Thinking Big with Budget Start-ups

23rd Nov 2008
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Our world is dominated by billboards, commercials, and paper flyers. In other words, advertising is everywhere and there is no escaping it in the modern metropolis or even in smaller towns. In the greater dialogue of advertising, it is unfortunately not entirely possible to acquire visibility for your small budget start-up firm as you are invariably pitted against the more aggressive, cash-driven campaigns of the bigger boys. However, there is a way around this predicament and this article will illuminate the path to a brighter tomorrow for your entrepreneurial venture on a shoe-string budget.

Firstly, let us go over some of the basic politics of advertising. We know that all the giant corporations of the world are willing to shell out hundreds and thousands of dollars to capture the imagination of prospective investors via advertising. It is the financial divide that separates the monoliths from your fledgling enterprise. After all, you might be a one man army making a modest amount of money, or a well-oil-business with a roster of employees, but this doesn't mean you can afford to haemorrhage a large chunk of your income to advertising. This is not really an option if you're looking primarily at conventional advertising mechanisms. Then again, there are several other options at hand that can give your business a leg up in today's dog-eat-dog world.

Let us begin with one of the most widely utilised advertising option for small business owners – the pin up flyer. A simple sheet of paper in vivid colours carrying your company logo and a short write up can serve as a cost-effective option. These flyers can be found pinned up on everything from walls, fences, notice boards to departmental stores, community centers, post offices, colleges, schools, parking lots, etc. However, before you go about pinning up your flyers it is always a good idea to take permission as you are putting up your advertisement on foreign property. For similar reasons, avoid inserting flyers under windshield wipers or having them dropped into cars at busy intersections as you are invading another person's private space with your pamphlet.

Option two is a business card. This unassuming, inconspicuous little piece of cardboard that sits in your wallet can be turned into a brilliant advertising gimmick. Think about it -- it's your very own advertisement in your pocket with your company logo, your name and your contact details on it. Now, follow the same flyer principal --- hand out your cards indiscriminately to all and sundry. You never know when someone important will give your card a second look.

The best forms of advertising are usually integrated advertising. Look at movie tickets, theatre tickets or even bus tickets and you will find that there is a logo carefully inserted in a corner advertising a service. Moreover, discount coupons or general coupons also carry ads and can be targeted. Such coupons are distributed at community events, schools, fairs/functions, and various other business gatherings. Note your target customer base and then opt for the product with maximum appeal to this profile of customer. If your budget permits, then get involved in carnival/fair sponsorship which is much lower than established high-profile events. You could also look at sponsoring a fledgling sports team, a community theatre group or a non-profit organisation. Your contribution will build character around your brand – a real sense of ethics behind a solid business plan – as the public will witness the achievements of these individuals carrying your logo. Again, sponsorship can come in the form of cash, one-time donations, or free services and products that help such individuals get ahead in life while enriching the lives and cultural traditions of their society.

Step three would be to look at the internet for ways and means of advertising. Banner advertisements are often quite expensive, however, one can market their services on forums and online communities. Spend some time googling for interest groups for your product so that you are marketing your commodity to the right people. It would be even better if you can find local online communities so that you may encourage actual face-to-face interaction at some point.

The classifieds section in every newspaper features hundreds of entrepreneurial ventures. There must be something to it, don't you think? Also, classified ads are often much cheaper than regular ads. Again, there are dedicated ad magazines which should be zeroed in on. Other than these, you may explore any niche publications who write for their dedicated reader base. Lastly, as a part of you online advertising campaign you want to look for classified websites which permit you to post your advertisement for free. If you are great with computers, you should try and design interactive advertisements to capture the imagination of the user. Flash ads are nowadays scoring over regular static ads.

Once you have your business up and running, you can do a press release to flash any events or announcements in media networks. Include a few lines about your company profile and achievements to gain credulity and if you manage to lure a celebrity, then do not fail to use his/her potential to boost your profile. Press releases are bound to be picked up by the media, especially the online media and it will make your company a recognisable brand.

Try and get everyone involved in your advertising campaign and make sure you include friends and family on this project. Try and put up a few freebies at local events to let the public or, better still, a local celebrity judge your services. Your reputation will then travel in the form of word of mouth advertising which is by far the longest surviving advertising system. Keep tabs on other small companies and their advertising trends in order to replicate those ideas – but also try to be original or people will think of you as a rip-off!

When you're starting small, don't go running after giant billboards unless your capita permits this because you want to be involved in a long-term business venture. Judge your campaign by its effectiveness, not the magnitude. Cater to a customer base that is manageable and loyal. Explore these avenues and who knows, someday you will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the big boys!

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