There’s no such thing as a cheap ad! If you pick the lowest priced newspaper or the shortest ad and no one reads it, you’ve thrown away your money regardless how little it was. If you pick the most expensive advertising medium with the most elaborate ad and it pulls sales with bottom line profits, then it is worth the money. The real test of advertising is the amount of profit-dollars each ad generates versus the cost of the advertising itself. Most people don’t even bother to measure this. That’s one reason why most people DON’T MAKE IT AS ENTREPRENEURS.
The cheapest advertising is that which someone else pays for! As a lifelong practicing cheapskate, I think I know what I’m talking about. I retired from Brokerage after 3 years. During that time I averaged only $600 PER YEAR in paid advertising. That was almost 15 years ago. Many of the major real estate firms that were in competition with me are gone. Others were owned by people who still haven’t made enough profit to retire because they didn’t understand that NET profit not GROSS BUSINESS was the key to financial success. Nor did they understand that lower advertising expense adds up to higher profits.
Here are some of the things I did to attract attention. Our town had several of those weekly shopper newspapers. It cost $1.50 a YEAR to subscribe because they made their money on advertising. The more customers they had, the more they could charge for advertising, so subscriptions cost just enough to cover postage. For each old customer, I paid for a one year subscription with MY NAME on the label AT THEIR ADDRESS. So 52 times a year I was brought to customers’ attention on a GIFT SUBSCRIPTION. This automatically generated a favorable impression which was being periodically re-enforced at weekly intervals. But there’s more.
I made arrangements with this newspaper to write a weekly real estate investment column in exchange for free advertising display space in a favorable location (top right corner of the right hand page). My columns dealt with items of interest concerning real estate together with a question and answer section. I enjoyed a little prominence simply because they appeared in print. Then, my display ads gave me a chance to wish all my customers Happy Christmas, Easter, Labor Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. at no cost. They all got the paper for free. I also ran my advertisements near the column so there would be a connection between the real estate “expert” and my real estate office.
Next, I researched the yellow pages in my telephone directory and identified all the local service organizations and social clubs such as the Elks, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. I wrote a form letter to each of the Program Chairmen offering to give a brief luncheon address on the subject of real estate investment; and I included a list of 10 subjects such as: Leasing, Finding a Good Location, Pitfalls of Buying Land, What Makes an Apartment House a Good Buy, etc. I also included a current copy of my newspaper article with the letter.
I did the same thing for the local TV and Radio stations. Furthermore, I offered to fill in on any show ON SHORT NOTICE in which the guest didn’t show or where there was a programming void. I was able to sit in on panel shows, zoning discussions, and area development debates – all of which gave me tremendous exposure at very low cost. Furthermore, the publicity gave me all sorts of credibility and profitable contacts among the members of these groups as well as audiences. To enhance these results, I did something else.
When I’d speak, I’d prepare a stapled 9 page handout which I had printed at Insty-Print which contained a summary of my talks, plus my name and address. This was offered to listeners who wanted to drop by my office and pick one up, or who wanted to call in for one. It was a freebie. I also began to offer a Real Estate Round Table by appointment in my office one night a month. My wife would bake cookies and serve coffee.
I’d use the handout mentioned above for a lesson plan. A $14 K-Mart black board had a permanent example of the effects of leverage on yield on it which I used as a training aid. After 45 minutes I’d break for coffee and take questions. Then I’d get the group to fill out a brief questionnaire on which they listed their names, addresses, reaction to the short forum and the amount of money they might have to invest.
You can imagine how all this activity built business for me. And I didn’t-let it stop there. I also handed out calendars during December each year to all my old customers. These had my name and address printed prominently, had a space designated in which my customers could log telephone numbers they frequently called, and it also contained a holiday message too. Not only did I generate a lot of goodwill, but I had a chance to pass on real estate news to old customers, renew acquaintances, tell them about my progress, ask them for referrals and give them a calendar to pass out at work to someone else.
The combination of ONE AD PER WEEK, A WEEKLY NEWSPAPER COLUMN, RADIO INTERVIEWS, TELEVISION PANELS, SHORT LECTURES, A MONTHLY REAL ESTATE FORUM and YEARLY CALENDARS kept me fully occupied for 80 – 90 hours per week generating income with little expense. My publicity blitz produced big results: All by myself, I was listing and selling 4% of all the houses in my Board of Realtors in which there were 2000 other competing sales people.
Rather than renting an office, I bought an attractive modern residence with seller financing, and converted it to office space. Where my competition was reducing profit margins by paying out rents, my office expense was held to a minimum because I rented offices to a civilian security company. Their rents paid for my total mortgage payment, lawn care service, janitorial service and utility bills.
As luck would have it, I found I could use my tenant, the security company as a source of additional customers. It employed between 125 and 150 guards, all of whom were required to make application on a notarized form, I offered FREE NOTARY SERVICES. This brought all of these people into my office from time to time – and each time the price of notary services was that they had to take a business card and pass it out to someone else.
Not only was this good for me, it was good for them and the security company. Consequently, the security company remained my tenants for 15 years; paying commercial market rent over that entire period of time. Moreover, I sold many houses to these employees as well as to the manager and the staff.
Today, I continue to pass as much of my advertising expense as possible on at the lowest possible cost to others. The Commonwealth Letters pass on information as well as notices of upcoming seminars. The booklet that we write and sell contains information regarding the seminars, newsletters, and other booklets. It takes me a couple of days to write a booklet, and several dollars to get it printed. But each time it’s read I try to get the point across that I present seminar and write newsletters, all of which contain information beyond the scope of the book you’re reading, and which should be purchased at the earliest opportunity.
It’s a lot cheaper to write a booklet than to pay for space advertising in the newspapers – and there’s every possibility that those who read it will have paid me to send it to them. . Currently, we have a web site (www.cashflowdepot.com) to showcase our wares at very low cost. It can be counted on to generate a certain amount of business in each year, and we’re expanding it. Doesn’t that beat my paying for advertising?
Do you see what I just did? I stuck an ad for the company website into the text in hopes that you’d be curious enough to check it out. When you find it, you’ll find all sorts of products cleverly displayed together with an on-line order blank. Underhanded? I don’t think so. I try to give good value in what I write and/or teach. But I can’t do that unless I get the word out.
I depend upon YOU the reader to help me do that by giving you some of the insights gleaned from my own experience which are unique and which you won’t get anywhere else at any price. This way, you gain something from me of value and in turn give me something back so that I can stay in business. And remember, there’s nothing to keep you from doing the same thing in your own area if you want to.
One more thing I’ve done that has been a lot of fun for me and of potential value. From time to time I’ve been asked to speak to the local college class of Freshmen entering into the business curriculum. Many of them haven’t even given a thought to the rough and tumble world of profit and loss so what I have to say is different from what they’ve heard in the past. As a result, more than one has subscribed to my newsletter (and $70 is a lot for a kid in college) and others have told their folks about me. Oh yeah – some of the kids have gone on to becoming entrepreneurs in their own right. That’s the real bottom line as far as I’m concerned.
Children play at games, adults play at life – and the greatest game of all is to contend against events, pitting your energy and unique intelligence to see how good you can really be. The marvel of it all is that, in a free country, every person who wants it enough can engage in the great competition of the free market. There’s no entry fee, no restrictions, no age limits, no bias against race, creed, color, marital status, sexual preference, disability, national origins. It’s a pure meritocracy in which the best prosper over the mediocre and the average over those with lesser ability. But there’s a catch…
Those with more knowledge and insight, more experience and intuition, more creativity and daring have an advantage. That’s the bad news! The good news is that you too can catch up through study and reflection, self-motivation and desire.
From Jack Miller’s book Fortune Building Concepts book