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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
The Sun

Dittmar: Networking, community work can enhance advertising


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I’m proud to know my great-great uncle on my father’s side was Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Ole Mark said a lot of profound things in his long lifetime, but one of my favorites is “many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”

But we often think of advertising as expensive, and when the economy is tight, marketing dollars are the first things cut. And while no one is really sure if Thomas Jefferson said it, he – and Henry Ford – are often quoted as saying that “stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time. It doesn’t work.”

So how can you make the most of your marketing without crashing your budget? Just get creative. You may have heard some of these before, but they certainly bear repeating.

The Kiwanis, Rotary and the Lions clubs have meetings every week and are always looking for informative and engaging speakers. Overcome your fear of talking in front of a group and develop a 15-minute program that educates people on some part of your business. Don’t make it a sales pitch – you’ll lose them that way. Instead, give them some information they can take away from the meeting. Once you’ve spoken at one event, you’ll be in demand with all the other groups.

How’s your “elevator pitch?” You know, that short version of what you do. If you’re saying, “I’m in banking” instead of “I work with people like you to balance bank accounts, establish good credit and protect your money,” you may need to polish your introduction.

Keep it short. Research shows the average attention span of an adult is about six to eight seconds. That’s not a lot of time to get someone’s attention. If they like what they hear in that short amount of time, you have maybe another minute to expound. Make what you say compelling and talk about the sizzle, not the steak.

It doesn’t cost anything but time for you to network, and there are lots of opportunities for that in the South County area. No matter the time of day, you can find a networking group – and most of them are free. People can’t refer you if they don’t know you’re out there. And the more they see you and like you, the more likely they are to mention you to their customers.

If you do have some extra advertising dollars, think about ways to spend it improving your community. Sponsor a local team or event like the chamber’s upcoming golf tournament or help finance a local charity. That’s the best PR you can get for the money.

Local newspapers like this one are looking for copy every week. Is something going on in your business or industry that’s newsworthy? Draft a press release and email it to the paper. You’ll very likely get a phone call from an intrepid reporter who wants more details. Let the community know about that new license you earned or the expansion you just made.

Don’t be invisible just because you’re a small business. Get creative and make sure your company’s name is out there. My great-great uncle would be so proud!

Dana Dittmar is the executive director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at (813) 634-5111.

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