Today’s blog article involves perhaps my favorite topic within the scope of marketing and business as a whole. We all know the script by now: business isn’t exactly “booming” for a company; they’d love to pick up some new clients or even have new prospects of clients to work on. The summer months are creeping in and things look flat for the next quarter or so. So what’s the play here? A lot of companies tend to play the cards to their chest, sit in their air conditioned office park keeping their social media up to date because it’s cheap and lay people off if need be. It’s sad really. There are other tactics that can be used to give business a kick in the pants. When done right, these tactics are memorable, creative, intelligent, frighteningly effective and typically very low budget. I will warn everyone up front this is not for everybody. Not everyone’s personality will gel with the approaches here, and there are some industries as a whole that are not designed to have success in the kinds of close quarters we’ll be talking about. Today is about what we call “guerilla marketing”.
Guerilla marketing is one of those things not easily defined, but you know it when you see it. It tends to be low budget (often even free) and it also seems to favor “the little guy”. Yes by the little guy I mean a local business struggling to keep the lights on. What it seems to come down to is a dialogue between you the marketer, the consumer and other possible consumers. Tactics are often personalized one on one interactions tailored to individuals which make them effective. Usually when done right, guerilla marketing will have some “attitude” and is also even perceived as a little bit “dangerous”; that is to say there is a good chance someone will see what you are doing and not approve!
Search the internet and you can easily find pictures of chalkboard signs on the sidewalks outside of bars that will read things like: “Beer, Now cheaper than gas. Drink. Don’t drive.” or “Soup of the Day: WHISKEY”. Can’t you sense the cleverness and joy there? They are so much like jokes your real life friends would make, you can almost taste the fun! And if you were looking for a place to eat and drink, are you going to pass up such an establishment for that “stern and serious” place down the road filled with so called grown-ups? There’s an old story that lingers and is so old that I don’t even know if it’s true (which speaks to its power). The rumor is when Burger King first introduced the Whopper, they needed to take some ground from McDonald’s. Supposedly, one specific Burger King location saw a man who could only be described as Ronald McDonald in a bad disguise of a trench coat walk in, order a Whopper sandwich and then proceed to sit in the back of the restaurant for the lunch hour slowly eating and trying not to be noticed. He was noticed obviously and people laughed and had a great story. Someone reads this story and thinks, “Well that’s stupid. Why do that?” The reason why is to create a buzz. Stir the pot as they say. I mean it’s been 30 years and we’re talking about it right? Sure there is always paid advertising, but the reality is ads can get pricey and people don’t “talk” about them with the same fervor they do their own experiences. Remember, people love to tell stories and they love to hear stories. Put a smile on someone’s face and watch them hand you their money.
There are two people that are also key in this. They are who we in marketing call “influencers”. These people set examples for their friends. When they do something, purchase something or actively choose one product over another the people around them seem to notice and often time are influenced by it. There are two sides to them and to keep it simple we are going to call them Positive Pete and Negative Nancy. Positive Pete is a generally upbeat and happy go lucky sort of person, sees opportunities in life and gets a kick out of things that are new, innovative, clever and generally fun. If you can get an audience with Positive Pete it will be really good because he might post a picture of it somewhere, or mention it in social media somehow or like I described generally talk about something he saw you do as a guerilla marketer. If his friends find out about it too, that honestly could lead to more business for you. After all, Pete was impressed and he is totally awesome. Then there is Negative Nancy. She hates change and is vocal about it. She doesn’t see the merit in your marketing or product and was somehow offended (she offends easily) by it and tells her friends. What Nancy doesn’t know is that two of her friends are like her in mindset and will never buy from you, but she told another 7-10 people. Nancy doesn’t know it, but these people just feel bad for Nancy because she’s a miserable person sitting in a tower of fear. When she tells those friends their reaction underneath is more like, “Actually to me that’s kind of cool. Maybe that company would be a fun place to visit when I’m in town. Also, why is Nancy so negative?” and before you know it both Positive Pete and Negative Nancy are creating a funnel of new possible business going in your direction. The point is you created a buzz and though you bump shoulders here and there, a true buzz about your business is never bad.
True guerilla marketers understand these principles and they have fun with them. If you have a business that customizes things, you’re a fool to not use that as part of your angle. Maybe a tactic involves making one as either a gift, or a give-away to an influencer. Better yet, maybe it’s a completely random person. Try to remember, if someone gives something of any value to you 100% free you are going to talk about it. Not to mention your product is good right? How awesome would it be to be able to experience it out of nowhere? I bet people would talk about it. In the end guerilla marketing is not for everyone. It truly takes understanding yourself, your customer and having full confidence in what you’re doing. Some people feel silly in the middle of what would be a truly effective guerilla campaign and so they prefer to sit in the back typing away like Nancy. To those I would say that’s fine, but just remember your competitor is across town saying, “You can have the pride, and I’ll take the actual business.”
Written by Guest Blogger – Ken Pellegrino. Ken Pellegrino is a freelance writer and part-time marketer at Purple Diamond LLC with a background in business management, marketing, sales and customer relations. A graduate from Salem State University’s Bertolon School of Business with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing, Ken shares his passion for marketing and sales with the owner of Purple Diamond, his mother, Charlene St Jean. In addition to his love of marketing, Ken is also a talented guitarist who enjoys both writing and playing music.