By Karen E. Klein Q: I have a small advertising outfit that targets local businesses, but I am on a shoestring budget when it comes to marketing. I don't advertise my Web site in large magazines or on billboards because I feel I will burn my marketing dollar. How can I raise potential clients' awareness of my Web site without breaking the bank? -- A.R., Fort Worth
A: You're right, large-scale advertising, such as in major magazines, on television, or billboards isn't for you. Not only are such methods costly, you would be wasting a large slice of your budget by paying to reach the general public, which has no need nor interest in the services you offer. Marketing dollars are scarce, why squander them?
You're already in a good position because you have identified your target market. Now, what you need to do is identify the people you need to reach. Who are they? Where do they hang out? What do they read? Who influences their business decisions? To what groups and organizations do they belong? In short, wherever the members of target market are to be found, that's where you want your outfit to be positioned. For instance:
Since local business owners probably belong to the Chamber of Commerce, are you introducing yourself and your services at mixers, breakfasts, and other functions? Is your company listed in the chamber's directory? If not, you should be.
Is there a particular radio show that's aimed at entrepreneurs in your region. Could you get the radio reporter to interview you about the advantages of advertising in your medium? Have you checked ad rates for that time slot with the radio station?
Members of your target market probably subscribe to whatever business journal is published in your area. Can you stretch you stretch your budget far enough to place an ad in that publication? Better still, can you write an article for an upcoming issue?
PERFECT PITCH. Marc Slutsky, of Street Fighter Marketing, says the best marketing opportunities often stem from professional groups. "Offer to speak, write articles, or offer a special deal to the membership. In other words, get those groups -- associations, networking organizations, and other business groups -- to promote your advertising Web site," Slutsky advises. You're in a good position to follow his advice because you possess expertise on a topic that interests most business owners: How advertising can bring them new clients and increase revenues.
It's important to remember, however, that when you approach such groups about speaking or writing, the people making the decisions will need to see how your wisdom and insights can benefit their members. In other words, the desire to promote your business won't be a sufficient reason in itself to obtain the exposure you seek.
"You need to have an open mind when it comes to figuring out where to advertise," Slutsky notes. "It might be a wise idea to advertise the Web site in a publication whose readership represents your target market. A combination of paid advertising and cross-promoting may offer the most effective way to get the word out about your company."
Have a question about your business? Ask our small-business experts. Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Smart Answers, BW Online, 45th Floor, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Please include your real name and phone number in case we need more information; only your initials and city will be printed. Because of the volume of mail, we won't be able to respond to all questions personally. Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.