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Street Marketing

Street marketing as a cost-effective alternative to conventional television, print, and direct-mail advertising.
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Be it through fliers, coupons, or posters, "you should take advantage of street-marketing weapons to promote your company and its services," urges Jay Levinson, author of Guerrilla Marketing Attack (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1989, $8.95). Street marketing can be a cost-effective alternative to conventional television, print, and direct-mail advertising.

Who should street market? Street promotions won't help every kind of business; fliers broadcasting a sale on a product perceived as unessential will likely become street litter. But to inform the public about a pressing or timely service, handbills can be quite effective. Boston's Kung-Fu Tai-Chi Club relies on fliers to publicize its women's self-defense class. "Rather than be on page 20 of some little newspaper section, where people might not see us, we're on the street, actively promoting," says co-owner Yao Li.

How do you street market? Ask community groups and businesses to help -- or get satisfied customers or employees to pitch in. At New England Culinary Institute (NECI), in Montpelier, Vt., students distributed 400 fliers with coupons near a local movie theater to promote NECI's monthly Theme Dinners. Nearly half the coupons were redeemed. "We were able to focus on our local customers without the expense of conventional mass advertising," says NECI food and beverage director Jamie Cevelo.

Voca Corp., in Dublin, Ohio, also hands out its own fliers. The $50-million provider of residential-care services for the mentally impaired tried PR firms, newsletters, and direct marketing to promote its services before vice-president Ray Anderson adapted a street-market approach, in 1988, to get the word out to public officials, parents of clients, and health-care workers. "It's an aggressive yet frugal approach, and it makes the company more visible," he says.

Rather than going it alone, College Financial, a 50-employee Northbrook, Ill., provider of information on sources of student financial aid, hired C&E Street Promotions, in Upper Darby, Pa., for nationwide distribution of 53,000 "Free Money for College" posters. The campaign produced 1,000 leads and close to 100 sales, which Ellen Simons, marketing coordinator at College Financial, credits to the "visual impact of the posters."

Where should you street market? To attract students, C&E distributed College Financial's posters on college campuses and near public transportation. Voca takes its act indoors, handing out fliers and brochures at industry conferences and events.

What's the payoff? Voca's sales have grown 40% to 50% annually since Anderson began using street-marketing tools, four years ago. The Kung-Fu Tai-Chi Club credits 90% of class enrollment to students' two-hour distribution of more than 500 fliers for each session. "We were going to run one class every six weeks," says Li, "but now we have one class every two weeks." The small ads he used to place in local papers and magazines, at a cost of $150 to $200 a week, produced a 2% to 5% response at best. -- Vera B. Gibbons

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C&E Street Promotions distributes fliers hand-to-hand ($25 to $40 per 1,000 fliers), by car windshield ($27 to $60), and door-to-door ($50 to $130) in 87 markets. Check your local yellow pages under "Ad Agencies" or "Flier-Distribution Service" for firms. Also, consult the "Sales-Promotion Agencies" section of the Standard Directory of Advertisers (Reed Reference Publishing, New Providence, N.J., 800-521-8110, available at libraries).

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