From the November 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

You wouldn't guess by looking at me that I have something major in common with Sammy Sosa and Pete Sampras-but we've all been endorsers or celebrity spokespeople for Nortel Networks. While I've never been able to hit a baseball or serve an ace, as a small-business expert and author, I can drive home key messages that resonate with business owners, a skill Nortel Networks has put to good use.

Typically, star athletes command endorsement fees in the millions, but other spokespeople, such as authors and industry experts, have considerably less stratospheric rates. So while your budget probably doesn't include a national ad campaign featuring a superstar, there are excellent, lower-cost ways your growing business can increase its visibility using a celebrity or expert spokesperson.

Creating a marketing program using an outside endorser draws attention to your message and confers credibility. It's what I call the "made you look" factor. Your choice of a spokesperson should be based on your message and target audience. And there's a wide range of academics, authors, athletes, actors, association leaders and experts available for your events, retail promotions and public relations tours.

Draw a Crowd
To really stand out at your next trade or consumer show, use a celebrity or expert to draw traffic to your booth. For about $2,000 to $5,000, you can bring in a retired athlete, a local celebrity or a popular author. Say your company decides to exhibit at a trade show. You could invite an author to hand out free copies of his or her latest book to the first 100 people who visit the booth. In return, you'd get the opportunity to meet hundreds of potential new customers.

If you're a retailer, you can follow the same principle to bring traffic to your store. Just promote the event using space in your regular advertising, then send releases to the press and special invitations to your customers.

Make News
Public relations media tours are an affordable way to reach millions of customers in a highly credible news format. A radio media tour consists of a series of five- to eight-minute telephone interviews with your spokesperson. Qualified booking companies, such as North American Network Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland, offer all-inclusive rates based on the number of interviews scheduled. They book the stations, write the press release, send media kits, moderate and tape the interviews, and provide a comprehensive report. A three-hour satellite radio tour with approximately 15 interviews would cost just under $5,000, plus your celebrity representative's fees, which can range from $8,000 to $10,000 for the interview time and endorsement.

There will also be fees for message development and any consulting or writing work your spokesperson may do. But the costs are reasonable in relation to the audiences reached-as spokesperson for Sprint, I did a major radio tour that yielded 18 million impressions. I also did a tour for eBay's Business and Industrial Products that reached more than 6 million listeners.

DWJ Television in Ridgewood, New Jersey, specializes in satellite TV media tours and offers similar services. For tours shot in a studio, the two-hour cost for a dozen interviews is $15,000, plus your spokesperson's fees.

Your broadcast spokesperson should work with you to develop a "news hook" so you'll gain the most interviews possible. You should expect your company to receive at least one or two mentions per interview, and the spokesperson must be adept at bringing interviewers back to the key messaging points no matter what questions are asked. He or she should have excellent on-air skills, be unflappable, and be able to deliver the same message in different ways, once every 10 minutes for several hours.

To find a celebrity spokesperson, visit hollywood-madison.com. For a technical expert, author or academic, visit a site designed for journalists, www.profnet.com.

Quick Pick

Have your marketing campaigns been less than successful lately? Signing up with a Web-based service such as Respond Networks can be helpful in matching buyers with your business's products or services.

All you have to do is provide some information about what your company offers, then sit back as targeted pre-qualified buyers' leads are sent to you via e-mail. You can even set up filters or establish special offers to customize the service.

For more information, contact Respond Networks or any of its open network affiliates, such as Lawyers.com, Lycos or Verizon; a full list of contacts is also available online. Price: $30 per month, plus various per-response fees that range from 50 cents to $5.

-Steve Cooper