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Free Small Small Business Marketing: Capturing Captive Customers Easily

Updated on November 24, 2016

What is a Captive Audience?

One of the best marketing and advertising opportunities is actually FREE! It does require just a little bit of your time and some simple research, but is extremely effective. The main goal is to find and reach-out to a "captive" audience--an audience that because of being in a situation that requires "waiting", will read whatever you put before them. Small businesses that have learned to do this well have found that targeting and tapping into the captive audience market reap the benefits almost instantly.

But first, before you read further, take a moment to simply stop, think, and visualize...When and where did you have to wait more than ten minutes to receive a product or service? While waiting, what did you do? Make phone calls? Pace? Read a magazine?

In these situations, You now became the "captive" audience and the target market. And while you are still visualizing where you are in your captivity, look around...what do you see?

Typical College Laundromat Bulletin Board

Community Bulletin Boards are Great for Free Marketing
Community Bulletin Boards are Great for Free Marketing | Source

Where were you? What did you see?

In your visualization of where and what you saw while being held captive, did you see the community bulletin board? Most places that cater to captive markets have them. Some of the most common places are:

  • Laundromats--average length of captivity: 1-1/2 hours
  • Doctor's (or service businesses such as pet grooming) have waiting rooms: average length of captivity: 1/2 hour
  • Repair and service shops: average length of captivity: 1 hour

The next time you have to go out, take a look will be surprised how many opportunities will suddenly appear before you.

My Favorite Community Board Locations

The more you look, the more you will find. I've tested these out and they all work. I am constantly finding new ones. Here are some of my favorites:

Laundromats, Bowling Alleys, Post Offices, Doctor Offices, Super Markets, Repair Shops, While-You-Wait Restaurants, Building Supply Stores, Libraries, Hair Care Shops, Bookstores, Pet Grooming Shops, Nail Salons, College Boards

How to find captive audiences

Of course, you can simply approach this marketing technique by the simple "hit or miss"...looking where you normally travel...but, there is a better, more efficient way. It is called radius or zone research. It involves sitting down at your computer and opening Google Maps.

Google Maps is a very powerful tool that provides features that are pretty amazing. One of the best parts, is that it takes most of the leg work out of the process.

Below is an example of a quick search and the results.

Laundromat Captive Marketing Locations

Using Google "My Maps" is a great resource to identify your captive audience locations
Using Google "My Maps" is a great resource to identify your captive audience locations | Source

Finding Captive Market Locations

By using Google's "My Maps" and typing in my zip code and the word laundromat, I was instanly given the locations, a driving map, list of laundromats, their phone numbers, and their websites if they had one. I visited each of the locations--every single one had a community bulletin board.

This application will also allow you to enter spread sheet information and will create a layered map that you can use as part of your marketing plan.

How to Use Google My Maps Video

Creating the Right Ad

There are some basic rules and suggestions to consider when creating your advertisements that will increase the effectiveness of your bulletin board marketing.

  • Don't be a "board" hog but at the same time, don't be shy...a business card won't do the trick.
  • Get colorful and creative. A little bit of layering works great--think of it like a piece of art. Once, while trying to accumulate a larger inventory of resell-able books, I used the bulletin board approach and simply made the outline of the sheet into the shape of an open book. In one month's time, I accumulated several hundred free books.
  • Place your advertisement at eye-level to the left or right not in the middle. This causes less distraction. Advertisements in the middle tend to blend in.
  • Don't cheat. Do not remove or cover up other people's advertisements. Besides being rude, "what goes around, comes around...". \
  • Shout outs work: use FREE, DISCOUNT, COUPON, BONUS, ETC. whenever possible.

Don't Forget Your Supplies & Keep Extra Advertisements With You at All Times
Don't Forget Your Supplies & Keep Extra Advertisements With You at All Times | Source

Be Prepared

So, you've mapped out your zone, you created your advertisements, now, jump in your car and make it happen--right? Well, hold on just a second...just a couple more things to take with you...

  • Push pins...don't rely on there being some available and don't take somebody else's.
  • Stapler...(the kind that opens)...actually better than push pins...less likely yours will get stolen.
  • Camera...take a pic after you place your advertisement...down the road when you hand off this marketing task to another can show them exactly how you want it to look.
  • Always keep an extra "supply" of advertisements, pins, stapler, etc. in your vehicle. Even when you are not on the immediate mission of posting, you will, in your "other" travels come across more community boards that are just begging for your advertisement.
  • Notebook and pen.Keep a running ledger of where and when you placed your advertisements. Add to it every time you go out...don't rely on memory... I started doing this after going to the grocery store and looking at their huge community board...I kept thinking to myself..."I need to remember this board..." Until I wrote it down...It didn't become part of my plan. Turns out, Supermarket bulletin boards became one of my prime locations.

Repeat After Me...

The first time I utilized this method of free advertising, I tested it out at the local library, some post offices, a couple of laundromats, and at a bowling alley. Within two weeks I had a surprising number of first ad consisted of a tear off coupon. I thought I had a "winner" and began planning on finding some more places to put new ads down the road. To my dismay, after about the third week, my measurable responses vanished.

You probably guessed responses vanished because so did my advertisements. I have found, that even as great as this method is, it does require some maintenance.

Reasons why your advertisements disappear:

  • They get "covered" over. (remember the 'don't be rude rule?)
  • The owner of the board cleans the board off to make room for fresh ones.
  • People like the advertisement and the offer but instead of writing the information down...they take the whole thing.

Small Businesses Supporting Small Businesses...Is A Big Key

Business to Business Relationships are Important
Business to Business Relationships are Important | Source

Share the Wealth

It won't take long for your marketing approach to take hold but, there are a couple more things to consider. The business that has owns community board you are using, more often than not, would love the opportunity to directly benefit also. You can do this by getting to know and supporting their business. Offer to place an advertisement on a community board you start. Establishing a relationship with other business owners will end up not only helping them but will also insure that your advertisements are given care to.

If you find a business that does not have a community board, suggest it. Be willing to provide them with a board...guaranteed, if you provide the board, you will always get the prime advertising spot.

Small Businesses Supporting Small Businesses...Is A Big Key

Free Marketing

Have you ever used a community bulletin board to advertise?

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