Things you will need:
Business cards, business cards, and more business cards! You can easily find 1,000 quality cards for under $25, and this is an essential tool when promoting your service to local businesses.
Your business name. Something catchy, something available, and something that will appeal to your community. Registering your business name is important, if only to ensure that you don't set up all the work just to have someone steal the name out from under you.
Getting your business license should be put off. The first year you will not charge anything, assuming you build the business in preparation for a January launch, and as a result it will prove to be an unnecessary fee. But we'll get into that a bit later.
HOWEVER, there is an amendment to the above suggestion. There are many reasons to join your local chamber of commerce, mostly related to meeting and networking with other local business owners. This will, however, require that you have your business license. Also, one or two businesses may not work with you without this. I've only had one person make a fuss. I went out and got my license the next day. But I still feel that this can be started without it, if you are short on money.
How the process works:
You find businesses that are willing to offer a year round discount to exclusive card holders. With some hard work, you should have no less than 70 businesses in time to print.
The point is, people will pay for the card for two reasons: That it benefits the community, via fundraisers, etc, and that it appeals to them in the way of offering some serious savings. Big businesses will often say no. Not always, but even offered free, some people will either believe you to be up to something, or they have been hassled by advertisers for so long that they are cold inside.
Do not get discouraged. Start focusing on small businesses. These people don't have a lot of money for advertising. They are excited to find something that's free. And once you have THEM, you have a legitimate image which paves the way to more businesses joining.
So, you'll offer to add businesses for free for the first year. This gives you the numbers you need, and, let's be honest, you really need them. But don't worry. The sales of your cards will generate an impressive ROI, all of which will be used to continue the next year with the goal of charging businesses between $100 and $800 to participate.
You will need to design the booklets yourself, assuming that you are a bit short on cash. Photoshop should do nicely. If you stick to a basic color listing, including a custom logo, discount and contact info, you should be able to fit all your businesses within an 8 to 12 page booklet. If you do not have the technical know-how, you should be able to hire someone locally, and at a reasonable price.
Your plastic card should have your website, business name and expiration date printed on the card. It should be stylish, something that people won't mind looking at 4 to 5 times a day. If you can number the cards this will cut down on a few issues later down the road, but realistically, it will prove to be more expensive, and will ultimately be unnecessary.
Also, have a spot for them to sign or print their name. You'll find that business owners, whether it's a deal breaker or not, will ask if the cards are numbered, or if there is any way of making sure that a membership card is not being passed around. A signature cuts down on this and gives business owners peace of mind.
But really, if you fail to offer a place for his/her name, just say "who cares if it's passed around? Regardless of whether someone paid for the card or not, they came to YOU because of your ad and discount."
Plastic cards will run you approx. $300 for 2,000.
Booklets will cost approx. $500 for 2,000.
Both of these can be purchased at a number of online stores. Do plenty of studying. You'd be surprised what feels like a good deal, until you're kicking yourself for paying more than you had to.
And drum roll.... BUILD A WEBSITE!
This is so important. You need a website. People expect it. Without a website you might as well be operating out of the garage. And maybe you are, but there is no reason for people to know that. A website can be built in such a way that YOU appear to be a TEAM of fancy business people. This is important for both the customers and the businesses that you represent.
The website should be clean and SEO. It should offer listings of all your businesses. Chances are that your customers will not always have their booklet on them. Likewise, they will not always be on the internet. The website and booklet will work hand in hand.
Dixie Rewards is a business started by Dan Bringhurst. The Dixie Rewards Card was started following the guidelines written above, and the website, while only a part of our business, is an essential tool without which we would not be in business.