MANAGEMENT: Low-cost marketing ideas

Want to attract a little more attention for your business without spending a fortune? Here are few low-cost but potentially high-impact marketing ideas shop owners are trying.
Dinner on the shop. One shop owner is trying to spend a bigger portion of his marketing budget during the tough economic times in his small community to directly help local families and other community businesses. At least once a week when he’s out eating in a local restaurant, the shop is picking up the dinner tab for one or more other couples or families elsewhere in the restaurant.
“It’s not a big expense, and I figure every time I’m doing it, at the very least three I’m touching three households: the people whose dinner I’m buying, the waitress who tells them, and the owner of the restaurant,” the shop owner said. “And you know those people are telling others about it. That can have an impact in a town this size.”
The paid dinner tab comes with one of the shop’s business cards.
Happy birthday to you. A Seattle area shop owner says that he first put his best low-cost marketing tool to work back in the mid-1970s, the last time a gas crisis seriously cut into people’s driving habits and “you could have played football on the street” in front of his shop. He invested in a reader board he still uses near the street in front of his shop on which he displays birthday greetings to local residents and customers and other “fun stuff.”
Happy birthday, dear BMW. Similarly, real estate agents, investment advisors and insurance agents have for years used birthday cards as an annual way of keeping in touch with clients. One Virginia shop owner has put his own twist on the idea by sending birthday cards to his customer’s cars.
The shop notes the production month and year of customers’ cars, and each month sends a “birthday” postcard to all customers whose cars “were born” in that month of the year. The card invites the customer to schedule a free wash, vacuum and 12-point inspection of the vehicle.