Top tips: how to advertise for free

For small businesses, marketing has often been regarded as an out-of-reach luxury. Even before the GFC, buying advertising space in the local paper or engaging in a direct mail campaign was beyond many’s financial means. So they remained mute and opportunities were left untapped. But advertising does not require hard cash. Even a business with shallow pockets can find many ways to get its name out there. 

1 Social media

LinkedIn is a useful tool, but we are talking primarily about Twitter and Facebook. While burdened with a ‘social’ tag, their business potential is increasingly being utilised. 

Twitter Corporate Twitter accounts don’t always work – a personal approach can be more effective marketing. Rather than using ‘Joe Bloggs Printing’ as the Twitter handle, the user might be the owner, Joe Bloggs himself. As for content, establish an identity by linking to interest-ing print-related news stories, or great pieces of design; chat to fellow printer; chat to clients; give people an insight into your day job, tell them what you are up to and why. Twitter is not for hard sells. 

Do Tweet regularly (at least four or five times a day); link to things that interest you; engage other users in conversation; give an insight into your work.

Don’t Aggressively push your firm; be overly corporate; be rude/controversial; fail to engage with others; have a long list of followers, but not follow anyone. 

Facebook Setting up a Facebook page is easy and here the promotion can be much more at the forefront. The aim is to create a feeling of exclusivity for users. Offer Facebook-only deals and sneak previews of current work. Offer insights that others would not get (for example, how did you create that mirror effect?). Users will ‘like’ your page if you offer them value for doing so. The more you post and the more photos you put up, the more people will engage.

Do Offer exclusive deals, post lots of pictures as these will be shared with other users; encourage comments on work and the page as these will show up in users’ newsfeeds and encourage more to ‘like’ your page.

Don’t Contact users too frequently; abuse your power by sending group messages to all your fans; fail to update your page frequently – you have to keep things interesting or the page will go dormant.  

2 Networking

Even the mention of the word will have printers cringing. Yet successful networking can reap serious rewards. 

Local events If you see a sign for a school fair, art market or a summer fête, why not head down for an hour and show your face. Talk to people and help out; explain what you do; be active in your community.

Business forums Engage with your Apex or Lions Club or get some local business owners together once a month for a chat and a drink in the local pub. Suddenly you have a network of potential clients who, in turn, will recommend you to others.

Trade shows Visit stands and get your face known; talk about what you do and how you do it. Emphasise what makes you special. These people will be talking to clients and printers all over the country and they can be your messengers.

Do Talk to as many people as possible; attend every event you can; when chatting, ask as many questions as you answer; engage in debate and discussion; emphasise why your business is special and what you can do.

Don’t Hide in a corner; mumble replies; bore people – ensure you know when attention is waning; get stuck talking to one person all night – it is okay to excuse yourself with a “It’s been nice chatting, let’s catch up again, I should just go and have a chat with…”

3 Local press

You may not think that what you are doing is anything special, but you might be surprised by what interests local newspapers. The local press is a great way of getting your company recognised by business owners and local residents. 

Are you printing a local history book? Are you producing a card for someone’s 100th birthday or 50th wedding anniversary? Have you done a run of flyers for a local event? These are all things a local paper might run a story on. You can get your name into that story by sending the local paper a press release. 

Always ensure, though, that you secure the permission of the customer. The basic framework for a press release is as follows:

Headline Get your story across immediately. For example, ‘Local man celebrates 100th birthday’.

Content Read the local newspaper and frame your release to match its style – what information does it include? What does it tell its readers in a news story? Find something with added value – did the 100-year-old man fight in the war? Has he lived in the area for all those 100 years? Remember to say you are printing the book/card and include a comment about what a special project it is.

Contacts Ensure you put your details on the release so that you are the point of contact for the journalist.

Pictures Take some pictures of the product and the client (again, ensure you have the customer’s permission) and make sure they are of a high-resolution for print. Having pictures will increase your chances of being published.

Submission Send it at once. If you hear nothing after a week, follow up with a phone call. If it does not run, don’t be put off from trying again. 

Do Remember the trade press. It’s not just printers that read magazines like ProPrint, many of our readers are print buyers. So if you’ve bought some new kit, expanded your product offering, won a new deal or have an opinion on an industry trend – get in touch (see p82).

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