Written In Stone

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Not sure where to start? Here are four quick and easy ways to jump-start almost any marketing effort. Remember to keep specific goals in mind when creating any promotion or campaign.

1. Hold a contest. Generate excitement by creating a time-sensitive contest related to your business. For instance, if you own a pet store, hold a search for the cutest dog or cat. Sub shop? Try a submarine sandwich eating contest. Announce the contest with press releases and/or advertisements, as well as in-store signage or mailings to your key customers. Be sure to record names and addresses from the increased traffic to include in future mailing lists.

2. Sponsor a survey or poll. What do mothers want most for Mother's Day? What is the favorite car color of car buyers in your area? If you can conduct a survey or poll and find out the answers, it could be news. Just pick an interesting question that relates to your business and survey your customers. Issue your findings in a press release--the media often love this light view of human nature.

3. Create a great giveaway. Come up with a must-have T-shirt or a fantastic gift-with-purchase. Choose something that's useful to your customer base--for instance, a construction company may have tape measures printed with its logo. Promote it through press releases, ads or mailings.

4. Helpful hints. Create tip sheets or how-to instructions for your clients. Own a housecleaning business? Share your 10 best stain-removing "secrets" with your customers. Stationery store? Try a one-page fact sheet on becoming a better business writer. Sharing useful information that relates to your business can build goodwill--and keep your business in the front of your customers' minds.

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Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the July 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Written In Stone.

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