Guerrilla marketing, social media, blah blah blah. You've heard it all before.
Except that guerrilla marketing is not the same thing as marketing via social media. Guerrilla marketing can, and often does, involve social media, but it's more than that. Guerrilla marketing is inventive, creative, personal, out-of-the-box marketing. Yes, it often involves a small budget. Yes, it often involves social networking. And yes, it can work. Often brilliantly.
Guerrilla gets personal
Simon Tam manages and performs in The Slants, "the world's first and only all Asian American dance rock band." (What was that about the long tail again?) Tam and his cohorts set up as a small business and then guerrilla'd their way to "distribution in over 200+ countries in less than two years...and with a budget of less than $5000."
They did this, says Tam, through niche marketing (they targeted the anime community) and through cultivating "deep personal relationships." They build those relationships by taking social media a step further. Says Tam, "In addition to replying to every tweet, social media comment, and e-mail, we randomly select fans on our mailing list and send them postcards from different cities while on tour to thank them for their support."
The Slants went from a local band with no name recognition to an internationally recognized band which has been featured on NPR's "All Things Considered" and in the Indie Music Marketing Bible.
Guerrilla gets awareness
Bryan Elliot had a new membership site, Linked Orange County, which would be a way to connect businesses and people as well as "an online marketplace for local products and services." The only problem was that he had no members, which, as Elliot says, amounted to "an awareness problem."
As in, no awareness.
Elliot's awareness problem coincided with the pre-election frenzy of political signs on every corner. So he took advantage of the time and made faux political signs that read "Vote for Linked OC and support local business." The signs pointed people to the website, and after posting them around town, Elliot saw his website gain more than 3,000 members.
Since then, says Elliot, "We've doubled our membership and continue to grow at a steady pace."
Guerrilla gets creative
David Greenbaum owns Doctor Dave Computer Repair in Lawrence, Kansas. To compete with the big box stores and manufacturer tech support, he has to get creative.
"One marketing strategy I have," says Greenbaum, "is to leave magazines around town with my logo on them."Greenbaum finds good deals for yearly magazine subscriptions, then leaves them in waiting rooms and lobbies: Doctor's offices, salons, mechanics, gyms, and coffee shops.
The methodology is simple, says Greenbaum. In lieu of a traditional address label, "I have pre-printed stickers that say 'this magazine compliments of Doctor Dave Computer Repair' along with my website and other contact information. The business gets a steady stream of magazines, the patrons get something to read, and I get my name out there."
What guerrilla marketing isn't
Guerrilla marketing isn't just popping up a Facebook page and then pestering your personal contact list until they give it a like. And guerrilla marketing isn't being cheap, or resorting to spammy or half-baked marketing tactics just because you don't have the brain or budget to do anything better.
Denise Beeson, a business consultant and lecturer, reminds her clients "that 'it takes money to make money' and that there is no guerilla marketing technique that will stampede customers to your door."
Guerrilla gets measured
Beeson also notes that the success you do have will be difficult to repeat if you fail to measure the response of what you do.
However inventive your guerrilla marketing is, says Beeson, "without good measurement of your marketing efforts, it may not be productive nor replace the age old tradition of an overall marketing plan."
Find a way to measure the efforts you make—just because you think a marketing idea is brilliant, heartfelt, clever, or creative doesn't mean your customers will agree. To get success with guerrilla marketing, put forth a sincere effort. Be personal. Be inventive. Be clever. Then track the response.
Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget start-ups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia's Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @AnnieMueller.