Usually promotion is a term used by marketers and it is part of the four “P’s” of marketing, product, price, place, and promotion. Most promotions involve products but promotion can also involve promoting a business or promoting a service. For the purposes of this article, we’ll talk about promoting your business or your service on a budget.

We need to explore ways to get the biggest bang for the dollar spent. If you have a limited budget, how can you generate interest? How can you get potential customers to pay attention to you? How do you get them to call you when they need service or when they need a new heating and air conditioning system?

How many names do you have in your address book? How many customers do you have? How many email addresses do you have? How often do you contact your existing customers? Existing customers are a great source for additional revenue. Stay in contact with them throughout the year.

Have you thought about an email marketing campaign? It’s a cost effective way to get your message out to customers and people that you know. Have you considered mailing or emailing newsletters to your customers? A newsletter gives you an excuse to contact your customers at least on a quarterly basis.

Think about your rolling stock, does each one deliver the same consistent message? Does it deliver any message? Does it have just your name on the side or is there an element of promotion. Who are you and what do you do? Think about getting all of your trucks to look the same, same color, same logo, same message.

Does your letterhead, envelopes, business cards, invoices, and payments deliver a consistent marketing or promotional message? Do these items include phone numbers, web addresses, and your tag line? If not, make these items work for you. Do you use inserts in your invoices? Inserts are promotional pieces that should be included in your mailings.

How is your website? Do you have a website? Is it any good? Be honest, most contractors admit they don’t have a very good website. Your website is a marketing tool and often it is the first place customers look when trying to decide on which contractor to use. Does your website instill confidence in your abilities? Does it say you are a professional? Does it say that you are trustworthy? You don’t want to use a name like “Honest John’s A/C.” Instead, use customer testimonials and customer ratings to illustrate your professionalism.

If you have a website, makes sure that you use an email address from your business website. It’s unprofessional to use a Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, AOL, Comcast, Cox, Road Runner, or other public email accounts. Set up company email accounts for all employees that need to use email. Remember to include an email signature at the bottom of every email. Create a standard email signature that includes the following information: name, title, business name, address, city, state, zip code, phone number, fax number, email address, and your website URL. Remember to include your logo also. Use it on both emails that you create and emails to which you respond. It is relatively easy to set up a signature with Outlook, Outlook Express and with many other email programs. Send me an email with Signature in the title and I’ll respond to you with an email containing my signature so you can see what I mean. My email address is andy@fracicaenterprises.com.

Consider using the “buddy” marketing approach. This is where you include marketing materials from another business sent to your customers while the other business sends your marketing materials to their customers. This exposes you to whole new set of customers and since these customer’s trust the business that is sending the information to them you get the benefit of that trust through what is known as the halo effect and vice versa.

Get interviewed on a local radio station. Local talk shows are always looking for guests to interview. Become the local expert. This is one of the best ways to reach a large audience without it costing you anything but your time. Make sure you inject your company name, phone number, and website address into the conversation a couple of times during the interview. Relax and be yourself, use humor, and have fun with the interview.

Volunteer to be a speaker at Rotary or some other service organization as they are always looking for speakers. Take advantage of every opportunity to speak in front of an audience, because the more chances you get to position your company and yourself as the expert in your field the more people will hear your message. That is what promotion on a budget is really all about.

Here is a good one, if you haven’t already done this, register your company on Google Local. If you have done any Google searches lately, you may have seen businesses listed on Google maps. This is a free service by Google. Follow the link above to sign up for a Google account, register your address, phone numbers, and website. In about a month, you will receive a post card from Google that contains a verification code. You log into your Google account that you created when your registered your business information and enter the code. Once done, your business will appear on local Google searches and maps.

Yahoo offers a similar service. Register on Yahoo Localby clicking the embedded link. Enter your business information and respond to the confirmation email and your all set. Many other free services like this are available. Make sure you register on each one as you come across them. Google and Yahoo are the largest of the sites. Bing from Microsoft and Yellowpages.com offers a similar free service.

Be on the lookout for any free advertising opportunities that may come your way. Also, consider the programs for local high school functions like band competitions, plays, and other fundraisers that the schools may have. These can be a relatively inexpensive way to get your message out to a targeted population of customers in a given area.

Promotional items never go out of style, particularly magnetic give away items. Most refrigerators in the country are loaded with magnetic marketing messages. At our home, we have never seen magnet that we didn’t like and we have called the companies on those magnets when we needed assistance. Even with the stainless steel refrigerators, the magnets wind up on the sides.

All of these are good ideas and they can help you get your promotional message out to your customers and potential customers, but if you don’t have a marketing plan, these probably will not do you much good. It’s time to develop your marketing plan for next year. If you don’t know where to start, contact a marketing professional for assistance. Our rates are reasonable and we can help jump-start 2011 by generating the awareness that you need to excel in the New Year. We can help you develop a plan designed to use cost effective means to get your message out in front of your customers.

As we approach the end of the year, if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to start thinking about budgets for 2011. Based on your plan, consider what you want to spend on promotion and advertising for next year. Decide how much you want to spend each month, based how you laid out your plan. Remember that if you fail to plan you do plan to fail.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, PR, social media, and lead generation strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, technical training, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and startup companies find their voice in an ever increasingly crowded market place. Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the website www.fracicaenterprises.com.