Marketing and Promotion

The purpose of marketing is to ensure that the pricing and packaging of your services and/or products creates demand and makes people eager to purchase from you. Advertising today is very different than it was as recently as ten years ago. While this book provides insufficient space for completely covering this subject, it will offer a solid overview and direct you to sources for further research.

Unless you specialize in a super narrow area, you meet potential clients every day — standing in line at the bank, sitting in your vet's office, or riding in an elevator. The secret to connecting with people — even strangers — lies in asking questions. Let the other person speak, and respond with appropriate questions reflecting your interest in what they've said.

Advertising for Name and Logo Recognition

This type of advertising differs from sales advertising in that it doesn't seek to convince the viewer or reader to purchase anything. While products or services may be used in ads, the focus is on the company. The ads make the business name and/or logo linger in consumers' minds and usually elicit positive emotions and leave the audience feeling good.

This kind of advertising is expensive — think of the millions of dollars companies pay for a few minutes of airtime at the Super Bowl. You can use this type of advertising in a smaller way by creating a professional logo. Graphic artists can do this for you. Simple services are also available at stores such as WalMart and Office Depot. Online companies such as VistaPrint.com have pages of logos from which to choose. You may decide on one of these prepackaged logos for a very reasonable price, but VistaPrint will also create logos to your specifications, as will many online and on-site companies. Spend available funds up front on the creation of a logo; it's your main recognition tool.

Are logos really important?

Yes! Name and logo recognition, or branding, builds trust in your company. People trust what they recognize and distrust what they don't. Place your logo on business cards, stationery, brochures, pens, and anything that ends up in the hands of prospective clients.

Many people will advise you never to put money into a logo that will need to be updated later at additional cost. This is good advice — if you have the funds to have your logo professionally created at startup. It's pricey to do so, and all companies update them periodically to show a fresh “now” look. This leads to the other school of thought: Lacking the means to do anything else, create your own logo, or have it done with minimal cost in order to get your business up and running. Of course, if you have no talent for this, don't do it yourself. You know if something looks professional; if you can't create this look, forget it.

Advertising to Specific Audiences for Specific Sales

Unlike advertising for name recognition — which spreads information over a large area — sales advertising focuses on specifics. It can be aimed at target markets using specific products or at target markets using your general product line. This is an oversimplified explanation, of course.

If you want, work with a consultant, although as the owner you know more about your business than anyone else. Professional consultant Suze Orman (www.suzeorman.com) offers tips to help you manage advertising for your business. Also, many nonprofits, such as SCORE (www.score.org) and the Acadia Center for Social and Business Entrepreneurship (www.acsbe.com) stand ready to assist you.

Print Advertising

A professional business card is absolutely necessary for building contacts and name recognition. Brochures, while more expensive, can be invaluable in providing potential clients with an overview of your business. If you have the time and inclination, you may want to create your own. You may be familiar with VistaPrint and PaperDirect, but there are others that have features that may appeal to you.

Many marketing experts recommend a press kit over brochures alone. The press kit is useful when targeting a particular client or business. You can purchase plain pocket folders or customized folders with your name, logo, address, and phone numbers and a slot for your business card. Inside, place a letter of introduction with an invitation to learn more about your services by viewing the contents of the kit. The next page should detail how you're different from the competition. If you can get clients to write a short recommendation, include those blurbs on a separate page or two. This can be tricky in private investigation; clients may not want to talk about their cases, but some — especially businesses — may be willing to give a generic bit of praise.

A third page should provide your history and the history of the business — who you are, how and why you started it all, and what your mission and purpose are. Put it in story form and personalize it by writing in first person. Another page should detail your services. If you've created a brochure of services, use that instead. If you have copies of press releases (which should be provided to newspapers at startup), include them. Any promotional materials such as pens or sticky notes with your name and logo can be included, and be sure your Web site is referenced. In the introduction letter, suggest that you'll give the client a call within a specified period of time to answer any questions.

Other advertising vehicles include magnetic signs for your automobile, billboards, trade shows, radio and television ads and spots, magazine ads, and Internet blog sites. You can also volunteer to write a security piece (if your writing is strong) in local newspapers or magazines — even your church bulletin. Think creatively and other ideas will present themselves. Choose the venue that matches your budget.

Networking

Many networking groups meet regularly. Some charge one-time fees for membership, others charge monthly fees, and still others don't charge at all. Some have monthly lunch or breakfast meetings. Most require members to provide leads for each other. Meetings are usually mandatory, and members are only allowed to miss a certain number of them. Should you join one of these groups, distribute plenty of business cards, and do your part in providing leads. Offer to speak to the group on some issue of security. In fact, preparing a speech on a security topic of general interest will prepare you to present your skills anywhere at a moment's notice. Business Networking International is one of the largest networking groups. See its Web site at www.bni.com for more information.

Speaking

Businesses and organizations look for fresh speakers. Make yourself available to the Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, and other service organizations. Join one if you're interested in community service, which can be rewarding, but also goes a long way in establishing good will with other business owners. Don't use these organizations as a way to get new clients, however. Members will spot this type of motivation in no time. Join because you want to give back to your community, and think of any work that arises from this as icing on the cake. For speaking engagements, check with your Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. It may keep a listing of speakers according to subject or profession.

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