Street Marketing: It's a Matter of Smarts

July 1, 2003
This article is based on the presentation, Street Marketing: Low Cost Advertising That Takes Your Message To The Street that Lorraine Ball will give at

This article is based on the presentation, “Street Marketing: Low Cost Advertising That Takes Your Message To The Street,” that Lorraine Ball will give at HVAC Comfortech 2003 in Dallas, TX, Sept. 10-13.

Learn from the leaders: this year HVAC Comfortech presents more than 30 speakers providing educational seminars in more than 100 sessions. Mark your calendars to attend today.

To learn more about the program or to register online, visit

by Lorraine Ball

Growing up in New York, the highest compliment you could pay someone was to say he or she was “street smart.” This indicated that person knew how to get things done, with a common-sense-no-nonsense approach to life. This same common sense approach is what makes street marketing ideal for the small business owner looking to create a big impression on a limited budget.

Street marketing is built on the same foundation as traditional marketing: clear goals, a concise description of a target customer, and a well thought-out plan.

The Difference Is a Matter of Focus

Unless you have the marketing budget of Coca Cola or McDonalds, you don’t really have sufficient funds to support a true mass-market campaign, one that reaches all consumers. Savvy street marketers know they must narrow down their audience to those people who are most likely to buy. They spend marketing dollars reaching a concentrated group several times, rather than trying to touch everyone once. This doesn’t mean they limit to whom they sell, but simply limit whom they actively try to reach with marketing materials.

Street Marketing Takes Leg Work

How do you decide where do you invest your money? Take time to do some analysis and planning on the front end. Determine where the biggest opportunity lies. Study past sales and ask yourself where most of the business originates. This requires your company to have a good filing system and customer database.

Also take time to hit the streets. Look at census data, and local real estate and business publications to uncover neighborhood trends. Do certain neighborhoods have the income level to support your pricing, or homes that are old enough to support your service business? Are their neighborhoods currently going through a remodeling boom? The local building and remodeling association may have some insight into where the “action” is.

Finally, find out whether any communities are being ignored by competitors. Each of these groups may make attractive targets. Be sure the community you select is large enough to support your business objectives. Then plan your attack.

Now for the Attack

Your goal is to get your targets’ attention. It’s about reaching the right customers, with the right message, at the right time. Instead of placing a 18-page advertisement that runs next to five competitors’ ads in the Sunday paper, consider buying a larger advertisement in a smaller newspaper, or neighborhood directory.

You’re more likely to be noticed and remembered for supporting their community. And if you advertise on a regular basis, these smaller newspapers are likely to make room for your press releases and seasonal tips articles.

Because you don’t have resources to squander, it’s vital to concentrate your efforts where they can achieve the best results. For example, plan a “blitz attack” campaign on a small community where you already have several service customers.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Become a visible part of the community; join the neighborhood association or local chamber of commerce.
  • Get to know the officers of the neighborhood association.
  • Offer a free clean and check on the clubhouse or community building in exchange for advertising space in neighborhood directories and/or newsletters.
  • Ask for referrals to their neighbors and reward people if referrals become sales. Gift certificates from a local restaurant are an excellent reward.

    If you buy enough certificates, you may be able to negotiate a discounted rate or trade for service work.

    You could also create a cross promotion with the restaurant. Ask the owner to promote your referral program by having a drawing for a free clean-and-check.

    One last thought: Send out press releases to announce the promotion, and announce the winners. When multiple locally owned businesses are involved in a joint promotion, it becomes more newsworthy.

  • Offer discounts for “neighborhood days.” If your service truck is already in the area, you can afford a slight discount because you have less downtime for travel.

Promote this offer with a very concentrated direct mail campaign. Then, follow up with door hangers as you are conducting your regular service business.

Be on the Street on a Regular Basis — Be Consistent!

If you join an association, show up for meetings on a regular basis. You won’t necessarily get referrals the first time you attend a networking meeting. Hang in there. As you become part of the regular crowd, opportunities will drift your way.

Consistency makes your message more noticeable in other ways as well. Be sure all your marketing material, ads, brochures, door hangers, postcards, web site, trucks, invoices, and yard signs look as if they are part of the same company.

Use the same fonts and same colors in everything you do. Always place your logo and phone number in the same position in all your advertising material. This will train your customers over time where to look for the information they need.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Effective marketing doesn’t require that you spend a lot of money, it simply demands that what you spend, you spend wisely. You don’t have to outspend the biggest contractor in town to be successful; you just have to outrun him on the street.

Lorraine Ball led the communication team of Conseco as vice president of creative services. Prior to that she spent nine years at Carrier Corp. in a variety of roles. Today, as the owner of Roundpeg, she helps small business owners learn the secrets of big company marketing. For more information on how Roundpeg can help you, visit Or you can contact Lorraine via e-mail at [email protected].