FORTUNE Small Business:

Targeting local prospects for direct marketing

Direct marketing could be the right low-cost approach for finding new customers.

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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: Do you have any suggestions or advice for local business marketing? We offer a computer repair service and would like to expand our customer base within a two-to-three-mile radius of our office location. What would be some low-cost but effective ways to expand our business?

- Philip Lam, Grants Pass, Ore.

Dear Philip: Computer repair services are local and specialized, so experts recommend you use direct marketing, which allows you to reach businesses within targeted zip codes or geographic areas, says Willis Turner of Richmond, Va., marketing consulting firm Huntsinger & Jeffer.

Start by compiling a list of businesses located within a three-mile radius of your office. Pay special attention to prospects that fit your customer profile - advertising agencies, say, or attorneys or engineering firms.

Design a low-cost mailer such as a simple, oversized postcard to raise awareness about your company and your services - and consider incorporating a coupon or discount offer on a special service, says Scott Robbins, CEO of Midwest Direct Marketing of Spring Hill, Kan. For example, you might try offering a discounted memory installation or computer cleaning.

Putting a "call by" deadline or expiration date on the offer will also help spur immediate action, Robbins says.

Also consider tailoring offers to certain kinds of businesses. Accountants may be enticed by repair discounts or a pickup and drop-off option during tax season, for example.

Measure your results, test different offers and continually refine your marketing approach for the next go-round, Turner says.

Print advertising in certain markets can also be cost-effective. Try buying ad space in trade journals or newspapers. Small business advocate Jim Blasingame recommends purchasing inserts for your local newspaper, which can target delivery addresses within a three-mile radius of your office.

Ultimately, think about what might drive you, as a consumer, to pick up the phone and call. "Business consumers are subject to the same drives and motivators as any other consumer," Turner says.  To top of page

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