Step 11: Promote Your Business

Meg-A-Nut Inc.

Vic and Suzette Brounsuzian

Like Fletcher, Vic and Suzette Brounsuzian felt it was important to get samples of their product to the public in order to win loyal customers. After opening a small nut shop in late 1995, the couple provided samples of their dry-roasted walnuts, pecans, filberts and other varieties of nuts to customers in their community of Streamwood, Illinois.

"We worked out an arrangement by which our bank's employees would hand out free samples of our product to their walk-in clients," explains Vic, 45. "We made up small packets containing a mixture of our nuts, labeled with our store name and information, and left a huge basket of them behind the bank's counter for distribution." For its participation, the bank received the goodwill of the customers who received a free gift, while keeping a business client happy.

"The tellers were very gracious about telling their customers that the small gift was provided by Meg-A-Nut, a new store which had just opened up across the street," says Vic. "Many of the recipients walked across to our shop and asked about purchasing more of the nuts they'd just sampled. We definitely got the word out about our business that way, and it proved to be quite effective at generating additional sales."

The Brounsuzians also held an official grand-opening celebration at their store a few weeks after they opened for business. "We decided to work all of the kinks out of our operation first, before hosting the big event," Vic says. "Because ours was a new business in Streamwood, one of the local newspapers did a write-up about our grand opening, which brought in a lot of customers. I also placed a newspaper advertisement promoting the grand-opening celebration."

While most of the nuts sold in America today are fried, one key to the Brounsuzians' success is that they dry-roast their nuts instead, producing a healthier product much lower in fat and cholesterol. Informing potential customers of this distinct product benefit became the primary focus of the couple's earliest promotional efforts, and has remained so to this day. As their customer base continued to grow, the Brounsuzians placed additional ads promoting their offerings, including a four-week ad with another newspaper and coupons in a local bimonthly direct-mail coupon pack.

"Advertising is important, but the best promotion of all is word-of-mouth referrals," Vic believes. "That's why we always have a fully stocked sampler plate in our store, so visitors can sample our products and tell others about the delicious taste. That's also why we rented a booth at Streamwood's annual fair, so potential customers could taste our quality product firsthand. We believe in doing everything we can possibly do to get our product and our name out there."

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This article was originally published in the April 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Step 11: Promote Your Business.

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