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Launch Ideas

Lynne Franks gives some quirky effective ideas for launching your new business.

Simply making your customers smile is, in itself, a good cause and a wise marketing strategy. Debbie Fields, the energetic founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies, once said that since she was a child she has always believed that her primary role in life is to make people smile. This mission together with her love of cookies is what underlies the passion that Debbie brought to the opening of her very first cookie shop when she was only twenty years old. And she still feels that passion to this day.

I launched and promoted Debbieís business twelve years ago, when she came back to the UK. This is one of the most successful aspects of the launch I did for Debbie in London which typifies the sort of creativity SEED entrepreneurs can easily employ.
I sent boxes of hot Mrs. Fieldsí Cookies to all the early morning radio presenters in the areas where Debbie was opening stores, and saw that they were delivered personally just as the broadcasters were about to go on air or when they were already in the studio.

It worked perfectly, was not expensive, and nearly all of the DJs who received them raved about them on the air during their busy morning radio shows.
Radio is a very under-appreciated medium. Most stations have high audiences, many of them woman, and itís much easier to target your market through radio than it is through television. See if you can persuade your local station to interview you but donít contact them unless youíre sure that your story will work for them. Listen to the show first!

Itís far more difficult to publicise your business via TV, although this is obviously an ideal medium for publicity.

Community synergy
If you are opening any kind of local shop or service, it is pretty essential for you to create some kind of inexpensive leaflet or flier.

Remembering how important your graphics and name are, work on creating an eye-catching piece of information that will interest your potential client or customer.
Distribute your fliers everywhere you can. Without being overly invasive, get your leaflets into any venue where your potential customer might visit. They could include libraries, community centres, businesses centres, doctors and dentists waiting rooms, childcare nurseries and baby clinics, schools and colleges, health spas, and gyms. Think of all the places that your potential customers may spend their time and would have the time to positively read some information about your new business.

Where are your synergetic businesses and outlets?
Make a list of all the places in your community where you could arrange to distribute your business announcements, leaflets or brochures.

Shops and other local businesses are generally very happy to co-operate, particularly if you return the favour by doing joint promotions. For example, together you can offer customers a combined discount or freebie. If youíre advertising in a local newspaper, you might offer everyone who comes into your hair salon and spends more than forty pounds a good discount at the local fashion store. You could split the cost of the advertisement and draw potential customers into both outlets.

Shop windows, photo opportunities, sponsorships and freebies
There are many creative ways to launch and publicise a new business and itís often a question of combining the tools you have at hand with clever or quirky ideas that will attract the attention of both the press and the public.

If you have a shop window, remember that it is the best form of advertising you have. If youíre not good at creating an interesting and newsworthy window yourself, ask around until you find someone who is. Remember that your very first launch window should be something special. Approach it like a work of art.

Sometimes, the simplest ideas can have the greatest effect. For example, Iíve used live people as shop window mannequins when Iíve opened shops for clients in the past. Try and come up with an original idea that will bring attention to your store either inside your shop window or in front of your door.

Even if you donít have a shop window, if your idea is visually unusual, it may make a good news photograph for your local newspaper. Try and come up with a stunt that could get your business message across while creating an exciting photo opportunity.
If youíre planning a dog-walking agency, for instance, borrow every dog you can find of all shapes and sizes, have them all on leads, and contact the local press to come and photograph you, walking all twenty of them down the main street of your town.

If you are starting a cake business, bake the biggest cake you can and deliver it to the childrenís ward of the local hospital. Tell the local papers that this is how youíre celebrating the opening of your new business another win-win situation.

Why not rent a huge billboard at a prime spot near your business and get it painted by students from the local college with your launch message? Then make sure that the local media know about it. Sponsoring an appropriate local event is another socially conscious way to advertise your launch.

If youíre opening a vitamin shop, see if you can sponsor the local womenís sports event or city marathon. If youíre selling gardening equipment, become a sponsor of the local gardening show. Although sponsorships can be very expensive, find a way to make this launch idea fit your marketing budget and youíll gain name recognition as well as community goodwill.

You could also consider giving freebies out at community affairs such as farmers markets, village fairs, school fund-raisers, or even friends dinner parties