Canadian Vending

Features Business Operations
Stomachman: So You Think You Can’t Afford To Advertise

June 10, 2008
By Richard Zinck


When I talk to vending operators about advertising the statement I
mostly get back is: “We just don’t have the money to throw away on
advertising.” However, there are many ways of getting valuable exposure
for your vending business where the cost to you is minimal.

When I talk to vending operators about advertising the statement I mostly get back is: “We just don’t have the money to throw away on advertising.” However, there are many ways of getting valuable exposure for your vending business where the cost to you is minimal.
Understanding how this works starts with recognizing the very valuable physical assets you already own when it comes to advertising and publicity. Add a little creativity on your part and it all goes a long way to creating lots of exposure for your business. In my case, as a coffee truck operator, I turned my desire to promote my business into a lot of free media coverage with very little investment.

It starts with seeing how the vending industry is exposed to thousands of people. Our customers and the general public see our machines and our products up to four times a day. People hold our products in their hands and in that moment there is an opportunity to reach them with a message.

Equate how many businesses in our communities are always looking for ways to get exposure at price they can afford. A lot of them don’t even mind hanging their ads and good names on public garage respecters as long as lots of people see them in a day.


So, why not leverage some of our own available advertising space? Create win-win opportunities for those businesses and ourselves. There are many ways to achieve this, depending on your goal, whether it is straight advertising or creating a better image for your company.
You can start your own promotional campaign by making sure your machines are placed in high traffic areas. Think about your vehicles and your cups, for example, as moving billboards. Even the jacket you are wearing is a potential billboard. If you are a small vendor, and don’t have a lot of space of your own, get together with other vending operators and act as a group.
You may think that it takes a lot of time and money to produce advertising. However, many businesses are willing to produce the advertising for you, if they know some of your space is available to them. So, the deal could be – if you provide the space, they’ll give you the ads and they could even help you create your own advertising or brand material to share the space.

At the very least, you could get a local detailing shop to advertise their business in exchange for a makeover of your business vehicles. Or how about a joint venture with a customer where you’ve wanted to place your machines? They let you in, and you put ads for them on your machines in your other existing locations.
The possibilities are really endless. And anytime you place advertising on your own equipment or goods, you are also presenting a more polished image and drawing attention to your own business.

Of course, getting advertising from businesses that already have brand savvy is even better. It’s called co-branding and the big guys do it all the time.

Personally, I see promotion in two parts that can be related. The first part is the traditional way in which you buy space in print, radio or TV to get your name out there. The second part, involves the media, where you get them to produce stories about your company. I think media coverage is better than advertising because what the media says is what people tend to accept as absolute truth. If they say that your company is great, then it is. If they say that your product is the best, then it is.
So how do you get in the media? It can start with thinking about advertising. Here is an example of how one thing led to the next for me.
When I was building my catering truck business in Guelph a few years back, I wanted to go to the next level in promoting my company. I couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money on advertising, so I had to become creative.
I approached the local radio station. I knew they were in competition with other local radio stations for listeners. I created an opportunity. I told them I sold 5,000 cups of coffee a day to local business people. Some of those people would buy three to four cups a day, which meant they could be holding a potential message in their hands each time.

I asked the radio station: “What would you give me if I gave you one side of all of my cups to print your logo?” They didn’t offer me cash, but they did offer me free commercials every day on the radio.

I left their office thinking that was easy. Now, I thought, how could I get more free time? I called back and suggested: “Instead of just printing your logo on my cups, why don’t you add, ‘Listen to the station to win.’” They asked me what would be won? I offered up a free lunch.

They ended up announcing the contest at least 10 times a day on the air: “Fax in why your company deserves a free lunch on StomachMan, and if your letter is picked as the best, StomachMan will give your whole company a free lunch.”
I had my ads and the contest on the radio every day. Great promotion and great for business in a direct way because 95 per cent of the companies that won the free lunch became new customers of mine.

The promotion engine was started. The Guelph Storm hockey team approached me about advertising in their arena. I created a promotion with them.

We asked: “What would you do on centre ice at a Guelph Storm hockey game for $1,000?”

I then convinced the same local radio station to hold the promotion on air for free. For one month, every hour on the hour, they would accept a caller on the air to say what they would do at centre ice. At the end of the month, they picked three winners to do their thing at centre ice.
It was a sellout game, and I got to drive two of my promotional vehicles onto centre ice while my theme song played over the PA system. We ended up with full press coverage of the event, which became the talk of the town. I got all of that for $1,000.

Now that the ads and the promotions were working, the press began to kick in. They wrote story after story about my company, and that led to me receiving the Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. I had a boot company call me to set up a deal where all of my drivers received $600 worth of boots and clothing, and I was given a nice cheque, just for saying that I wore their boots. And to think it all started with the coffee cups.

Now, promotion is one of my passions. I love to dream up schemes just for the sake of seeing how far I can go with getting attention. However, it doesn’t take a whole lot to get the right amount of promotion to see your business grow and put some recognition for our industry back in the public eye. There is also a ripple effect. Once a few businesses realize the potential of our assets as a way of getting them exposure, I guarantee you others will beat a path to our doors with cross-promotional and win-win offers.
The people who manage the bus stop benches and public garage respecters have discovered an advertising bonanza, so why not us? I mean, where would you choose to enhance your company’s image? The dumpster full of doggy droppings or where people place their derrières or the place where people buy their lunches?

Let’s hear from you. Send me an e-mail and I will write about the best promotional ideas I receive in coming columns. Next month, I’ll being talking about something else dear to my heart – finding and developing new markets and products.­
Richard Zinck has built million-dollar catering truck and vending machine routes for more than 25 years. He is a sales consultant, promoter and motivational speaker who can be reached at