Making the most of an itty bitty advertising budget

At Blue Gypsy Wines, we live by the adage: "You can't be cheap AND lazy." So, we like to think of ourselves as frugal instead. We could not have finished the building in time without the help of several friends who gave up a day here and there to help build the ribs that would form the building. It was hard work, but the fact was we simply didn't have the money to pay someone to do it for us. Almost everything you see when you walk into the building was done by us, except for the spray insulation. We made the most of the money we had (and didn't), but the result is actually quite nice, if I say so myself. We made the most of our skillsets; everything I learned building houses with my parents, the summer jobs painting and renovating, etc. The same principle applies to our marketing efforts. As a business analyst with 20 years in the field, I use what I learned in college and combine it with real world experiences to promote the heck out of the winery. Claire and I are becoming master networkers, visiting every wine show we can afford, appearing on TV (Daytime Ottawa has been wonderful to us), writing press releases, finding journalists who want material for their next article, and so on. Our Facebook page (BlueGypsyWines) and twitter feed (@BlueGYpsyWines) have been positively smoking. It helps that we have a wonderful set of products and some very enthusiastic clients. I can't keep enough business cards on the counter. Wine clubs and associations have been instrumental in passing the word around. Folks like yourself who so kindly re-tweet and repost our blog links and articles. All this makes up a big part of the way we promote the winery. We also believe that the way we treat people is important as well. We try to provide a relaxed atmosphere where people can visit, taste at their leisure, then decide if they want to buy. I hate sales pressure, so I try not to bring that to the tasting counter. All this is to say that even though your advertising budget is small, it shouldn't stop you from moving ahead and putting the word out. It also means that if you lack the budget for large-scale advertising, you need to work that much harder and creatively. To make the most of a small budget, be prepared to plan and pound the virtual pavement. You also have to share. Mention other area businesses in your efforts and where practical, pool your advertising dollars. When you mention other area businesses, they often return the favour. For example, if I mention the Brigadoon Restaurant in Oxford Mills, Butler's Victorian Pantry in Kemptville and the Branch Restaurant (also in Kemptville), they may likely return the favour. What that means is that for the cost of 1 promotional exercise, I could potentially garner 3 mentions in return. I have effectively multiplied my effort by 4. Find ways to multiply your reach. The amazing thing is that by paying it forward, you create the possibility of a wave of advertising. Just remember that every way needs a refresh now and then, so ALWAYS mention others when the opportunity is right. It comes down to PLANNING! I made this point in my spot on Triune Productions' business series "Mind Your Own Business" which airs on COGECO in the Ottawa/Brockville area . If you want to make the most of limited resources, you need to plan every promotional opportunity, and then create 3 backup plans. Spend money on a well-constructed website. People appreciate a well-conceived website that flows. Ours was put together by graduates from Algonquin College and it rocks. We needed a website and they needed a final project. It was a perfect marriage of needs. To summarize, you need to: 1. plan; 2. be creative; 3. be tenacious; 4. be generous with your work; and 5. be genuine. One last thing; always remember to promote the COMMUNITY. Let's face it, if you can draw people into the community to walk around and buy, EVERYONE benefits. Pay it forward and reap the collective benefits. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at

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