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5 Promotional Gimmicks that Work for Your Small Business

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The perfect gimmick to promote your business costs little or nothing at all, is easy to do, and gets the word out near and far about your products and service. Of course, the interesting thing these days is that far is the new near. That is to say, with the internet, a customer on the other side of the globe is just as important as one around the corner.

Gimmicks, however, are most likely what you use to promote a small business locally to encourage more walk-in traffic. And while they may not be free, a gimmick, like any form of advertising, is all about getting the biggest bang for your buck – the biggest return on your outlays.

There are several categories of gimmicks. Here are just a few:

Advertising Gimmicks:

Advertising gimmicks involve printing information (company name, product line, phone number, etc.) on whatever item you can. One of the most common and effective gimmicks is buying wholesale t-shirts and letting people wear your advertisement and parade it around town for you. Other items, like pens, paperweights, and refrigerator magnets, also promote your business but don’t register much beyond that desk or refrigerator owner.

T-shirts or button-down shirts travel nicely. And, as we all know, a t-shirt can take on a life of its own, such as the famous “Black Dog” t-shirts that advertise a cafe on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. ¬†Those Black Dog t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and stickers are just about everywhere, making a cultural statement well beyond the impact of the company’s coffee and pastry sales.

Charity Events

One of the greatest ideas of all time is having your company partner with a local charity, especially when the reasons for doing so are organic and sincere.

When your company ties in with a charity, over time, your brand becomes associated with all the best qualities human beings can offer: generosity, altruism, togetherness, and hope.

Partnering with a charity can be as simple as writing a check to have your brand name advertised along with charity events or rolling up your sleeves and helping produce the event yourself. How you go about this is up to you.

Loyalty Cards

In recent years, loyalty cards are the poster child of local business gimmicks. It seems you can’t walk into a store these days without the cashier turning to you and asking if you have a loyalty card to present, which allows the customer to collect discounts on purchases in one form or another.

Loyalty cards on the local level are often handled by printing up business cards that include an icon of, for example, a cup of coffee that the cashier will mark with a pen or a hole punch indicating you’ve made a purchase. After several purchases (usually 10), the customer presents the cashier with a fully marked card, which allows for a discount or a prize, like a free cup of coffee.

Technology, however, has caught up with those cardboard punch cards. Thanks to barcode technology, a quick swipe of a card can register a purchase, which can then trigger any number of rebates from merchandise to discounts.


From raffles to treasure hunts to a variety of games, almost everyone in the world loves challenges or simple games of chance. Incorporating these creates its own public relations energy for your business.

Raffles are one of the simplest forms of games that creates intense anticipation and keeps your company name in the spotlight. Our local grocery store, for example, hands out cards with each purchase – more cards when you spend more – than play out, over time, the game of Monopoly. Once a customer collects enough cards to cover the Monopoly board (this game is really a variation of Bingo), then that customer is offered discounts as a reward.

You’ll notice that the reward of a discount is a way to reward a customer for buying something at your business -clearly a win-win option.

One Time Events

Local businesses can host everything from concerts to hot air balloon festivals, street parties and parades, and picnics and sporting events.

Advertising can be done in two ways – interrupting people is one style. Just allowing customers to come to you – enticed by a local band or a hot air balloon ride – and allowing them to associate themselves with your product.

Putting It All Together

How about putting this all together. That would be purchase wholesale t-shirts to advertise a charity event that involves games with prizes, including loyalty cards that promote discounts that encourage customers to stop in at your business.

Sounds like a five-way win-win-win-win-win.

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