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Barter is Better

By: Heidi Lamar
Posted: February 25, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

One of the biggest challenges facing most business owners is getting the most bang for their marketing buck. Remember when you first opened your business? You spent months choosing the perfect lines and linens. You sorted through countless paint samples searching for just the right colors and spared no expense in purchasing the best equipment. You jumped through every hoop the bank set in front of you, determined to find a way to make your dream a reality. After countless sleepless nights, you finally opened your doors and hoped that people would show up, and they did.

All of your friends and some of your friends’ friends came through your door, admired your beautiful business, and some of them even spent money. Your phone rang off the hook. Unfortunately half of the calls were from advertising reps that heard about your new business and asked if they could stop by to share their incredible opportunities with you. You assured them that you had more business than you knew what to do with already.

Beginner’s mistakes

By the second month, when everyone you knew had already come and gone, and the phone had grown quiet, you started to worry. Maybe you should call some of those ad reps back. That’s when you found out how expensive advertising can be. The radio rep said he could put you on your favorite station for just $800, which didn’t sound that bad, until you realized that was $800 per week. He insisted that “Advertising doesn’t cost, it pays,” so you took out your credit card and made an investment. You imagined hearing your favorite disc jockey talk about your business while you drove to the bank to deposit all the money you were going to make.

The rep from the travel magazine that would be placed in every local hotel room said she could give you a full-page ad for $5,000, which she said was a steal compared to the regular rate of $15,000. Of course, to get that rate, you would have to commit to advertising in 12 issues. She pointed out your competitor’s gorgeous glossy ad, and you realized that if you were going to compete for the business of all those wealthy vacationers, you were just going to have to make another investment.

The direct mail rep had the best pitch of all. He would make sure that your postcard went to every house with an income of more than $100,000 in the zip codes of your choice and would send out 40,000 postcards for you. You pictured all of those wealthy people who would rush into your business with your postcard in their hands. Even if you only got 10% of them to respond, you would get 400 new clients. Of course they would come back and bring 400 of their friends. The $4,000 per month cost didn’t sound so bad. In fact, at 10 cents per person, you wondered if you should add more zip codes. Before you realized it, you had committed to nearly $150,000 in advertising for the year. Now the phone was ringing all the time. Unfortunately most of the calls started with “I saw/heard/got your ad and I wanted to tell you that you have a beautiful business. I wondered if I could sit down with you for a few minutes to share an opportunity I think you might be interested in.”

Barter is budget-friendly