You’ve recently opened a promotional products business. You’ve rented the office space, assembled the product catalogs and received the kit of startup samples. When it comes to generating customers, however, you haven’t made much progress. You realize that you need a coordinated strategy that builds on your network of business and personal contacts. You also acknowledge that you need to completely change your mindset toward your customers.
Shift your mindset from a “sales” mentality into a “problem solving” mode. Each potential customer faces difficulties in reaching his own customers. Your job is to help him meet the challenges using your creativity and your product(s). View the interaction as a “win win” partnership. For each prospect, list the products or services she provides, along with her target markets. List at least one product that would help your prospect reach her customers. Here’s an example: For a florist, design a refrigerator magnet with the florist’s contact information. In addition, the magnet might include the dates for major “gift-giving” holidays during the next year.
Organize a business brainstorming group. Ask your Chamber of Commerce to set up lunchtime problem-solving sessions, and to ask attendees to make a list of their challenges. Don’t approach the sessions as group sales pitches. Instead, make a sincere effort to assist other members. You may find that opportunities present themselves. Contact information for your local Chamber of Commerce can be obtained through the United States Chamber of Commerce website. See Reference.
Set up expos at business group meetings. Business groups welcome new ideas that will help members to promote their companies. Hold a mini-expo at a scheduled quarterly meeting. Invite members to set up a table and exhibit their products and services. Exhibitors often “shop” other members’ tables. These interactions provide more opportunities for you to meet fellow business owners and help them overcome their marketing challenges.
Become a partner in a charity event. Find out about upcoming charity golf tournaments, chili cookoffs or other popular events. Contribute sponsorship money; outfit all contestants in your shirts, hats, visors or other clothing, free of charge; and offer a package of services as one of the prizes. These efforts will give you good visibility within your business community, and will help you to broaden your network of contacts.
Create promotions tied to community events or holidays. If your city has a popular annual festival, for example, offer to create the official tee shirt at a terrific price. For an annual river cleanup, offer discount pricing for event tee shirts, plus a donation to the cause. For Valentine’s Day, create a custom tote bag filled with lotions and chocolates. Get distribution in a variety of retail outlets. All of these promotions will help you to be seen as a valuable member of the business community.
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.