No, this is not a sales pitch for your local paper. In fact, I am often critical of how people squander money in local publications. The upside is that local publications are…local. They have a loyal readership and you know that everyone you do reach is in your actual market area. The mistake many make is to run ads that basically say “Here We Are! Stop By!” or they use a discount only mentality. That may work in some businesses, but it is by no means always the best way to reach your customer.
The best way to use local publications, indeed most publications, is to use them as lead generators. Think of them as the first stage of a two-step process, not a direct sale. In other words, instead of judging the response to your ad based on the actual sales you make, base it on how many new relationships you are able to start. Most sales these days are based on some kind of prior relationship and that takes a little time.
Gaining a new customer for most businesses costs a great deal of money. In my business, I figure it costs me an average of $750-$1000 to get a new client. In some businesses, like car dealers, it might be $250, in others that sell high-end products like homes, it might be as high as $15,000 or more per sale.
Run an ad that makes it easy and painless to start a relationship with your company. Don’t run image ads; run lead-generation ad.
Some of the ideas you might consider and adapt to your local business include:
Run ads that offer:
• free consultations
• free estimates
• free tax planning or investment advice
• free seminars by experts, designers, financial planners, etc.
• no obligation check-ups
• free evaluations
• free tire changes
• free videos or audio CDs
• free booklets or planners
• contests of all kinds
Invite people to:
• a party
• a grand re-opening
• a fashion show
• a special tasting
• a factory tour
• free coffee
You can run coupons, but make sure that coupon use is always tied to the prospect parting with some information, not merely handing it over for a discount. Make sure that whatever your promotion you always get contact information, including a phone number and an email in return for your offer so that you can follow up with the lead and develop the relationship. Once you have generated leads, don’t squander them. You should become very focused on following up all leads so that a relationship with your company develops. Treat each piece of data like gold. Make notes on your prospective customers’ likes and dislikes. The more you know, the easier it is to develop a relationship by finding common points of interest which ultimately turn into real business. The more people you meet, the more people you will get to know. The more people you know, the more people you will have as friends. The more people you have as friends, the more people will choose to do business with you. The more people who do business with you and are pleased, the more people will refer additional business to you.
It all starts with generating leads and the best place to do that is right in your own backyard. Just remember to put a clear call to action in your ads and offer some kind of clear benefit to the prospect for contacting you.
Changing the focus of your advertising from selling to starting relationships will produce huge gains in profits.