The ideas are as limitless as your imagination. Offer in-person demonstrations of your service or product. J. Patrick Borders, president of Neuton and Associates, a sales-training company in Mahwah, New Jersey, spends much of his time giving free consultations to companies that are considering using his services. "I find that visiting a potential customer in person is much more effective than mailing them a brochure," he says. "He can ask questions and get immediate answers. When I speak directly to a customer, I can sell my services much more easily than I possibly can with the written word." Giving away something for free, whether it's a product sample or your time, goes a long way in creating a positive company image.
Remember to communicate with past customers. Many may place new orders if you remind them that your company still exists. Remember the last time you canceled a magazine subscription? The publisher sent you a note every few months to say that he missed you. That subtle reminder of a company's existence gets many former customers to return to active status. Believe me, if it didn't work, companies wouldn't waste their time and money doing it!
Take advantage of free publicity. Never send anything out of your office without a promotional message attached to it. Even invoices should include some vehicle for reordering, or a promotional piece describing another product in which your customer may have some interest. If you can't include a separate flier, simply print your message on the invoice. Many department stores use this approach with their monthly credit-card invoices.
If a press release generates a major story in a newspaper or magazine, call the publication and request reprints of the article. Ask permission to use these reprints as promotional fliers for your business. How many times have you been in a restaurant and seen a framed review from the local paper? When you get someone else to say that your company is great, potential customers will notice!
If your budget permits, sponsor a local Little League team, or any local youth sports group. You'd be amazed at the goodwill business that will come your way when your company name is emblazoned on the front of the team jersey.
Getting involved in local organizations and institutions can greatly enhance your company's reputation. Why not sponsor a charity event? Giving away products or services as door prizes at activities conducted by your town's community center or senior citizen's center can reap double rewards: You'll generate goodwill by participating, and you'll also allow new customers to sample what you have to offer. A simple phone call to a local civic club or neighborhood organization will get you started.
Evaluating Your Results
Evaluating the results of your PR campaign will help you spend money more wisely.
Make a chart for tracking your results. List the press releases you sent out and the names of the magazines in which they appeared. As you get responses, keep track of how many came from which magazine, and the month in which they appeared. When your business grows and you consider advertising, you can use this information to begin developing that plan.
Catherine A. Reilly is a public-relations consultant and freelance writer who lives in Dumont, New Jersey.