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Fresh Ideas for Innovative Marketing Try these out-of-the-ordinary tactics for extraordinary results.

By Kim T. Gordon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For many entrepreneurs, summertime brings slower sales and less hectic activity. What better time than right now to explore fresh marketing ideas for growing your business? Rather than slide into the busy fourth quarter with the same old marketing bag of tricks, you can get a jump on your competitors by embracing new tactics for increasing leads and sales.

Try one--or all four--of these out-of-the-ordinary tactics to produce the results you need:

1. Reach Your Best Qualified Prospects
If you're looking for an effective way to reach a highly specific and qualified audience, consider sending direct mail to the subscriber list of a well-targeted magazine. There are specialized business and consumer magazines to reach every audience imaginable. Unfortunately, the cost to run a good-size print ad with enough frequency for your message to penetrate in many of the national publications may be prohibitive. A great alternative--particularly for B2B marketers targeting specific industries or individuals based on their job titles--is to select a magazine that reaches your best prospects and rent its subscriber list for a direct-mail campaign. Some publications offer their lists as a combo buy along with advertising, and others make them available separately. Depending on how the list you choose is segmented, you may decide to mail to a portion of the list or all of it. Just be sure to mail at least two to three times to the same list for maximum results.

2. Get National Editorial Exposure
There's a fairly well-kept secret among top PR agencies and major corporations. What do they know that you don't? Most newspapers, and many other types of media outlets as well, are understaffed and often have significant editorial gaps to fill. They rely on free outside copy that arrives in the form of "mat" releases, articles that are prewritten and ready for publication.

For less than the cost of one decent-size ad in a single daily newspaper, you could create an article to be distributed with your byline that might get picked up by several hundred newspapers across the country and generate dozens of leads--or more. Since newspaper editorial is generally perceived as more credible than advertising, a mat release is an effective way to reach and influence readers. Two of the major mat release services, Metro Editorial Services and ARA , which distributes online only, have pricing that fits small-business budgets.

3. Borrow E-Mail Clout
Everyone knows that e-mail is one of the lowest-cost, highest-return marketing tactics around. But while e-mail to in-house lists is a great customer retention tool, in recent years, the glut of spam has made it difficult to use e-mail for new customer acquisition because prospects are simply deleting all but the most recognizable mailings.

The best way out of this dilemma is to place advertising in third-party e-newsletters that reach qualified subscribers. For example, say you want to reach women who are about to get married. You could research the most popular bridal websites and then choose the best and most cost-efficient e-newsletter in which to advertise. This would guarantee your message reaches a highly qualified list of brides-to-be. And since recipients had subscribed to the e-newsletter, it would have a good open rate and you'd gain instant credibility by being included in emails sent by a respected source.

4. Take It Outside
Out-of-home advertising includes everything from traditional billboards and transit advertising to naming rights for community hiking trails. Thanks to the current upsurge in place-based advertising, now your messages can be anywhere your customers go. Want to reach them at their favorite restaurants? There are posters in the restrooms. Need to market to college students? You'll find poster-size ads available on more than 300 college campuses nationwide.

The key to effectively using out-of-home advertising is to reach your prospects when you can influence a purchase (think about the way brochures promoting tooth-whitening products reach and influence patients in the dentist's office). And look for marketing venues that are compatible with the overall tone and content of your company's message. This will ensure that your prospects are in the right frame of mind to be receptive to your message, whenever they encounter it.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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