How To Market Your Small Business Without ‘Selling’

How To Market Your Small Business Without 'Selling'

Since starting my small business three years ago, I’ve learned so much about how businesses get their products in front of people. It’s a fascinating subject, although being more aware of it means that I sometimes get tired of people trying to sell me things all the time. The fact is that the constant barrage of ads and gimmicks in the world make it really difficult to make your own product stand out memorably and desirably. I’ve seen some interesting things in the past few days that illustrate the importance of adding value to people’s lives and giving more than you take when promoting your product or service.

I took my children to the county fair yesterday. This year there was a new feature: Farmer’s Little Helper, a hands-on exhibit that takes kids through feeding the animals, milking the cow, gathering eggs, tending a garden, picking apples, and ultimately selling these wares at a farmer’s market where they receive a “”dollar” to buy a small snack. Several friends told me how great this free activity was, and my children certainly enjoyed it. It was a great fair activity for preschoolers, a sometimes overlooked crowd. In fact, I was so impressed with it that I was at least half-way through it before I noticed that the three shed/barns it was housed in were for sale. Clever, I thought. Parents are a more or less captive audience in there, and an audience that’s likely in a good mood because their kids are having fun. My vote? 5 stars.

I also represented my blog at a Maker Faire this weekend. (“The greatest show and tell on earth”, they call Maker Faires; I compare them to a science fair for all ages.) I’ve done many events in the past with my other business, always selling something. This time, my only task was to network. Instead of asking everyone to do something–buy–I offered entertainment in the form of building toys and storytime for their kids, interactive activities for them, and a paper bag house kit to take home. I ran out early of kits early and on the whole felt like I had made people happy all day. That’s pretty satisfying and, I believe, a good way to introduce my brand.

I ran out of promotional materials at the Faire. I usually order from Moo.com; I love their products and their packaging always has cool little extras, too. They’ve really won my loyalty with the witty stickers, little games, and reusable packaging. On top of that, their website is simple to use and uncluttered.

Sadly, I don’t have time to reorder from Moo before the next event, so I placed an order with Vistaprint. The experience did not impress me. I couldn’t do simple changes to my uploaded image like I can with Moo, or at least there was no simple and obvious way to do so. When I went to check out, there were pages of additional products with my image on them that they hoped I’d add to my cart. Even after I checked out, more Vistaprint ads popped up. It was overkill. They may be less expensive, but I very much doubt they will get my business again, because they asked too much from me.

What type of marketing do you feel is most effective? How do you get people to notice your business?

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