What is brand promotion and how is it different from other advertising? Promotion is the broad term for all the activities a business might engage in to raise awareness of their products or services.  Advertising is one of those activities.  Advertised sales, signs and customer service all fit under promotion.

We will address advertising and web based promotion in other articles. Here I want to focus on the range of available options to put your name in front of your potential customer. The promotion world embraces virtually anything you do which could result in an individual encountering the name of your business. But it’s a successful brand promotion if it results in sales. Below are just a few of the more common methods of promoting you company.

8 Ideas on Brand Promotion

Small gifts

I’m sitting at my desk and there are four pens with names of businesses on them (an international development organization, an office supply store, an insurance agent and an escrow company). There is a calendar from a museum, a letter opener from a hotel, and a coffee mug from a tech company. Pretty Brand Promotion and Small Giftsstandard items produced in the hope I will remember and use their businesses.  But do they work? When I grab a pen I’m not usually inclined to read the logo on it, but there is some evidence to suggest that gifting someone with almost anything buys a positive response.  The hotel letter opener does recall the many months I spent at a wonderful hotel, but does not engender a need to fly to Indonesia. The museum calendar is beautiful and does remind me of that particular option in a city filled with museums. The coffee mug is from a company whose product I could not explain and would not buy. So were these items a waste of money? Hard to say since I do know the names, even if I may not act upon any of them. My point here is that you should carefully consider the likely effect before you order 5000 key chains or beer cozies.

Another use of gifts is to garner the attention of a single person or small group. It is the golf balls with his name on them sent to the CEO of a prospective customer. It is the small personalized mallet sent to a realtor to pound in signs. It could be anything which suggests you have knowledge of the person or company and which will stand out. This, of course, requires research, but the target is likely to take your call.

One memorable set of gifts occurred when my husband and I attended an island conference in Asia. It was beautiful, it was sumptuous. Upon arrival we were each given: a small roll-aboard suitcase, a set of flippers, mask and snorkel, a cooler, a local costume, and assorted local craft items. The snorkeling set would not fit in the roll aboard or in my own bag. So now I have to manage two rolling suitcases and the snorkel set. I was not grateful. In fact, I was annoyed by the utter lack of perception about traveling. Make sure the gifts you choose are something your customers want.

Doing Better By Doing Good

This can range from sponsoring the little league team to building a wing on the hospital.  The list is long but confers two advantages: (1) It puts your company name out in a positive light and (2) it endears you to a new group of contacts who have an interest in helping your business.  We’ll assume you are not in a position to donate tens of millions of dollars and will focus on lower level community projects.

Start by considering your own interests; sports? Children? Technology? The environment? Whatever it is there is likely an organization in that arena which needs assistance.  You can simply donate money, of course, but unless it’s a large sum you won’t receive the public notice some other methods could provide.

* If you own a restaurant or other suitable space consider providing it for a donor or press event.   

* Nonprofits are usually seeking Board members.

* Create a fund raiser for an organization: anything from a Halloween haunted house to a grand ball.

* Join your local civic organization, from Rotary to League of Women Voters; and get involved. You’ll meet people and get the name of your business out there.

* Sponsor something: girl scout troop, sports team, food pantry, elementary school classroom…the potential is limitless

Become An Expert.

This is easier than you might imagine. The advantages to becoming an expert are many: suddenly your business must be better able to wire a building or sell electronics because the owner is an expert in that area.  In addition, speakers, authors, etc. tend to receive publicity in the local papers, newsletters and the like.

So go out there and become an expert. Write a book (you no longer need to sell it to a publisher). Submit articles to local and national print and online magazines, trade magazines, websites and newsletters. Pitch your article to the local business section of the newspaper. Offer to speak at events, schools, and conferences – any group that will have you. (There are a host of websites on how to get started.) Teach an adult education class. Keep updating your resume and in no time you’ll be an expert.

Imbed Your Brand.

At the very least you probably have some sort of stationary (even if you are computer printing the letterhead), envelopes, business cards, faxes, brochures, print ads, signage, a web page, and email.  Every piece should sport the same recognizable look in the same colors and have your logo, contact information, URL, and slogan if you have one. Think of the McDonald’s arches: simple, clean and eminently recognizable. That’s what you should aspire to. If you lack design capability, either hire a company which specializes in design or find a local student who is going in that direction. Just remember the design must work equally well for a full page ad as it does on your business cards.

Cold Calling. 

I can feel you shuddering, but before you discount this time honored method, consider that it allows you to speak to a potential customer – albeit briefly – who might not otherwise have come your way.  A few bits of advice:

  1. Narrowly target your market. If you are going to devote (or pay someone to devote) several hours to making cold calls, you don’t want to waste time on people who are not likely prospects.   Research the people or companies you plan to focus on.  Know who you want to reach.
  2. Prepare a script. Start by introducing yourself and your company. Reference why you are calling them as specifically as possible. For instance: “Good morning Mr. Smith. My name is Carrol McCarren and I am a consultant specializing in closely held companies. I learned from a mutual friend that you are struggling with employee absentee issues and I believe I may be able to help you.  May I invite you to lunch on Friday to discuss the matter?”  Be pleasant, be specific, tell them what the next step should be.
  3. Call early in the day.  Executive tend to be in earlier. Once the day is in full swing it will be more difficult to reach them and to keep their attention.

Ask For Referrals.

Every time, from every customer, vendor, acquaintance, etc.  Some businesses offer some sort of incentive for referrals (“Get a free month when you refer a friend to our gym.”) and that may be appropriate depending on your business. Ask them on the spot. Follow up later and ask again.

Other Businesses in Your Space.

Consider partnering with other non-competing businesses who are serving a similar customer base for cross referrals and joint promotions. One typical example is a group of retailers and restaurants who hold an event with sidewalk sales and other fanfare to draw customers, but the idea has much broader applicability. Think in terms of your customer and what other goods and services s/he might use.

Be the Odd One.

Brand promotion and standing outIn a business which has wide competition (and with the advent of internet shopping, who doesn’t?) you must stand out from your competitors in some way. It could be excellent customer service; it could be a piece of taffy every time someone makes a purchase; it could be your dogged follow up on every sale to ensure the customer is happy; it could be anything which cements you in the customer’s mind and brings them back. A restaurant with a “family room” gets my vote: if there are children in my party I don’t need to worry about them disturbing other diners. If I don’t, I am treated to a civilized meal without benefit of a whining tot at the next table.

Consider what you can do to make your business different. There is a famous Chicago restaurant where the staff yells at the customers. This is apparently popular and has been for many years. Not to my taste, but it stands out.

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