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It pays to give your work away (if you do it right)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Every sign shop gets asked to donate signs, sponsor events, buy tickets to the circus, you name it. At first glance, it can seem like a drain on your time and resources, but Mark Agnew, Agnew Graphics, Signs and Promotions, Owosso, MI, [] has turned it into an effective way to market his business.



In the 27 years he’s been in business, he’s marketed his shop with a variety of direct mail and advertising. But he thinks one of the best ways to build recognition for your shop is by giving back to the community by donating sign work regularly and wisely. Mark’s approach involves three key steps: choosing your target market, providing the types of signs you can produce affordably and letting the community know about the donation.

For a sign donation to make sense, it has to benefit the community and the sign shop. Mark especially likes to support kids and school programs, along with community non-profits. Many parents are involved in business, and turn to him when signs are needed. They often comment specifically on his support for school or youth events.



“It’s goodwill marketing,” says Mark. “It benefits both the community and our shop. I choose jobs that don’t require a lot of material expense, so most of what we’re donating is our skill and time. The sign says ‘Donated by Agnew Graphics’ at the bottom, and that’s out there for the life of the sign.”

Mark maximizes the exposure he gets from donated signs. “When we do one,” says Mark, “we get the word out. We put it on Facebook, and we call the local media to get coverage. We want people to know that Agnew Graphics donated that new sign when they see it.”

Mark says he’s always searching for his next sign donation, looking for a worthy cause that he can provide signage for and that he can produce practically. He told one school superintendent that he’d donate a certain sign if he could pick up 350 Facebook likes in the next month. He did, and made the sign.

“I like to do things that get people talking about Agnew Graphics,” says Mark. “Facebook is good for that. Local media likes to support businesses that give back to the community, so they’re always glad to cover something you donate.”

Mark doesn’t do much in the way of event sponsorships, unless they are “kid-related,” as he calls them. He does ads in yearbooks and youth-event programs, but no golf outings, fair tickets or primarily adult events.

“I can’t do it all,” says Mark. “I do what makes sense for my business. And I like to support our kids—they need and deserve it. When I’m asked about other donations like sponsorships, I explain that our policy is to support the kids.”

Goodwill marketing is part of an approach that has kept Mark’s shop going strong all these years. It goes hand-in-hand with quality service and creative designs like the examples of his work that you see here. It’s a win for both for the community and the sign shop.









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