Monday, August 28, 2006

Grassroots fund-raising

I've come up with an idea recently that will help me raise a little money as well as spread the word about Aimless. Like a little kid, I'm going to sell candy bars. All I have to do is go to downtown Columbus (or maybe some other places where there is heavy foot traffic) and display a sign or make believe I'm the beer man at a sporting event.

I already know I can get large boxes of fund-raising candy bars at GFS Marketplace, and I think I'll also check with Anthony Thomas to see if their fund-raising bars are available in reasonably small quantities. But before I can start selling the candy bars, I have to get some business cards to attach to the candy bar wrappers.

Of course, I'm not allowed to buy business cards because the rules say I can't. Fortunately business cards are cheap, so I think it will be relatively easy to convince a printing company to provide some cards for free, given good incentive. So instead of offering money as payment for the cards, I'll offer to let them advertise on my cards and possibly the Aimless web site.

There is absolutely no reason for a printing company to decline my offer. The proof is in the trade show. At trade shows (at least pizza trade shows), these companies hand out tons of prototypical fliers, menus, cards, magnets, memo boards, etc., because it's really the only way they can show their target market what they offer. They have to give a lot of stuff away, but it's no big deal because most of the stuff is very inexpensive. If they don't hand out samples of their work, though, no one will buy it.

Here's another way of looking at it: If I decided to contact a printer right now so I could buy some business cards, who would I contact? I don't know. I'd probably go to the Columbus Metropolitan page on the Yahoo Directory and pick the first company I see, unless their web site sucks. But what if someone else had just given me their business card, and their card had the name and URL of their printer? Well, then I'd probably check them out first because it's convenient and because I have a sample of their work.

That's exactly what will happen when I give people the card I've described here. Sure, most of the recipients will have no need for a printing company's services, but some of them will. And if my business card directs only a couple new customers to the printing company, the printing company's tiny investment will have paid off. It might be a small return, but it was a cheap and easy return they would not have received otherwise. Plus it carries a lot of potential to snowball into a very large return.

I think selling candy bars will generate a lot more traffic (and a lot more interest) for the Aimless web site than my current e-mail campaign because it will give me the chance to show people my enthusiasm for Aimless. Live enthusiasm sells. By meeting me in person, people will learn a lot about Aimless in just a minute or two of discussion with me, which will make them more inclined to check out the web site. Additionally, they'll probably spend more time at the web site, viewing more pages than the current average Aimless visitor, because their visit will begin as a review rather than a starting point.

I have also thought about trying to make a deal with a restaurant, in which they would add "Aimless Pizza" to their menu one night each week as a special. I'd supply my own ingredients and make all the pizzas myself, but the restaurant would let me use their oven, prep area, and some equipment. I'd give the restaurant a percentage of my sales and put the rest in an Aimless bank account. Every "Aimless Pizza" customer would receive my card, of course. Obviously it would be a lot more complicated than that, but it's just an idea right now.

I think this is a garsh-darn good idea, and I should probably start trying to make it happen ASAP.