Inexpensive marketing strategies

My wife and I bought our shop a little over a year ago. We have advertised in the local paper and have done the supercoups as well. Originally we were offering coupons that amounted to aprox 30% off. We were killing ourselves for nothing. We would get a sudden influx of buisness using the coupons and then we wouldn’t get much else until we sent out more coupons.

We are part of a 3 store mini chain and Ihave been running with the offers and advertising that the other 3 stores have been doing. Needless to say I am not happy with the response the coupons have gotten us.

The newspaper was a total waste of money as it was expensive and produced little if any results. The coupons work but we work like crazy and made no money.

Recently we have begun doing weekly specials and have been handing out flyers to our customers. We are setting up an email list to notify our customers of upcoming specials. This has raised our profit by lowering the discounted amount and eliminating coupons. However we are only reaching our existing customers. I have spent several Monday mornings drivng around handing out flyers but I need a more effective method of gewtting the word out. What are some of the marketing strategies you have used to some level of success?

Getting your menu out there is one of the most effective marketing practices…
http://takeoutprinting.com/How_to_Market_Your_Takeout.html has some great tips…

I don’t know if our experience can be helpful or not. We started exactly a year ago. Really struggled in the beginning but we just finished our year and last week topped $9800. We have a lot of marketing avenues - I’ve become a specialist in the least expensive avenues of sales generation. We spend on average $300-$400 per month on all marketing.

In general, divide your market into segment and approach each. Doorhanging hits some residential, “lunch lady” and menu flyering hits your lunch from businesses, banners/blow-ups get the drive-by, charitable contributions (donate 1-3 pizzas to the phone bank workers at United Way, sponsor a blood drive or 100 other small things), put $40 small ads in a weekly paper or monthly chamber of commerce newsletter, call a radio station and donate pizzas (or cut a discount deal) with the next car dealership that does a remote broadcast, get your logo up with the athletic dept of the local high school (programs, giveaways, game calendar). We’ve also had success with distributing matches with our logo and phone number to local bars (if smoking hasn’t been banned in your area).

There are 1,001 ideas - not all will work in your market but you need to keep trying a different mix of things to see what works The only other advice I can offer is don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t spend all your budget on just 1 thing. I try never to put more than $250 into one item (unless it’s a large postcard mailing or newspaper insert and then I skip a more expensive marketing item the month before to even out the money).

the ultimate question - how to spend not much money and make big returns.

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this every area is different, things that work really well some times don’t turn out the same next time and unfortunately your going to have to spend some money on getting some good material printed.

As TOP DOG says try different things - look at the FAQ section at the top of the TT list as there are loads and loads of suggestions. The only problem with this approach is that if you do a few things at the same time it’s hard to track whats working for you - but then again its a nice problem to have!

At the end of the day I would think from your post that you need to achieve two things:

  1. to get your menu’s out to as many people as possible - probably going to end up doing door hanging - spend some money to get a professional menu done it makes all the difference, and

  2. forget the 30% off deals ALWAYS try and add value to orders i.e. get a free side when you purchase a large pizza at regular price OR get 10% off when you spend $25 both get the customer to spend more money rather than giving them 30% off your regular price. Bearing in mind food and labour normally count for 50-60% of food cost giving anything near 30% off, as you found, doesn’t work you may as well just save your money and stay at home!

Hope this helps

For our little shop over the last 3 years, we have found that we needed to develop a Marketing Strategy rather than an advertising strategy. For us, that means a progressive and sustained means of getting our brand and name in front of people. Some have cost money while some have been cheap or free. A newspaper ad in a vacuum will produce little to know impact for us in our market. The ad we placed in the middle of our larger campaign strategy this summer has had some positive impact. We have had these things happen or done since we re-opened 6/1/07:

  • Article in newspaper about our pending reopening
  • Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting for opening of dining room (plus newspaper article)
  • School Nights fund raiser for elementary school (positive cash flow result)
  • Prepared news release for the donation of $$$ to school library (hoping for photo op with giant check)
  • Purchased full color post cards and mailed direct to rural routes in zip code
  • Grand Opening celebration party
  • Ad in local newspaper birthday edition
  • Ad in local bi-monthly magazine
  • Printed new full color glossy tri-fold menu for 1st time ever
  • Volunteered 3 hours selling admission tickets at local county mega-festival
  • Participating in Chamber of Commerce functions/events starting August 2007
  • Dropping menus and postcards at every independent business we can connect with (we are connected to lots)
  • in September - volunteered to feed Habitat for Humanity build crew (maybe 50 people)
  • in September - Sponsoring the hospitality/rest stop for Bike Ride Across Georgia - also selling brunch menu at store
  • Hosting 2 meetings in September for County organizations like Convention and Tourism Board!
  • Donated $300 for rent for local Genealogical Society Library (can pay over 6 months or more)

As you can see, some cost money, and some have been free. The total end result is that we have put our names in front of numerous groups of people as well as community leaders. No one item has been a huge success, but the sum total is a media and marketing blitz that will lay a stable foundation for what we do next. So many different people have seen us and have heard our message of community support and involvement, that they will know who we are when they see our name/logo/flyer/business card.

We are wearing our t-shirts everywhere we go, making introductions every chance we get, and then to big showy things when we can. We keep thinking about the next idea we need for next month. We gotta get the ball rolling, then kick it every now and again on a regular and strategic basis to keep it moving.