Advertisements, barbecues, flyers: Small businesses spend a lot of money on unsuccessful marketing. Five ideas that are guaranteed to work better – and cheaper.

Bonus Discounts

This is how it usually works: entrepreneurs issue discount cards for stamping. If they are full, you get the eleventh bread or the sixth haircut for free.

In my opinion, the better idea is to surprise customers with a nice gesture. This goes beyond the usual service, the customers have the feeling of being given something – and of being something special. Both are missing completely with usual discount actions.

The better bonus discount campaign

Every Friday the owner of a car wash organises a Lady’s Day – to win women as customers. Because so far, he observes, mostly only men come. On Lady’s Friday, customers get free coffee or sparkling wine at two bar tables, with music playing in the background. While the car is in the car wash, the owners can pass the waiting time with a chat.

After the car has been repaired, customers put a piece of paper and a pen in the car as a small gift – with the request to note down any problems that occur immediately. So that you don’t forget in the months leading up to the follow-up inspection that something in the door panel has clattered and the interior lighting flickered – and then every even the smallest defect is found during the next workshop visit.


This is how it usually works: The local brewer/drinker/insurance broker pays several hundred euros to the sports club to appear with his logo in the club’s announcement box. Or he advertises on the gang on the football field – which can quickly become even more expensive.

Better: with the associations individual actions consider themselves, with which both partners are visible and profit.

The entrepreneur can report on such events on his website and on Facebook, presumably even the press jumps on – which never happens with perimeter advertising. In addition, such events can be used to establish close, lasting relationships between entrepreneurs and clubs – but a logo in a glass box is not enough.”

The better sponsoring

A wedding planner takes the women of the local handball club with her to a trade fair, where they distribute invitations for a wedding cake test meal – decorated with angel wings. In return, the entrepreneur finances new team jerseys and a net of new balls.

A drinks retailer, together with the local football club, organises a tournament in which its customers play against the first team. A jersey and photos of the event will be displayed in the shop so that the event will be remembered. To compensate, he donates 500 euros to the club’s coffers – and the club has also gained additional members from this campaign.

Charity actions

This is how it usually works: A dentist donates 2500 Euro for the 25th anniversary of the practice. He also places an ad in the local newspaper to thank the customers for their loyalty – and to offer them a glass of sparkling wine after the next treatment.

It is better to do good together with the customers. This not only strengthens customer loyalty, but is also so original that everyone who has participated will tell their friends about it. For this reason, such campaigns should run for at least a few months – so that they can spread by word of mouth.”

The better Charity action

The dentist offers a tooth cleaning for the good purpose: Of the 80 euros he demands for the service, he donates 25 percent to mark the anniversary. The patient decides which of the three preselected projects the money goes into by throwing a coloured bouncer into one of the three glasses at the reception.

“The fact that patients can throw a ball into the glass after cleaning their teeth is a good example – because every time the patient enters the practice later, he is reminded that he has done something good,” says Hofmann. “It couldn’t be better.


This is how it usually works: A building materials dealer organises a barbecue in summer for 5000 euros, where customers can eat and drink free of charge.

The better event

A building materials dealer talks to the city’s economic council and the local sports club about a big, joint celebration. The Economic Council donates a few hundred euros for sausages and drinks. The athletes take over the catering – the proceeds from the sale flow into the club’s coffers. The building materials dealer makes his premises available – as well as a large roll of paper and lots of pens. So the children of the customers can paint: The entrepreneur donates 10 euros to the sports club for a 40-centimetre picture. After the event, he has the giant picture laminated – and attached to the outside of the building material hall.


This is how it usually works: A PC retailer has new cloud and server solutions on offer and would like to inform you about them in his shop. He designs a flyer, which he has distributed by two students in the small town.

“However: Those who rely on such marketing must then also appear entertaining at the actual events and are not allowed to give a 60-minute frontal lecture in a grey office. That, for which one recruits, should be as failed and exciting as the advertisement – at least.

The better alternative to the flyer

The entrepreneur has a huge wooden box made for him, which looks like an oversized server from the outside, with peepholes at eye level. Then he gets permission to set it up in the old town on market day.Two students are then sitting in the box talking about cloud and server solutions. As soon as passers-by look inside, the students hand you a flyer outside – with the hint that they can learn more about the topic at the info event.

Katja Hofmann’s assessment

“There is nothing sadder than a barbecue in front of a grey hall. And conversely nothing better than celebrations, in which many different actors of a place take part. Especially at events it is a good idea to get together – to save costs and attract more people.

If you combine the entertainment activities with a charity aspect, it’s perfect: the children feel entertained and the parents get the message through the dealer’s donations: ‘Hey, someone really stands up for the place! The fact that the picture adorns the hall at the end is yet another example of how easily the effect of one-off campaigns can be intelligently extended.”

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