How I Gained New Clients By Donating to Fundraisers

One of my retail gift basket designs.So, you have your inventory, and your business is ready to go. Unfortunately, in doing this, you have found yourself left with a minimal budget left over for marketing. For many new business owners, this realization strikes fear, but with a little creative thinking, you can accomplish a marketing program that works with little out-of-pocket expense.

My Story

I opened a small retail gift-basket business. I ordered my entire inventory, had all my gift designs made up, and had a website for my business. I was all set. But, instead of customers, I had a quiet phone and an empty email inbox. My business account was empty, and I only had occasional orders coming in. I had to figure out a way to get my name and my designs out in front of people without spending any more than I had already on inventory. One night, my children's school was having an event, and I found my marketing answer.

Silent Auctions

That night, I visited my children's school and the carnival and silent auction they had to raise money. I looked at the table for the silent auction, and it hit me. These items were all donated by area businesses in an effort to raise money for the school, but also to get their names out in front of the community and potential customers. With each item, there was a pile of business cards or business information. I thought, "I have my inventory. I can do this."

Approaching Companies

So, with my idea, I checked in the local paper and found organizations that were having fundraisers. I contacted them, offering to donate a gift basket themed for their event. I contacted schools, animal shelters, car dealerships, and any other businesses I could think of.

My Major Client

One of the places I contacted was a local theater company raising money for their theater. I made up a huge basket with a theater theme, and they loved it. It worked well for their auction, and about a week later, I was contacted by the event planner. They loved my auction gift and the presentation and wanted to use me for gifts for visiting theater members, regular brunches, and anything else they needed. They became my first corporate client.

No Inventory, No Problem

Now, I was able to do this with the inventory I had in stock. If you are a service business, you may be thinking that this won't help you. Well, the good news is that you don't need inventory. All you need is a printer, some nice paper, and a graphics or word processing program. Instead of using inventory, you can create a gift certificate for your services or even products you offer. Donate the gift certificate for silent auctions, and you can still get your name out there. The bonus with gift certificates is that you can make it for a portion off of your services so you can still end up making money. For example, I would create a gift certificate for a $25 gift, but many times when people came in to redeem them, they would choose something more expensive and use the gift card as a coupon.

As you can see, an empty marketing budget doesn't have to mean you can't market. With a little creativity and a few phone calls, you can get your business out in front of potential customers in no time.

More from Deborah Braconnier:

Cost-Saving Measures for Your Small Business

Using the Power of Color to Improve Your Business Marketing

Small Business Marketing Through Community Organization Donations

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