How To Pick The Right Promotion
For Your Small Business

by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom Egelhoff

One of the best ways to increase business is to run promotions. A promotion, especially in a small town, is often considered an entertainment event.

A promotion in a large city may be largely ignored by a major portion of the population but in a small town it may be a place to see and be seen.

There are many types of promotions out there but which one is right for you and your business?

Before I answer that question let me answer a more important one. What will a promotion not do?

If customers don't like your product -- no promotion will change that.

While a promotion might temporarily stop declining sales it is not a permanent fix. Think a good promotion will bring back the buggy whip?

Promotions can't create a brand image. Once the image is there, then it can be promoted. And, last but not least, a promotion is a short time event.

A single promotion will not produce loyal customers over the long haul.

Picking The Right Small Business Promotion For The Right Job

In order to pick the right promotion for your business you must first look at the types of promotions and what each does.

Here are a few of the most common types of promotion and how to use each one.

Free Samples -

We all like to try new things but will we invest our hard earned money to do it? What if we don't' like it.. then what?

A free sample takes the risk out of evaluating a new product or service and deciding if we actually do want to part with our money to continue to use it.

This is one of the best ways to introduce a new product or a product that may require some education of the customer.

Coupons -

Probably the original promotion. Clip this coupon and get a discount. Sometimes it's as simple as a percentage off or a buy one get one free offer.

Works well with extensions of similar products. "You loved our XYZ." "Now try our ABC and take 20% off the retail price." Often coupled with a free sample.

Value Packs -

We've all gotten these little beauties in the mail. A package full of coupons or special offers on a host of services and products.

Usually contains only one company for each industry. These are great to turn triers into buyers.

Rebates and Refunds -

You won't find these too often in small towns unless they are offered by the manufacturer of the product or service.

Rebates are generally used to build or maintain brand loyalty. If you are a service business you may be able to offer a rebate on future services.

Contests and Sweepstakes -

These work very well in small towns. In many cases the supplier or manufacturer may supply the prizes and provide some co-op advertising to help out.

The other advantage a small town has with contests and sweepstakes is that many people in town will probably know the winner or winners of the prizes and the talk around town will continue long after the promotion is over.

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Most Common, Not The Best

As I mentioned above, these are the most common promotions, I didn't say they were the best promotions.

What's wrong with this list of promotions? The main thing is price. All but one deal with price reduction.

If I were to mention "CD Player" to you a price probably pops into your head. Mention a whole list of products and you could probably give me the average price of each.

The problem with promoting your prices is that you educate the customer to wait for price reductions and you reduce the perceived value of the product or service.

You know your product or service better than anyone. Try and create promotions that add value to the product or service in some way.

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Can You Promote A Category Rather Than A Brand?

If you were a baker would you promote the brand of flour you use or would you promote your cakes and pies?

Do you buy your life insurance from Allstate or Joe Smith? Would you buy from Joe no matter what kind of insurance he carried?

If you can keep your business or service flexible your business will be much stronger and promotions will be easier.

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Small Town Business vs. Big City Promotions

What's the difference between the two? Population. Is that good or bad? When it comes to promotion in a small town it can be both. It's a two edged sword.

The first edge is that you must attract a certain number of people to make your promotion successful.

The second edge is that it may cost more than it's worth in advertising to attract those people.

For example: You live in a town of 10,000 people. Your target market is farmers. Would you put a flyer in the local newspaper?

How many of the 10,000 people in town take the paper and are not farmers? A lot I would guess.

You want to reach the 250 farmers that live outside the town. Would direct mail of 250 flyers and/or postcards be less expensive than a flyer or ad in the paper? You bet it would

In a large city you may have thousands of people in just a couple of square miles.

In a small town it may only be in the hundreds. So, low cost is the name of the game. See: "Low Cost Small Town Promotion."

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The Last Word On The Right Small Business Promotion

I wish I had a magic bullet promotion for you that would work for all businesses all the time but unfortunately I don't. But there are some ways to find what works.

First, head down to your local library and look through the phone books. Look for similar cities to you in nearby states and call people in your industry.

What have they done that works or didn't work? If your industry has an association they can be a major help in putting you in touch with successful members who promote well.

If you want to do something well, find someone who is doing it well and do what they do. It's the best kept business secret in the world.

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