Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · The Economy

When budgets are tight, some businesses stop marketing and advertising.  In fact, according to American Express Open, about 40% of SMB owners reported eliminating their ad budgets in 2009 due to economic uncertainty.  Yet we know that this approach costs businesses much more over the long run (if they ever live that long).  Still, if you don’t have the money, what are you going to do?

Take a cue from several of the businesses featured after the jump – they found creative ways to ‘partner’ with larger, complimentary businesses to get their names out there and their brands burnished, with relatively little hard cash invested.

Why would a larger business carry you on their back when they’re footing the bill?  Good question.  It all comes down to two things: 1) They can make a big brand seem more local/personal (small firms often have unique ties to the community that are based on heritage, know-how, and local flavor), 2) The larger business can use the services of a smaller partner directly to differentiate itself and attract broader traffic.

The Big Idea:
Find a larger business – ideally a steady advertiser in a crowded, competitive field and approach them with a great idea about how your well-liked product or service can help them differentiate their brand image or provide an incentive for consumers to traffic their location.  We’ve seen winning combos as diverse as bakeries/coffee shops setting up house in auto service centers, high-fi/electronics businesses kitting-out the waiting areas of local car washes, retailers working with the local ASPCA, grocers with local vintners and specialty food purveyors, banks and credit unions with a host of companies that benefit from easy financing.  The possibilities are endless

If you’re a larger business, look for cool local firms that have strong connections to their communities. Businesses that have strong social networks, loyal customers who make regular purchases, etc.  Have these firms set up shop in your location and drive their customers to YOU.  Recently, we worked with an auto dealer who gave discount certificates to one of the premiere local restaurant groups to anyone who took a weekend test drive and awarded several drivers complimentary all-inclusive meals.

• Promote it. These partnerships typically work best when both partners use their respective marketing – and the practices that each does best – to get the word out in a syncronized way.

• Use a matchmaker. It can often be difficult to identify the right partner and make the initial approach to the right person at the right time.  Unless you’re highly networked and have some experience designing cooperative marketing efforts, use your local media experts to get things started.  Our radio sales teams usually have a deep knowledge about potential partners and relationships with the decision-makers themselves.  Moreover, they can help advise you on creative, out-of-the-box ways to promote your partnership for optimal impact/minimal cost.

Posted by . In topics: Management · The Economy

While you may have some experience buying paper products, computer equipment, or even insurance for your small business at Sam’s Club, odds are you haven’t tried their newest service:  small business lending.

With a lot of the government stimulus programs coming to an end, often without helping the liquidity crisis facing many small and medium sized businesses, retailers like Sam’s (A division of Walmart) are taking it upon themselves to help businesses finance growth.  Call it over-the-counter stimulus plans.  Sam’s lending service is built upon a standard SBA loan program, though the service streamlines the paperwork and approval process considerably (a significant deterrent for many businesses) and even discounts the loan application.

The program lends from $5,000 to $25,000, unsecured, at a low rate (7.5% at time of publication).  Pre-approval is available online in minutes…  To date, about 45% of its applicants have been approved. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · Radio · The Economy

Most small and mid-sized local businesses have had to make all kinds of tough decisions since the Recession began.  According to American Express, only 20% of these firms have been able operate profitably without major cut-backs in staff and operating capital.

Marketing is an obvious target for most budget cutting.  The only problem with chopping the marketing budget is its damaging impact on sales.  According to numerous studies over the last 80 years, firms that eliminate their marketing decline rapidly during tough times.  Those that even cut back modestly lose significant market share to the few firms that don’t cut.  They also tend to miss significant gains in the first 2-3 years of recovery.

So how do you make a tough budget decision that preserves your near-term viability without causing an even greater long-term problem?  Simple:  cut your marketing budget to the bone, but spend your remaining dollars to dominate an audience – no matter how small that audience may have to be.  It’s a principle that smart advertisers have been using for decades, through good times and bad, but one that proves essential for every firm when funds run tight. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Marketing · The Economy

In tough economic times, consumers go where they still get the best value.  You either have to increase the value side of the equation or reduce the cost equation.  Reducing cost can have significant long-term effects on your business, since prices are typically difficult to raise until demand increases to the extent that consumers are willing to pay more to get what they want, when they want it (don’t expect this to happen soon!).  Value, on the other hand, can help you out in several ways:  it can increase loyalty more than pricing ever could and it can differentiate your business in a lasting, meaningful way.

So what can you do to increase the value side?  And do this without spending a ton of dough giving away stuff for free?  Take a 720° look at your business.

What does 720° mean?  Good question, and you’ll profit by understanding it before your competitors do.  The number 720 is 360 times two.  As you may know, “360°” is business jargon/consultant speak for taking a comprehensive, “full view” of something.  We use the “times two” reference because when owners look at their businesses from two different  360° viewpoints, interesting opportunities to add value emerge. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · Radio · The Economy

Wendy Harris, Team Harris Realty

2009 was a great year for Wendy Harris, of Team Harris Realty, despite the horrible macro environment for realty businesses.  While many of her peers reacted to the real estate downturn by reducing or eliminating mass-marketing, Wendy moved in the opposite direction with spectacular results.

Wendy recently wrote to share her story: “Thanks to Cumulus radio, I outsold every resale Real Estate agent in Fayetteville and continue to increase my business!”

Wendy took advantage of radio’s unique ability to deeply inform potential clients as part of the mass-reach/high-frequency branding process.  She differentiates her business with a unique listing proposition:  a guarantee to sell the house at a specified price by a specified deadline and backs her guarantee by agreeing to buy the home if she doesn’t hit her goals.  By breaking this concept down into several explanatory radio commercials she quickly communicated this program to anxious sellers.  “The phones started ringing the first week I started.” Read more »