I saw a Seinfeld episode recently where Jerry was talking about guys using their best lines trying to pick up women. Some are moderately successful and inventive, but then you have guys who drive by and honk the horn. "Clearly this man is out of ideas." It got me thinking of how many small business people are great at what they do, but are out of ideas when it comes to growing their business.
Ten years ago I was a babe in the woods when it came to marketing and growing my new business. I tried door-to-door fliers, calling people through the phone book and even got e-mail addresses from everyone in the 85044 area code that used Hotmail. Needless to say, I was met with some very unhappy people who voiced their displeasure in no uncertain terms. Today, there are many tools at the disposal of small business people that take very little time and money, are very effective and do not require a master's degree in computer technology to use.
Postcards can be a very effective marketing tool for small businesses and clubs to say "Thank You" to a customer, announce special events, sales, reminders and open new areas for business. Postcards can be created very easily and printed cheaply by a number of companies or club members. Contact the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce for a list of local printers or search Google for online printers. Many have pre-made designs that can be customized or you can create your own. Some online printers are Overnight Prints (www.overnightprints.com) and Vista Print (www.vistaprint.com). I prefer local printers because you have more quality control locally and I like to patronize local businesses.
Every club, social group and business needs to have a periodic newsletter to keep their name and service fresh in the minds of their customers and members. You can use Microsoft Word or Works to create newsletters for your own personal event or purpose, but the cost of paper, printer ink and envelopes may make this option cost prohibitive and is really kind of a hassle unless there are people who do not have e-mail. I use a company called ConstantContact (www.constantcontact.com). They have customizable templates, seminars to get you started, great customer service and offer a quality product at a competitive price. ConstantContact e-mails your newsletter to your list of contacts in a format that is generally not bounced by anti-spam programs, which is so often the case when you try to send out newsletters you created in Word on your own. Spamming people is not permitted so your contact list needs to be people who have consented to receive your newsletter. I often ask my customers if they wish to receive my newsletter. This is an easy way to build your newsletter readership and your customer base or club membership.
Create a website
If you are in business or have a club or social activity, you need a website, period. Your website does not have to sell anything to be productive; in fact, many websites are not directly producing income, such as selling something online. Many websites are informational in nature but they draw attention to your area of expertise or your event, showcase how you do things better than your competition and also give you a legitimate e-mail address that advertises your business. Contact the chamber of commerce or check out online hosting services like GoDaddy for help. Websites do not have to run you broke to be effective and there are some great local companies who can help.
Don't sit there honking your horn and watching the competition pass you by. Get in the game! Next month, we will discuss how social networking can help your business or club reach more people.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 753-7667.