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Six Tips for Marketing to Parents

In 2004, Andrew Erlichson and Mark Heinrich launched Phanfare.com after being disappointed with the photography Web sites they came across. Phanfare.com, a fee-based site, would focus on sharing rather than selling prints and also video sharing.

The business grew, but expanded beyond the originally intended audience: families. So in 2007, Phanfare.com retooled itself. It not only became free, but again became family-centric.

"We wanted to draw a bigger canvas and have a bigger impact," explains CEO Erlichson. "Social networking is a lot more collaborative and private. Based on that, we restructured and changed it to be a social network for families. But unlike MySpace, it's attuned to the privacy of parents and families."

But how does Phanfare, or any company, reach that audience? Here are some things to keep in mind when marketing to parents:

Make Use of the Internet

Today's parents grew up with computers and are more likely to get their information online than through a book or magazine. Says Amy Stevens, CEO of Marketing Edge Ventures (marketingedgeventures.com), "Gen X is very different. Technology is completely a part of their lives. If you don't have a Web site, they won't buy from you."

So devote some start-up costs to developing a Web site that is useful and informational. Also consider making the site interactive, says author of Street-Smart Advertising Margo Berman. Perhaps ask customers to submit their own commercials, like Dove did. Or start a blog or a newsletter. Berman says that companies like Constantcontact.com help owners keep in contact with customers by email and e-survey for just $15 a month.

Don't Discount Word of Mouth

Nothing is stronger than getting the seal of approval from a parent. A blogging parent would be ideal. "A link on five blogs can give you more visibility than money spent on advertising," says Florence Rolando, co-founder and managing partner of Bubble Kids Trade Show.

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