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Buzz on a Budget

How do you generate publicity with a small amount of money? Six marketing experts give you the scoop

Globe and Mail Update

The latest issue of Report on [Small] Business magazine features a story about Greg Frewin (read "Mr. Vegas Comes Home"), Canada's most highly decorated magician. In May 2005, he opened a $3-million, 700-seat dinner theatre to showcase his Las Vegas-style magic review. While business has been steadily increasing, Frewin isn't filling every chair. With no marketing background, that's not a surprise.

So we turned to two marketing experts, Mia Wedgbury (founder of High Road Communications) and David Dunne (an adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management) for some pointers on how Frewin could boost traffic. Here's what they had to say:

David Dunne:
Frewin needs to clarify who his market is. Local residents are easy to reach, but they make up a limited market. U.S. tourists are somewhat fewer in number these days. As for Canadian tourists, not everyone will be interested in his show, so he needs to find out who is interested—couples, families, older tourists? Then he needs to figure out how to reach them.

Most people won't visit Niagara Falls just to see Frewin's show, and they're unlikely to tune in to local media during a short stay, so there's not much point in advertising on TV, on the radio or in print. And it's difficult to stand out by going through conventional channels like tourist boards and chambers of commerce. Frewin's show cries out for some sort of wild event—perhaps a free mini-show on the streets of Niagara Falls or a scavenger hunt—to create excitement and generate publicity. With Frewin's kind of magic, that shouldn't be too hard."

Mia Wedgbury:
The first step in developing a marketing strategy is to define your target audience—by demographic and by geography. Given that Frewin's show is family-oriented, he should target parenting-related media locally, around Toronto and across the border. Assuming he has a small budget, he can do this by sending out press releases and story ideas, and by inviting reporters to come and see the show.

A second cost-effective idea is a cross-promotion with another family attraction. Or, Frewin could work with kid-friendly media to create a contest where entrants could win a Niagara Falls package.

He could also post content on key internet social networks like Flickr, and use search-optimization tools that put his show at the forefront when people search for, say, "family entertainment" or "magicians in Niagara Falls." Frewin also needs to leverage his own website to bolster the word-of-mouth promotion."

Now we've brought four more experts into the discussion, to talk about how small businesses in general can generate buzz on a budget.

Meet our expert panel:

Christina Hill is a Calgary-based account director with ad agency Taxi.

Christian Imler is a former marketing executive who is in the process of launching his own Toronto boutique specializing in design products for babies. Read his Globe and Mail blog, Setting Up Shop, here.

Sutha Kamal is the founder and CEO of AmbientVector, a Toronto-based wireless software company. Read his Globe and Mail blog, 90 Day in the Life of a Start-up, here.

Ray Wali is the head of Mango Moose Media, a Toronto-based alternative-advertising firm.

David Dunne is an adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

Mia Wedgbury is the co-founder of High Road Communications, a public relations agency based in Toronto.

Here's their conversation so far...

Ray Wali:
The formula is simple: creativity=buzz. Not only in design and content of the ad, but in the placement of the media.

In the case of Greg Frewin's dinner theatre (and most small businesses), he has to create buzz within his target group on an ongoing basis.

He should have a street team handing out coupons or a CarWrap promotion vehicle, with TVs attached, driving around the Falls all day.

Having a street-level presence will bolster your brand awareness and increase traffic. It allows your consumer to interact with your brand directly.

Being innovative in reaching your target demographic will surely get them talking and walking in your front door.

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