Getting The Word Out-Inexpensively - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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In 1995, Niles Communications Group Inc. (NCG), a New York-based graphics communication and marketing firm, spent $25,000 on traditional marketing methods. However, the firm wasn’t getting noticed. It decided to use innovative marketing techniques and utilize its budget to sponsor events that would attract new business. These parties cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. At that time, NCG serviced small businesses, nonprofits, and government entities, and took in approximately $140,000 in revenue. Now, in 2003, after revamping its marketing strategy, the company boasts clients such as Colgate-Palmolive Co., The MONY Group, Time Warner, NYC Health and Hospitals Corp., and New York Life Insurance.

At the NCG parties, walls are decorated with brochures and displays of graphics that were designed for customers. The idea is that when clients come to NCG parties, they’ll bring managers and officers from other companies to show off the work that NCG did for them. Ninety percent of NCG sales are the result of client relationships as well as recommendations from one client to another.

This is one low-cost way to spread the word about a product or service and there’s no doubt that marketing is essential to virtually all businesses. In fact, 10% to 15% of a startup’s gross income should go toward marketing, says Naomi Finkel in her book How to Get Big Business Exposure on a Small Business Budget (Xlibris; $20.99). “If you don’t have the [marketing] money, then you shouldn’t be in business,” says Finkel.

Here are some tips the experts offer to help entrepreneurs get the word out about their products and services:

Identify your niche clientele. “You are wasting money if you don’t identify your niche,” says Finkel. “Direct your product or service toward people who need something. Position yourself as a problem solver who can address their needs.” Once you determine your consumers’ psychographics, play toward their needs by developing a marketing campaign around that profile. “Pick what your consumer likes and not what you like,” explains Finkel. Don’t rely on one technique, but choose several ideas to determine what they like best. Be open to change and stay aware of how new trends affect your niche market.

Develop strategic alliances. Small businesses can share the costs of promotions by forming strategic alliances with other businesses that do not sell competing products but target the same niche audience.
Decide what you can handle yourself. Sending out and following up with marketing is time intensive. “Distinguish between services that require the expertise of a professional and chores you can do that won’t affect the outcome of your project,” says Finkel.

Be creative but practical. “The plan got revised every week,” says Wendell Niles, president and CEO of NCG. “You have to shift and ask yourself ‘What worked? What didn’t work?'” In the beginning, Niles and business partner Christopher Mack found it futile to send brochures to potential clients. They learned to save money by showcasing NCG graphics on their Website. Instead of paying postage to mail an expensive print brochure that usually got lost on customers’

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.