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"'Ask the Small Business Professor' is a must read for small business owners looking for free expert business advice. Using a Q&A format, Bruce Freeman covers important small business topics weekly by bringing in recognized experts on subjects including accounting, legal issues, trademarks marketing and sales. Don't miss it!"

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APR Principal

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"I've been working with patients for almost 10 years as a Chiropractic Physician. I'm always looking for new ways to increase awareness of the valuable clinical services provided at my centers. Bruce Freeman has given me insightful ideas to assist in my marketing efforts. I rely on his 'Ask the Small Business Professor' column to keep me abreast of new trends and developments in the field. I couldn't ask for a more knowledgeable and capable advisor as my companies move forward into providing nationwide healthcare for patients."

Dr. Daniel Houshmand, D.C.

AlternaCare Wellness Centers, LLC

Small Business Marketing

Dear Professor Bruce:

I’ve just started my own business, and am trying to let the world know I exist – but I don’t have a huge budget for advertising. Where do I start?


As you’ve discovered, it’s not enough to have a great product – if the world doesn’t know you exist, they can hardly beat a path to your door. In fact, on average, often up to 50% of small business’ marketing budget is spent on advertising.

But according to Kevin Epstein, author of Marketing Made Easy, (Entrepreneur Press), there’s a better way to start than throwing money at the problem. "The top three things you can do are to be noticeable, be available, and ask people you know to help. Specifically:

  • Be noticeable: put a professional sign up outside of your business, choose a memorable name, register for a memorable web address, and buy a memorable phone number, like 1-800-get-trap. The more visible and memorable you are, the less total advertising you’ll need to make an impression on your prospective customers. Also, ask yourself: do you understand your customers? Do you know where they get your information, in general? How do they get their information about your type of business? For example, your customers may learn about new restaurants through local yellow-pages ads, but learn about new house-painters through direct mail offers, and learn about new car dealerships through local cable television ads or signs. Tell prospective customers about your business in the way they want to be told.
  • Be available: be sure your business hours match those of your prospective customers, and that you’re listed in directories they use. Who cares about the general yellow pages and 9am-5pm if your prospective customer base of trappers works 6pm – midnight, and reads only “Trappers Service Phone Directory”? As above, ask your customers how they learn about your business, and why they don’t learn through other methods. Survey the customers of competing businesses. Understand how & when they want to be reached, and how & when they want to reach you – or risk misplacing your advertising and spending too much.
  • Ask people you know to help: Word of mouth is the least expensive and most powerful advertising you can do. Spend $20 to print some business cards with your company information on them (including what you do, like “best traps for mice”!), design some email in the same theme (with more information) and then send email and physical mail to every friend and family member you have asking them to forward your information to their friends and family. Keep a record of everyone who contacts you and do the same thing again. If you provide great service, soon your base will start to grow to a point where you can engage in more traditional flyers, billboards, rented mail lists, and “traditional” advertising.

For further information, contact www.stupidmarketing.com.

If the world doesn’t know you exist, they can hardly beat a path to your door.