Soft Sell

Marketing Means

The "big three" small-business marketing channels are referrals, advertising and direct mail. Referrals and advertising are used by about half the companies surveyed, while direct mail is used by only one in four. Just 1 percent admitted to using controversial unsolicited e-mail--also known as "spam"--to market goods and services.

Doescher applauds the spam aversion but is less complimentary about the fact that only 8 percent of surveyed firms said they marketed through a Web site. "It's not that expensive, and a Web site brings in business," he says, a stance supported by the marketing experts.

Ettridge, however, disagrees with the experts on this point. His firm has an extranet (a restricted Web site for existing customers) and doesn't market through a public site. Firms that do, he feels, give away so much information about service offerings, pricing and even customers that their Web sites are often free lunch for rivals gathering competitive intelligence. "We get prospects from the Web," he says. "We don't give them."

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Soft Sell.

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