Who's afraid of the big bad print ad?

Since I started my freelance writing business, I’ve found that most people don’t share my love of marketing. That’s fine — I know not everyone walks around singing the “Quilted Quicker-Picker Upper” jingle — but I’ve been amazed at the number of small business owners who seem to fear promotion of any kind.

For those Columbia entrepreneurs who still tremble at television, balk at brochures or falter with flyers, I’d like to share a case study with you. Whether you’re working with wood, growing a business or catering to a unique clientele, you can learn a thing or two from Deck Finishings Unlimited, LLC.

Deck Finishings Unlimited (DFU) is a homegrown business based on hard work and word of mouth referrals. If you happen to catch owner Ken Brown at Home Depot between his day job and his community commitments, he’ll tell you about the latest deck trends with a twinkle in his eye. That’s Marketing Rule #1: Let your enthusiasm shine through in your daily conversations. You are always a representative of your business!

Ken’s real talent for marketing Deck Finishings Unlimited comes on the drive home from the hardware store, though. If he sees a new house with a deck, he’ll literally pull over and leave the owners an eye-catching flyer. Ken knows that with a deck-sized investment, new owners will eventually need a good pressure washing or a long-lasting stain. It may take them five years or so to call (and Ken has certainly honored his share of coupons from 2001), but DFU always makes initial contact.

That leads us to Marketing Rule #2: Make strategic contact with your customers. For a few cents per flyer, plus a couple dollars of coupon incentives, Deck Finishings Unlimited catches the attention of homeowners who need his services. He doesn’t plaster neighborhoods with reams of paper or strain to accommodate expensive direct mail campaigns. No, DFU subsists on a targeted trail of neon flyers, coaxing return business like a modern day Hansel and Gretel.

Each new flyer builds on the last one, which brings us to Marketing Rule #3: All effects are cumulative. Maintaining a database of tens of thousands of potential customers, Deck Finishings Unlimited sends in-depth brochures to high-yield prospects. They’re not printed on the fanciest paper, but they showcase the company’s work and highlight its local ties. They draw additional attention to the flyers, which are complemented by the mutual links on the Deck Finishings Unlimited website, which are enhanced by the LLC’s expansion into pressure cleaning, which are overlapped by the owner’s diligent requests for referrals.

And when Ken takes you on a slow drive through Lake Carolina to see his portfolio of high-end decks, you can tell that inventive local marketing gets results. In its simplest form, marketing is a business process, and it’s something that local entrepreneurs should embrace with the same fearless attitude as QuickBooks and Chamber of Commerce meetings. Regardless of trendy jingles or creative awards, the purpose of marketing is to share a message, connect with customers and inspire action. And if I didn’t live in a second-story condo, I’d be drawing up my deck specs right now!