Small service businesses often run into a conundrum of needing to promote their businesses to reach new customers, but having a tight marketing budget. Online exposure seems simpler in some cases, because you can use time rather than money to help get the word out in many cases. However, offline exposure is also a vital part of locating new leads. The problem? Offline advertising can be expensive.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to get offline exposure for pennies. Some of these tactics are tried and true tactics that marketers have used for many years, and some are new things you can try.
Reach Out Directly to Author
Anand Srinivasan, founder of Hubbion.com reiterates that offline channels often work in the same way online channels do and he says that people tend to forget that fact. He advises, “If you own a unique product or service, one of the easiest ways to get press mentions is by reaching out to the right person. This is how you do it – pick the most popular newspaper or magazine in your city (or the geography you are targeting) and look out for possible sections your product could be covered in. The name and email of the journalist is often included within the article. You could either email them or connect with them on LinkedIn to talk about your product.”
Srinivasan adds that the success rate is much higher than it is with online media outreach because there are relatively fewer people connecting to print magazine writers this way.
Nearly every small town or area across the United States offers a free weekly newspaper. This is the paper that arrives and has announcements from the school, local classified ads, and any number of other local news stories. The great thing about free weeklies is that they are often hungry for material. If you’re willing to write up a small article that isn’t spammy, then you might have great success in placing it with no cost but your time.
Check the free weekly for details about how to submit. Before you write up the article, stop and think about what you can focus on that locals would be interested in reading. This isn’t just an infomercial type article. You want to add real value to your newspaper. So, you might write an article about how to weather proof your home for winter and save on utility bills. Your free exposure is going to come from your byline, but if no one wants to read your article, then having an article in the free weekly does little good.
Another option is to go ahead and pay for an ad, because they tend to be much less expensive than the bigger newspapers and magazines. However, if you’re on an extremely tight budget, writing an article is the best way to go.
Many people listen to the radio on their way to and from work, giving you a captive audience during commute times. Reach out to radio hosts and ask if you can come on and talk about a topic. They will almost always plug your business when they introduce you and close the segment. What is your biggest area of expertise and which audiences in your area best match that topic?
One example is of a handyman show that is on the radio in the afternoon slot. You’ll simply want to figure out what each show is about on the AM dials in your area (FM is more typically music) and then reach out to the hosts of the shows that match your area of expertise. For example, if you run an HVAC business, you might reach out to a real estate show, home improvement, or local matters show.
The typical cost to advertise on the radio can vary by location. According to Gaebler, in Hartford, Connecticut, the average cost is $279.00 for a 30-second slot of time for one of the AM stations, while the estimated cost to advertise on a similar AM radio station in Louisville, Kentucky is only $53. Time of day, which station, and type of ad can also create variables o the overall cost. Spending a little time studying and preparing to be a guest can be well worth the effort in the savings you’ll encounter. If you do a good job, you may be invited back again, which will give you even more free exposure.
Local Cable Channels
When you see a 30-second ad on big cable network, the cost is likely several thousand dollars for that advertiser. However, you can get a local slot for pennies on the dollar. Legal Zoom estimates that advertising on local cable allows you to target your audience directly for about 20% of the cost of regular broadcast time, getting the costs down to well under $100 per slot.
Advertising on cable may not be as expensive as you thought, but you’ll want to spend an initial investment to make sure your commercial is professional and presents your business in the best light. One way to save costs is to approach your nearest college and see if any film majors are about ready to graduate and would be willing to work with you on a budget. They may give you a deeply discounted rate to help build their own portfolios and resumes, and you’ll be working with someone who has trained for three or four years to do the type of work you need.
Another option is to take a look at local television shows, even the news networks in your area and approach them about doing a short guest segment. News shows often need short, filler material, and if you are available on short notice, you just might get slotted in and have the ability to reach the local viewing audience.
Take Advantage of Every Small Opportunity
Watch for even the small opportunities to get your brand name out in the local community and build goodwill. This can include you and employees who volunteer helping at a local shelter, passing out freebies at a local festival, or even offering free seminars for local homeowners. The key to getting offline exposure is to be open to unique channels and readily available to promote yourself and your company in the most positive light possible.
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