(Oct. 21) NEW ORLEANS — In a day and age when the economy is struggling and cutbacks are common among companies in the produce industry, one might wonder how companies can continue promoting their products while saving money at the same time.

For help with that dilemma, participants turned to the “Low-Cost & No-Cost Marketing Ideas” workshop Oct. 13 at Fresh Summit 2002, where they heard a few options for solving the problem.

Bill McCurry, chairman of McCurry Associates, Princeton, N.J., relied on marketing author Jay Conrad Levinson’s definition of marketing for the basis of the discussion, which said that marketing is everything a company does to promote its business, from the moment it conceives it to the point at which customers buy its products or services and begin to patronize its business on a regular basis.

Before the workshop, McCurry conducted several interviews asking members of the produce industry about their marketing strategies. During the workshop, McCurry revealed his findings and also gave participants examples for effective and relatively cheap marketing such as a simply printed ripening bag.

McCurry said the most important step when marketing a product or a company is making the customer believe he is getting something in return.

“Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated,” McCurry said.

He illustrated this concept during the workshop by giving participants who answered questions a candy bar as a reward.

McCurry also said companies need to market to the customers they already have and that too much time is spent on gaining new customers, when the easiest person to sell to is the one who already buys from the company.

McCurry, drawing on industry examples throughout the workshop, gave attendees 31 marketing tactics that require minimal ex-pense but that help increase the effectiveness of marketing.

Suggestions included changing the company’s marketing mindset, creating a personality for the company, building trust with customers, properly training employees and providing point-of-sale materials.