With the advent of Groupon, Living Social and a host of other copycats (a few hundred at the beginning of 2011…but quite a few have dropped off since then), the advertising and promotional markets for small businesses and their owners have grown significantly. Over the years the options for businesses to promote their existence and their goods and services has changed significantly. This post takes a look at what worked in the past and how those options from the past may still work now.
Yellow Pages – Does anyone remember the Yellow Pages? Many companies had business names or dba names that began with “AAA” or “A1” or some combination thereof so they could get initial or high placement under their category in the Yellow Pages. Some companies whole advertising program consisted of an ad in the Yellow Pages. Their philosophy was, as it should be for all businesses, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”. If the advertising and promotion you do to drive business works, why change it to make it more sexy? The answer, you don’t. You keep doing what works. The Yellow Pages is still out there. I still get a copy each year. However, I think I looked at one once in the past two years. I usually Google what I’m looking for…or look it up on Yahoo Yellow Pages.
Local Newspapers – Businesses would advertise in their city’s newspapers. This was highly effective when everyone read the newspaper. Some city newspapers like the Akron Beacon Journal still have very high readerships. Others, like the Atlanta Journal Constitution, have readerships which have dropped drastically over the years. Entering into this fray with, perhaps, more consistent readership in more recent years are local community newspapers like Creative Loafing. If you can craft a high impact ad, then this is still a viable option.
Public Relations – Businesses that get their names in the news are often seen as having higher credibility and cache than those that do not. This applied in the past and still applies. Businesses that can tie their messaging into current events and issues can harness coverage by journalists and reporters to spread the message about their product and service offerings. One way to get started is to write press releases on a consistent basis (i.e., once a month, whenever you introduce a new product) and issue them through one of the news wire services. Another is to utilize an entity such as HARO or PRLeads to connect with journalists (and bloggers).
Promotional Products – These are items such as pens, clothing, and advertising notepads that carry your company name and logo that you provide as a leave-behind to customers, prospects, and potentials. You never know when someone may be drinking from you logoed coffee mug and think, “I need business continuity insurance.” They look at the mug and see that you provide that service., they remember meeting with a representative from you company…and they give you a call. That’s the purpose of promotional products: to put your company’s name and image out front so that people think of you when they need your particular product or service. These have been around for a long time. And this category isn’t losing steam. Why? Because it works.
I know I’m missing a number of past ways of reaching one’s target customer that still works now. I’d be glad to hear you input on the topic.