Raise Your Company's Profile for Little or No Cost

The most effective publicity is often free or very inexpensive. It simply takes a little of your time and some creative intelligence.

Here are three idea that will help you raise your company's profile so potential customers will hear about your firm:

1. Teach. One often overlooked marketing strategy is to offer courses to the public that deal with your company's specialty. Teaching establishes you as an expert and attracts attention to your business. And in most instances, the cost is minimal.

Schools, libraries, local colleges, trade groups and business organizations always need instructors. Or you can sponsor courses and hold them at your place of business.

Design a course that attracts the potential customers that your company is trying to go after. Make the information tie in with your product or service.

2. Join. Take an active role in your industry trade association and urge your top managers to do the same. Consider running for a top elective office in the group or lobbying for a spot on the board of directors. Get the word out that you and your staff are available at not charge for speaking engagements.

You might attract more new business in a month than you could generate from a year's worth of conventional — and costly — advertising.

3. Greet. Develop a brief, compelling "marketing greeting" for your telephone voice mail system. The greeting can introduce a new product or service or it can showcase a long-standing item that you've decided to market more aggressively.

4. Open your heart. Participating in charity fundraisers is a great way to get your company's name out while making a contribution to the community. You may get a tax deduction as well.

Surveys have shown that consumers have a more favorable opinion of companies that support charities and would be more likely to buy a product associated with a cause they care about.

Charities often seek corporate sponsors. It might be a benefit ball or a golf tournament to raise contributions. In some cases, you and your employees can be tapped as volunteers to work at the events.

In selecting an organization, of course, you want to choose a cause that's important to you and staff members. You may also want a charity that appeals to your target market.

A more intensive approach is to actually team up with a charity. This type of marketing began many years ago, but the source of modern cause-related marketing is generally considered to be American Express's 1983 campaign to donate a penny for the rebuilding of the Statue of Liberty every time its credit card was used.

Bottom line: Opening your heart can be good business.

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