Small-business clients present big promotional opportunities

From the mom-and-pop sundries shop to the regional chain of family-owned grocery stores, small businesses are a creative marketing goldmine. Encouraging consumers to patronize local establishments is not only the trend nowadays, it’s also perceived as good for community morale.

In an interview with Entrepreneur magazine, Andy Miller, chief innovation architect for Constant Contact, gave some good reasons for pursuing clients in the small-business market. First, the segment is growing—65 percent of net new jobs generated in the past 20 years have come from small businesses.

Second, these types of businesses overwhelmingly embrace solutions that will help them grow; even so-called mom-and-pop stores are embracing technology, Miller says. Finally, building client relationships in the small-business sector creates a bridge to consumer and enterprise markets.

“You may be able to find the market most in need of your idea by going to your local town center and walking into one of those small establishments,” he says.

How big is a ‘small’ business? It depends on the business, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. While the retail trade sector lists maximum small-business employee numbers between 100 and 200, employees of manufacturing businesses can be as few as 500, or as many as 1,500 employees. The small business designation also often depends on revenue; agricultural businesses that report a maximum of $750,000 in average annual receipts are considered “small” by SBA standards.

Operating as a small business in the era of big-box stores and international brands is a challenge, which makes smart, effective marketing all the more crucial. A smart campaign includes promotional products that are relevant to the business, useful to the audience, affordable for the client, reflective of the company’s personality and, once selected, distributed to the right audience.


Essef smart wallet

This inexpensive yet effective smart wallet with mirror allows recipients keep their cards safe and keep up appearances. The silicone card slot holds up to three cards and sticks to the back of any cell phone using a 3M adhesive backing that is both removable and reusable.

Essef Distributors UPIC: 7414140

BIC bottle koozie

Neoprene KOOZIE® Zipper Bottle Koolers are perfect for the tailgating season and as giveaways by local bars and restaurants that support local teams.



American Ad Bag organizer

Help clients get business done on the road, or anywhere offsite, with an office organizer bag. Constructed from laminated, nonwoven polypropylene and heavy board for stability and durability, the organizer features two large compartments which can hold both letter- and legal-size folders or binders.

American Ad Bag Co. UPIC: ADBAG


Wowline sunglasses

Spas, tanning salons and even optometry offices will get glowing reviews when they hand out these glow-in-the-dark sunglasses with clear lenses. Available in five neon colors, the glasses feature UV400 protection.


Scully notebook holder

Take note of quality with a leather folded jotter that’s a handy 3.75 inches by 5.75 inches and holds 10 to-do sheets as well as a pen.

Scully Leather UPIC: S174962


Plush toys add dimension to new-business promotions and customer outreach. Choose from more than 2,000 toys in a variety of styles, sizes and colors for a perfect fit.

Artistic Toy Manufacturing, Inc. UPIC: ARTSTOY

Thumbs Up To Keeping Customers Coming Back

Small businesses usually don’t have a large advertising budget, so when they do advertise, it needs to be something that will have a huge impact for a small price. With the advent of online banking, a credit union was experiencing a decrease in the number of customers who actually came into the credit union lobby. They wanted to give out an item that their customers would use while doing their online transactions and keep their name top of mind, so they chose a Thumbs Up phone and tablet holder from supplier Beacon Promotions (UPIC: BEACONP) in New Ulm, Minnesota. It was imprinted with the credit union’s logo and a catchy slogan to hand out to new customers.

Source: Beacon Promotions

Beacon phone holder

Online Orders Are In The Bag

To build sales for its drive-thru service, a restaurant launched a website for customers to order their breakfasts, lunches and dinners online. The fast food restaurant is located in an area that is mainly industrial, with pretty high traffic.

Since most of the customers’ purchases were delivered in paper bags, distributor West Coast Promo Resource (UPIC: diaaaa) in Fullerton, California, suggested bag clips imprinted with the restaurant’s website address to be included with every to-go order. After three months, the restaurant reported that customers were actually requesting the bag clip and online orders had grown to create long lines at the drive-thru during the lunch hour.

Source: West Coast Promo Resource

Start Your Search Engines

VP Racing Fuels, a San Antonio, Texas-based business that provides performance fuels for the motorsport industry, wanted to provide its retail customers and loyal followers with branded merchandise at the click of a mouse. So the 100-employee company partnered with Cheshire, Connecticut-based distributor Barker Specialty Company (UPIC: BARKER) to launch an ecommerce store, VP Performance Gear.

The store serves as a one-stop shop for VP’s expanded line of hats, t-shirts, promotional items and more; items include “Mad Scientist®” and VP Monster Truck-themed products, including a VP Monster Jam® T-Shirt, a Monster Truck plush toy, Monster Truck pennant and even a Mad Scientist bobblehead.

Source: VP Racing Fuels

Small Businesses Are A Big Part Of The U.S. Economy

99.7 percent of U.S. businesses are classified as small businesses

97. 7 percent of exporting businesses in 2013 were small firms, generating 33.6 percent of U.S. total known export value

56.8 million U.S. employees work for small businesses; firms with fewer than 100 employees employ the largest share of workers

1.1 million net jobs were created by small businesses in 2013; firms of 250-499 employees reported the greatest gains

Between 2007 and 2012, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew 46.3 percent; Hawaiian/Pacific Islander-owned, 45.3 percent; African American-owned, 34.5 percent

In 2014, 11 percent of self-employed respondents identified themselves as veterans; 11.5 percent as male; 7.2 percent as female; and 7.1 percent as minorities.

Feeling The Pinch

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) monitors the outlook of small businesses in the U.S., and its most recent report—from June 2016—found that the Index of Small Business Optimism rose seven-tenths of a point, to 94.5. The last time the index rose above the baseline of 100 was December 2014.

The negligible increase, according to the NFIB, reveals high uncertainty and low expectations for better business conditions and investment opportunities. More than 50 percent of reporting businesses said they were trying to hire or were hiring staff, but 48 percent reported being unable to find qualified applicants for open positions. Additionally, inflation in the U.S. prompted 12 percent of small-business owners to reduce average selling prices over the past three months.

Small-Business Sector Trends

Keep these trends in mind when working with clients and prospective partners

• Millennials in management positions

• Mobile ecommerce

• Electronic payment options

• Peer-to-peer lending or crowdfunding

• Same-day local delivery

• Revenue-focused partnerships