How do I market what my small company does?
November 27, 2004 11:01 AM   Subscribe

I own a very small company, and I feel that my product is the best in its category. If I can just get my message to the masses, my company will be a success (otherwise I'll have to go back to work for "the man"). What's the best way to ge the message out? I realize that everyone is advertising-averse, and I don't want to consider anything that might irritate people.
posted by yaquina27 to Work & Money (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any way you can give us some more information on the product? The marketing strategy you should employ will be heavily dependant on the product and target market.
posted by taang at 11:05 AM on November 27, 2004

Response by poster: We buy empty printer cartridges through a web site devoted to fundraising for schools and a second web site geared toward businesses and individuals. I'm relucatantly posting the URL's because I think it might help explain things. VERY sorry if I've committed a faux pas.
posted by yaquina27 at 11:18 AM on November 27, 2004

Is it this? Spears International Sells Empty Cartridges

I hate advertising as much as the next commie but the fact is: it works. I will say this: I have no idea what it is that you provide, even with the first glance at the site (assuming I have it right). 2. I won't find out as long as I need to download a PDF file to learn that.

Check that... I see in the "about" that your market must be pretty specific (i.e. it's not for the end-user, right?) AS such, direct marketing materials would seem to be the path to follow.

On preview: duh. Okay then. Can I send you my empties?
posted by Dick Paris at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2004

For the fundraiser, have you considered advertising in professional journals for educators? Or direct mail to band boosters etc?
posted by Megafly at 11:26 AM on November 27, 2004

Read this and this.
posted by azul at 11:34 AM on November 27, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not concerned about getting out the message that I sell empties, just that I want to buy more. I've got all of the buyers I can handle. I just need to collect more empties, so my advertising message would be about the two collection URL's.
posted by yaquina27 at 11:54 AM on November 27, 2004

2 words. Text ads. Cheap, with a wide readership.

Find sites where there are lots of educators, and buy textads on those sites. Ask every customer to publicize your service.
posted by theora55 at 12:26 PM on November 27, 2004

Response by poster: theora, I've been on MeFI Text Ads for a couple of weeks, and really haven't gotten any response. Perhaps not the best target market. I've also tried Google Adwords, with some moderate success. Since my company is pretty small, my advertising budget is also small. Text ads usually fit within my budget. Are there any other sites you'd recommend for text ads considering my targets?
posted by yaquina27 at 12:34 PM on November 27, 2004

I'm not concerned about getting out the message that I sell empties, just that I want to buy more.

In that case, your web site is giving the wrong message. I went to your site and said "this guy sells cartridges" not "this guy buys cartridges" even though you apparently do both. If you're going to do web based advertising you need to have a web site that will tell people quickly, easily and specifically what you can do for them [see Godin's book, above, and his site generally]. What you need to do to attract people will also partially determine where and how you advertise.

If you do local stuff mainly, see who the biggest producers of empty cartridges are [industry? school?] and contact their purchasing manager, or their recycling guy/lady directly with some clear messages, for example 1. you can earn some money doing this 2. it's better for the environment 3. I am worth doing business with. It's easy to seem like a larger operation than you are with some well-designed business cards, supplementary materials, embroidered t-shirt, whatever. Also look into those direct mail thingies like the ones in ValPak and take some time and effort [or enlist someone who does this for a living] to figure out how to get people to understand what you do [in my area, people would say "recycle cartidges, huh?" maybe not in yours] and why you are the best guy to do that. If I clicked through your text ad, I'd want to see the main page of your site saying "I'll give you 2 cents for every empty cartridge!" or something similar, then I'd possibly spend the time to learn more.

Also, and I assume this is not the sort of advice you are looking for, so take it with a grain of salt: have you considered changing the name of your company? Your last name is the same as the name of a fairly well known pop icon, so much so that when you type Spears International in to Google you don't find your site. You can also make your site more useful to search engines, and yourself, by filling in the META tags on your web site with non-spammy content that effectively describes what you do. Currently your site has this:

{meta name="keywords" content="Enter, keywords, here"}
{meta name="description" content="Enter a brief description here."}

Basically your site makes you look like you're just getting started. That's fine, not bad at all, but some back-end time fleshing out your online presence [maybe a printer cartridge recycling FAQ? maybe some "about us" information? a link to your blog?] would be a step towards looking like a more professional organization. Any advertising you do will have your number and/or URL on it. If you get people that far, it's worth the investment to have something to show them when they get there.
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on November 27, 2004

I'd suggest trying to tap into the student market, rather than just the schools themselves. Advertise through student newspapers or websites that target college students. Target college organizations and have them collect the cartridges from their members then send them in to you as a fundraiser. At large universities where there are organizations with hundreds of members, it might be worth it.
posted by jewishbuddha at 3:53 PM on November 27, 2004

Response by poster: jessamyn, I think you're basing most of your comments on my company site rather than the sites I'm looking to advertise. The proper sites are Educated Recycling and Empty Solution. I think they're straightforward about the fact that we buy empty cartridges. Oddly enough, we're not interested in local business because of a no-compete agreement with my old company. The Spears International site is geared toward my existing buyers who already know what I'm selling and just want to check prices and inventory, so I haven't put much effort into that site. And regarding my popular last name, I've been in the cartridge recycling industry for a while, and have build a reputation around my name, so within the context of the industry and my buyers, I'm not concerned about the similarity to Britney's name. In my personal life, I get a lot of comments, though.
posted by yaquina27 at 4:45 PM on November 27, 2004

Response by poster: azul, I've requested both of the books from my local library upon your suggestion. I'm very excited about the Seth Godin book. It appears to be exactly what I'm looking for. Thanks!
posted by yaquina27 at 5:08 PM on November 27, 2004

I like Godin more than Gladwell, but I consider Harry Beckwith's trio of books absolutely indispensable.

1.) Selling the Invisible.

2.) The Invisible Touch.

3.) What Clients Love.

If you're considering print advertising, the classic Ogilvy On Advertising is a solid start -- but chances are you'll hire a designer, who should already be familiar with Ogilvy's principles.
posted by cribcage at 8:32 PM on November 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for an online advertising solution, you might want to consider an affiliate network. Your affiliate network could consist of customers, content producers who are looking to monetize their traffic or ecommerce sites. Whomever you choose to target as an affiliate base, reward them either a percentage or a fixed amount for each successful transaction they are credited with. This model can work for online businesses as well as local, state wide, national and international brick and mortar stores. You'll simply need to tailor your affiliate program to your target audience. Your cost of advertising is directly proportional to the amount of sales your advertising generates less program costs.

You can also buy ads in existing affiliate networks, like BlogAds, however with your product I'm not sure you'll find your conversion rates satisfactory. You could try a using some fun creative in your ads, like, "Make Money Recycling!" if you want to run a test campaign.

Feel free to contact me via the email in my profile if you have any further questions.
posted by sequential at 9:53 PM on November 27, 2004

Get a blog. Have a real conversation with your customers. Give them discounts or special offers if they mention you on theirs.
posted by will at 1:20 PM on November 28, 2004

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