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Marketing in a Recession:
Creative Strategies Small Businesses are Using

by Susan Solovic
It's difficult to promote your business when the economy is tight, but every business owner understands the importance of attracting new customers.  Because funds are tight many small businesses are coming up with simple, inexpensive, creative ways to build their brand. 

Take Eric Stamos, co-founder of Zakle.com.  Eric rides a bright yellow recumbent bicycle in areas where there are a lot of people.  When people stop to comment on his cool looking ride, he hands them a t-shirt with the Zakle logo.  Stamos knows it is working because he can see a spike in traffic from areas where he has biked.  (Imagine what good shape he must be in too.)  Zakle.com has member in 46 states and 40 countries and the site allows you to give and get favors. 

In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a downtown toy store purchased a bubble machine for outside their store.  In the morning they turn it on and the street fills with bubbles, attracting visitors.  Not only did the inexpensive, innovative marketing idea attract new business, it also built a base of loyal customers.  Loyal customers love it the bubble machine so much that if it isn't working right they report it to the owners. 

Contests are always popular ways when done appropriate to attract new business, but one dating service created a particularly interesting idea.  They invited people to submit their worst dating stories to a blog called www.livingmyMoMent.com. The winner received a free Hot Lunch Date Box of their choice.  According to the business owner, they had a lot of eager participants who were willing to share their dating nightmares. 

Finally, one of my favorites is the traveling trade show.  We all know it is expensive to travel to the big trade show events.  But Richard Avdoian, president of Team Work by Design, says he turns every opportunity into his own traveling trade show.  Areas he finds to be excellent "trade show" location include; waiting rooms, airports, coffee shop, and even airplanes.  (assuming you can find room.) 

Avdoian places a few current copies of professional association magazines and/or his company's newsletters, some promotional pieces and a few business cards on his table, readily available and visible.  (Personally, I'd consider a few give-away type items with my company info too.) 

Avdoian says, "The key is to display all the above fairly organized but not so that it looks staged.  The objective is to subtly prompt curiosity from bystanders who may scan your mini trade show booth" 

The bottom line is you can creatively develop effective marketing strategies for your business without breaking the bank.  Sometimes it is as simple as bubbles,  bicycles and hot box lunches.

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