone number and a marketing message. If your cash register can’t imprint a customized message, or if you use generic receipt pads, then buy an inexpensive self-inking rubber stamp for about $25. Have it set up in six lines like this:
business description or marketing message
1234 Address St.
City, ST ZIP
(000) 000-0000

Make sure the imprint will fit on your receipt tape, and don’t restrict yourself to black ink. You can use this stamp as a return address imprint too - it does double duty!

If you need a smaller stamp, then eliminate lines based on the source of your sales opportunities. For example, if most of your business comes from phone and website orders, then you can safely eliminate the street address, which cuts two lines.

Adding a marketing message and contact information to your receipts will help increase customer loyalty and your opportunities for post-sale contact. Granted, it’s not as likely to be “used” as a pencil or pen, but it’s a lot cheaper. And, the stamp itself offers a potential for cost savings on imprinted envelopes and other items.

You also can use a rubber stamp to imprint a promotional offer or coupon, turning your receipt into a powerful vehicle to drive increased sales. Use red ink for this stamp, to catch the eye and drive the idea of “savings.” If your receipts are dated, you could offer a discount if the customer returns within a certain time period. For example, a car wash could offer $1 off the next car wash if the customer returns within two weeks. Or, you could drive a frequent-customer rewards program (“save ten receipts and get a free sealer wax with your next car wash”). See the article Tightwad Promotion: sales programs that sell for more ideas about promotional programs.
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Direct mail is one of the most-effective media. However, direct mail programs are expensive. Yet, think about this: you’re probably already sending mail to your customers - mail that is almost always opened and looked at - your invoice.

Like a receipt, an invoice should be a marketing piece. After all, you just completed one job for the customer or client - presumably to their satisfaction - perhaps there’s another job you can do for them. A short list of service or product lines often serves as a useful reminder to your customers or clients. You want them to say “oh yes, she does that too - let’s give her a call.”

In addition, invoices are generally retained. They’re probably reviewed at least once during the year - which means at least one additional exposure for your marketing message.

If you mail a one-page invoice, you can add another piece of paper without changing your postage costs. In fact, if you’re using a First Class stamp in the U.S., you can mail up to three sheets of standard-weight 8-1/2 x 11” paper in a #9 or #10 envelope. I’m not saying you should stuff every envelope to overflowing, but why not piggyback a marketing piece on something that’s being mailed anyway?

A flyer with special offers or event information is good. But, even better, is to include an evaluation form and request for referrals. Customers can return the forms with their payments, and you get valuable feedback plus qualified sales leads. This gets even better; if you go to the article Customer evaluations turn failure into success, you’ll find a professionally written evaluation form for you to download and use, a $140 value, free.

Plain paper costs less than a penny per sheet; fancy paper costs more. Then, there’s the cost of printing: about 1-4 each to print on a typical laser printer; 4-8 each on most inkjet printers (8-25 each for color), and 2-10 each if you use a copying machine. So, your additional media investment ranges from a few cents each (a plain-paper evaluation form and request for referrals) to maybe 50 each for something fancy.

Also, always throw in a business card with your invoice. Business cards are cheap, the weight probably adds nothing to your postage cost, and the pass-along rate on business cards is high.
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You see, you don’t need a big media budget to deliver a marketing message to your customers and potential customers. Instead, start by making smarter use of the media you’re already paying for, media your customers are already paying attention to. That’s Tightwad Media - and Tightwad Marketing!
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