In today’s difficult economy, finding the funding for marketing can be difficult, particularly for recently started small businesses. Guerrilla marketing, a low-cost, high-impact form of marketing, can help businesses successfully market themselves on a shoestring budget.
Marketing is an important part of any business strategy, especially that of a recently started business. If people aren’t aware of your business or the goods and services it offers, they can’t do business with you. A recent survey of business owners by the Small Business Administration found that the majority of them said they wished they had invested more into marketing than they did when they started their business.
Paying for print, radio or television ads can be expensive, especially if you’re operating in a large city or metro area. If you’re already operating on a limited budget, kicking up the 9 to 12 percent of annual budget that most businesses devote to marketing may be impossible. If you’re working with limited marketing funds, unconventional marketing tactics will ensure you get greater value for your marketing dollar, and may even be more effective than traditional marketing, depending on how well your tactics go over with the public.
Whereas traditional marketing campaigns rely on big budgets and traditional print, television and radio media, guerrilla marketing relies more upon time, innovation, energy and imagination to get the maximum results from a minimal marketing investment. Guerrilla marketing efforts are often interactive, getting the audience involved in something they find entertaining and are likely to recommend to their friends.
The term guerrilla marketing was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson, and used as the title of his book, Guerrila Marketing. The object of guerrilla marketing is to capture audience attention and imagination, resulting in a viral spread of awareness and goodwill toward your product or service.
Guerrilla marketing uses unusual tactics such as street promotion, giveaways, games, contests, and intercept encounters of potential customers in public places. The concept has also embraced the digital revolution, using text messaging and social media to engage potential customers, creating a likeable and memorable experience with the brand.
In Levinson’s book he identifies some core principles of guerrilla marketing, such as:
- The compatibility of guerrilla marketing and small business entrepreneurship, as guerrilla marketing lends itself well to localized campaigns.
- The importance of understanding the psychology of your target audience.
- The need for creativity in devising guerrilla marketing tactics.
- How the key metric for guerrilla marketing success should be profit amounts instead of sales figures.
- Using the number of new customer relationships as another metric for gauging the success of your efforts.
- Building mutually beneficial relationships with other businesses. For example, a pizza store could offer a discount at a partnering auto service store with each purchase and vice versa.
- The use of free media, such as attention-grabbing promotional events and social media promotion.
- Outflank larger competitors by making quick decisions. Most of your large company competitors’ marketing operations are pain-stakingly slow, as all decisions must go through a morass of corporate red tape before being enacted. As a small business owner, you can be more nimble as the buck starts and stops with you.
- Focus small. Guerrilla marketers can find product or customer groups that they can intensely focus on so their business can become the leader of individual market segments.
Here are a few ways you can put the theories behind guerrilla marketing into practice:
- Cut prices. This is the simplest method of guerrilla marketing. By offering prices lower than those of your competitors, you can get good word of mouth from customers, resulting in an uptick in business.
- Hit the streets. Have employees dressed up as the company mascot or in other attention-getting garb go out on the streets and wave at passersby or try to engage people in heavy pedestrian areas in conversation to convince them to visit your business.
- Print t-shirts. By printing and distributing t-shirts to your staff and customers, you create walking billboards for your business. Come up with a funny or creative shirt design and give them out, perhaps as a reward for purchases. Seeing their friends or just folks on the street wearing your brand will plant the seed in potential customers’ minds that your business may be somewhere they want to check out.
- Use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. The great thing about these sites are that they are seen by countless people each day and you don’t have to pay for it. By starting a Facebook page or Twitter account, you can create a rapport with your customers, making them feel more emotionally invested in your business. Their friends can see this interaction and choose to become a part of it or to recommend it to friends. Offering the occasional promotion via Facebook or Twitter can also help keep customers coming to your page and to your business.
- Ally with other businesses. Small businesses can help one another out by doing cross promotions or by taking advantage of one another’s talents. For example, if a small business owner is great at building and maintaining websites, that owner may partner with a less web-savvy owner to take care of his or her web needs in exchange for the opportunity to offer discounts at the other owner’s business to customers of the web-savvy owner’s business.
- Get the family involved. Your family presents a free labor and marketing force. Get them in on your efforts. By enlisting the help of family members, you can reach more people and avoid having to shift employees to marketing duties.
- Catch them by surprise. Market to audiences in places where they don’t expect it. By putting up eye-catching stickers in public restrooms, having an allied business slip a promotional flyer into their product packaging or by having your people approach passers-by in the street, you can get the attention, and, if you make a good impression, the business of a broader cross-section of customers.
How Do I Know It’s Working?
As mentioned before, your profits and your number of new customer relationships are key metrics for guerrilla marketing success, but there are other factors you can use to determine the success of your efforts. For example, consider the feedback you get from the public about your guerrilla marketing efforts. If you get a lot of people telling you how they loved your stunt, game or other tactic, chances are that you have a guerrilla marketing tactic that’s a keeper. If people dislike your tactics, you may need to change them.
Also, keep track of how many new purchases are made by existing customers and the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers your business has as another means of tracking guerrilla marketing success.