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building a brand
small business ideas
auto repair shops
start ups
cold drinks
busy parents
personal relationships
hot dogs
Building A Brand With Bbq: How To Cheaply Market A Small Business
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Building A Brand With Bbq: How to Cheaply Market A Small Business

A lot of business owners ask me how to market small business ideas. The answer is as varied and diverse as the people you’re trying to reach, but I’d like to throw out some ideas just to get your juices flowing.

The Grill Out.

A couple of packs of hot dogs and potato salad can be a great investment. Have balloons, coloring books, face painting, beanbag tosses and other fun and inexpensive activities for the kiddos and the kids-at-heart. You could bring in tailgate games like corn hole or tailgater’s golf. If you’re having trouble coercing participation, a prize will bring out all but the shiest of people.

Send emails or letters inviting customers, potential customers and their families. Don’t forget to invite employees and their families too – you never know where their positive word-of-mouth might take you.

Block off a large parking lot or hold it at a public park. Having a playground set nearby could be just the break for the busy parents. Provide lots of cold drinks – tea and lemonade are always big and cheap hits for start-ups.

So how is this marketing your small business?

Well besides you potentially putting promotional stickers on the prizes or Frisbees for the kiddos, you’re making a name for yourself – branding not only to your customers but their families. How many auto-repair shops, internet providers or grocery stores have you gone to that have provided a free family activity?

You’re small, so your customer base is probably small too. Getting time to talk with these people and develop long-term personal relationships is a weapon you can’t master in big business.

Icing on the cake.

You’re also showing your employees a good time – thus increasing the chances of attracting more loyal, enthusiastic personnel the next time you need to hire. Get them involved – they can paint faces, run the contests, man the grill, bring in some of the game sets if you’ve got a couple of avid tailgaters. With a little digging around you can make this a super affordable way to build business.

Too late for a holiday event?

How about a post-holiday event that stresses cleaning up a park from the holiday’s clutter? Provide some good food for happy volunteers. Bonus is you’re earning a name as environmentally conscious.

Take your marketing events to the next level.

There’s a fireworks store I adore and I can’t help but think if they ran demo events of their exclusive products they might triple the sales of their favorite products. (In their state it’s legal to exhibit fireworks if you have a fire marshal present.) Our local baseball team has a professionally run fireworks show after the ballgame every Friday during summer. It’s a huge crowd-pleaser, upping ticket sales and the purchases of over priced concessions.

Another promotional company I know has a drink-night open to all clients every Friday night to relax, have a few martinis or beers and hang out with the company’s staff. The staff love it and so do the clients.

Got a projector? How about a ‘Movie Night’? You could spice it up by having it outside like a drive-in movie and hand out bags of free popcorn. Be creative, but consider opening up the conversation beyond ‘Buy our products please’.

Building it doesn't mean they will come.

Be sure to model your event around what your customers like. One company did this grill-out idea entirely wrong. Instead of inviting people, they just opened up a tent, turned on a grill and hung a sign saying ‘free grill out’. Even though they were on a busy street (a very busy street) I passed them four times and not a single person came up to them. Why? People can smell a trap a mile away. If they’ve never talked to you and you’re throwing out a blanket net like ‘anyone nearby come over’ they’ll feel you’re trying to lure them in and charge them money somehow. That is 1) Too passive to be worth your time and 2) Too awkward about what’s expected. Please, please don’t do this.


Demystifying small business marketing and simplifying the design process isn't impossible. Any one can do it and even if you decide to outsource such things to other skilled professionals, you should be empowered with some of the basic principles so you can understand what they're doing!

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