‘If you build it and no one knows about it, they won’t come,” says Ellen Silverman. But how do you let someone know about your revolutionary new idea, your fabulous new product, your excellent service, when you only have a tiny budget for marketing?
Silverman teaches small business owners “How to Maximize a $1,000 Marketing Budget” on Thursday, February 16, at 9:30 a.m. at 120 New England Avenue in Piscataway at a seminar sponsored by the Middlesex Small Business Development Center. Cost: $35. Call 609-989-5232.
Silverman has been in marketing for over 25 years. Her company, Ellen Silverman Associates, is located in Pluckemin. She uses her knowledge of marketing as a coach and consultant to help businesspeople learn “high impact, low cost techniques, creative concepts, and marketing communications.”
What you do with your $1,00 depends on where your business is, says Silverman. A start-up company has different needs than a business that is a few years old.
Logos. “Get a Logo — and get it done right,” says Silverman. This is the first place a brand new business should spend its money, and it is the area of marketing where the most money should be spent.
A lot of people who are new in business will go to an online service for a low cost business card. They pick a standard graphic and order a few thousand cards. The problem, says Silverman, is that when they try to use that graphic as their logo on a letterhead, or a brochure, or a website, no one can reproduce the graphic. “They just lit a match to the advertising dollars they already spent,” says Silverman, because they now must start from scratch and get a new logo made.
Instead of taking the lowest cost route, says Silverman, a new business should hire a graphic artist to design a logo that can be used on a business card, letterhead, brochure, and website. It costs “several hundred dollars,” she says, but there are ways to minimize that cost, such as looking for a college student who might be willing to create something for less money.
Whoever you hire to develop your logo, Silverman recommends getting it in several formats so that it can be used in a variety of ways. She thinks it’s a good idea to have a logo created in eight different formats, so that it can be used in every situation. The logo should have a color version, perhaps for use in a brochure, and a black and white version, which might be how it will appear in a newspaper ad. There should be a high resolution version for reproduction in print and a low resolution version for websites. It should be available as a jpeg file, so that it can be used “in all sorts of ways online and it can’t be messed up.”
She also reminds clients to find out what PMS colors are used in the logo. These are the number codes printers use to exactly match colors.
Relationships. Once a company has a logo, the next step is not to run out and advertise, says Silverman. It is to build relationships. This may seem to be unusual advice from a person whose business is to develop marketing materials, but, says Silverman, relationship marketing is the cornerstone of business success.
“If you have a small marketing budget the best place to put that money is into organizations where you will build small business relationships,” she says. She recommends trying the local chamber of commerce, service clubs such as Rotary, business referral groups such as LeTip and BNI, and, for women, NJAWBO (New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners) or NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners). Trade organizations are another good place to build relationships. “I always set aside money every year for joining organizations, going to conferences, and taking seminars,” says Silverman. This type of marketing gives her both the opportunity to meet potential clients and the information she needs to “keep on top of the latest trends.”
Client hang-outs. Go where your clients are, says Silverman. The trick, she says, is to decide who your clients are and then go where you will find them. “If you are marketing to real estate agents, go where the real estate agents are.” You might notice, perhaps from newspaper items, that real estate agents are active in a particular charity, or that they are sponsoring a golf tournament. You know that you can find them at open houses, where they could be on the look-out for someone to talk to. Be creative. Try for “accidental” meetings.
Think about related services. If you want to target real estate agents, you might get introductions from title agents or even from contractors who work on houses that are being prepared for sale.
Public relations. Getting publicity for your business is one of the least expensive ways to market yourself, says Silverman. Send out press releases about new products or services, special events, or seminars. “If you don’t know how to write a press release or if you aren’t a good writer, hire one,” says Silverman. “You can hire a writer to do a one time press release without the cost of hiring a full service marketing firm,” she says.
Letters to the editor are another way to get your information to the public. “I have one client who has written several letters to the editor that have been published,” says Silverman. “It gets her information out to the public.” Be on the look-out for issues on which you can comment as an expert. The owner of a computer repair service, for example, might offer hints on avoiding computer viruses when an especially destructive one is in the news. A gardener could opine about plant care during a prolonged drought.
That $1,000 marketing budget isn’t a one-time item, says Silverman. A business needs to spend money on marketing every single year. If a company has been in business a few years and has the basics, such as a logo, business card and letterhead, what’s the next step?
Signage is a good idea, says Silverman, and can include anything from new signs for a retail shop or signs on cars or trucks for service businesses. A website is another “second step” that Silverman recommends. Some people may not buy online — yet, but they do comparison shop, checking several companies out before they make a decision about which one to go with.
A third suggestion is “advertising specialties,” such as pencils and pens, magnets, and calendars. Silverman’s logo is a light bulb, to symbolize bright ideas. One year she used a light bulb-shaped stress ball to promote her company.
Silverman also has definite ideas on what not to do with that $1,000.
Don’t print a brochure right away. Many businesses want to print a brochure before they open their doors. This is a mistake, says Silverman. “In the first few months people are tweaking their business, getting the glitches out.” If you print a brochure advertising a service, then decide to change that service, you can end up with several hundred useless brochures and no money to change them.
Don’t build a website from scratch. “Everyone thinks they know how to build a website,” says Silverman. But making sure it looks professional, and getting it into the search engines, is a job for professionals, and one that can cost a lot of money. A retail website that isn’t well-marketed is a waste of money, Silverman says.
Marketing a business doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. “There are hundreds of ways to market yourself and your business that don’t even cost a thing,” says Silverman. From an E-mail signature that includes a testimonial to sending thank you notes when you receive a referral, the trick is to work smart.
“You can’t afford to waste money,” says Silverman. “Plan what you are going to do.”