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Well, I opened my doors this Monday morning, and very few people showed up. I'm asking for you all to help me figure out how to market more effectively, please.

My husband and I have started a weight loss support group for low-carb dieters, where members pay a one-time registration fee, then they pay a small fee at each weekly meeting to keep their membership current. We have started with 2 weekly meetings, one Monday morning in northwest Austin and the other Monday evening in central Austin.

We've put up flyers at many of the community bulletin boards. We started our direct mail campaign in the 2 zip codes where meetings are held by sending out the first 500 flyers last week. We've handed tons of flyers to our friends, who've passed them out to their interested friends. We've been getting 10-20 hits per day at our web site and have had several phone calls from interested people.

So Monday morning no one showed up. Monday evening 2 people (friends) showed up. Now, I know my marketing campaign has been very small, and I shouldn't have expected a deluge of customers. Instead of getting upset and downing a bottle of wine, my husband and I went home and got to work on send out 1500 flyers this week, instead of just 500.

Now that I know that a campaign of 500 flyers a week isn't going to cut it, I'm looking into radio spots and the like.

My questions to you all are, next to tripling our efforts in the direct mail campaign, is radio the next step? Are we looking in the right direction? What am I not looking at/for that I should be?

Thanks in advance,
PrrpleGrrl
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<<My husband and I have started a weight loss support group for low-carb dieters, where members pay a one-time registration fee, then they pay a small fee at each weekly meeting to keep their membership current. We have started with 2 weekly meetings, one Monday morning in northwest Austin and the other Monday evening in central Austin.
>>


The business model this brings to mind is a store front church, or a new religion. You need to find your twelve disciples.

I wouldn't concentrate on collecting fees, but on making converts. Emphasize invitations to a FREE weight loss clinic!


Of course, you can go broke giving your services away, too.


Sounds like a tough row to hoe. Good luck.



Seattle Pioneer
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Hi, PrrpleGrrl.

A couple of ideas (from someone who hasn't done a whole lot of marketing himself.)

Have you considered the newspaper-- perhaps an ad in the weekly "Food" or "lifestyles" sections? ...or even a "Press Release" to your local media declaring your company open for business and explaining your services, etc?

I don't know, honestly, how well either of those methods works as far as % of responses, but at least you've the chance to hit more eyeballs with your company name. "Eyeballs." See what the internet does to you?

Aha. Have you considered a web presence-- with a local focus? There seem to be endless "local directories" online now. You could find a local chat room or two. Even some of the bigger websites (About.com comes to mind, and another one... The Motley Fool) have very focused message boards where you might connect with one or two local folks interested in your services. Have them spread the word!

Well, I hope that's of some value.

bcd

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SP,

Interesting comparison, one I've never thought of. You're correct, though, we do need our first 12 disciples. We've given friends and family free memberships, and we're offering new customers 1/2 off registration fees (saving them $12.50) for joining before August 18.

We've also considered giving the first meeting free, but we worried about that creating kind of a bait-and-switch feeling in the customers. Not only that, but we felt that by doing it for free, it would create a lower-quality image of the company. Those concerns might be totally bogus, of course, since I only know what books have told me.

I truly believe the market is there, if I could just reach it. I've taken some very informal polls around town, and most everyone who hears about it thinks it's a great idea and why hasn't it been done yet? There's a local low-carb store that's passing out our flyers. There's also a low-carb food manufacturer in town. Both of these places have told me they get asked quite often if there's a local support group for low-carb dieters.

So maybe I should just go walking along the seashore, looking for scraggly guys working on their boats. :)

PrrpleGrrl
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bcd,

Thanks for your ideas. I haven't looked very carefully at local papers, that's on my list next. I do, however, have a sister-in-law who's worked with the local media a lot, and she's preparing a press release and list of contacts for us.

Thanks for the idea on local internet directories. I'll check those out!

PrrpleGrrl, learning so dang much, my brain hurts constantly now.
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Out of curiosity, what services do you actually offer and what are your costs? What are your fees? Can what your meetings provide be found for free on the internet or elsewhere? Who is your competition? What do your fliers and advertsings say?
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Austin is a tough town to market. Have you contacted any of the area physicians to see if you can leave flyers in their offices? You might also contact Central Market to see if they would be willing to assist in marketing something combined with their prepared foods section. Whole Foods may be another target.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Jenn
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PG,
One thing to keep in mind that the upcoming four weeks is the largest in vacation periods since school starts August 19th. I would not worry a lot until after school starts, and then kick into gear using the upcoming holidays as inticements.

Jenn
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PG,
If you are looking at the Austin American Statesman, you can support the Partners in Education program with a donation and receive a "free" ad in return.

Jenn
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I don't know if local health clubs/gyms would let you post on their bulletin boards, but they might.

Also, would you be able to post on any church bulletin boards? (Maybe one of those 12 would read it.)

--sender
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Thanks for all your great ideas! I'm going to look into them, and I'll keep you posted on how things go.

I do realize that summertime is a crappy time to start a business like this, but I'll plough through these vacation months and just hope that things will pick up significantly when school starts (and maybe I'll have learned a few good lessons by then, too).

Thanks again. I really appreciate how helpful you've all been.

PrrpleGrrl
Off to find those wacky disciples
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I think it's important to keep in mind that there are people who will see your ads now and ignore them - then pay attention 6 months, 12 months, or more later when they have a need/want for your services.

Therefore, it's not enough to spread the word and then stop advertising, you have to keep your advertising campaign active to keep the new customers coming in.

ShelbyBoy
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