With the downturn in the economy and marketing budgets smaller than the Dow Jones average, it’s a perfect opportunity for small business owners to compete in the branding wars. But to do so you have to be creative. Using “guerilla” marketing can be one avenue to make a big, and fun, impression on a small budget.
What Is Guerilla Marketing?
Maybe guerrilla marketing is best defined by what it is not: buying advertising space or sponsoring an event. Guerilla marketing comes in many forms. People dressed as hot dogs or animals standing curbside handing out samples often come to mind. Posters glued to plywood at a construction site is common. But how about campaigns that are rich in creativity, such as chalk messages on sidewalks, scavenger hunts, celebrity look-alike contests, or street promoters in tuxedos and top hats on stilts?
Guerilla marketing campaigns are particularly valuable for promoting events, such as store openings, special sales, or the announcement of a new product line. Keep it simple, but make an impression. Try to find ideas that people will respond to, something to lighten their day, such as music, food, children, and art.
What’s Your Message?
When planning a guerilla marketing campaign for your company you should first determine the primary message you want to send. For example, if you own an accounting or insurance firm, the campaign should probably have a different tone than if you own a flower shop or bakery. For instance, an accountant might host an open house for clients and friends and have buglers in medieval garb welcome them at the door. You will get people arriving feeling royal and smiling. No doubt it’s a story they’ll share long after the event. If you own a bakery, hire a children’s chorus, at the cost of a donation, to sing carols outside your store the week before Christmas to promote preorders of your signature holiday pastries.
For more subtle, long-term marketing, consider approaching the local diner about providing coffee cups with your firm’s logo for its takeout coffee drinkers. Doing so saves the owner the cost of the cups and is an efficient way to get your name in front of many eyes.
Who Can You Team Up With?
It’s hard to crack the national store chains, so create your own “chain” by teaming up with other local businesses to cross-promote. If you own a wine shop, ask the neighborhood pizza delivery shop to deliver with its pies invitations for your monthly wine-tasting event; in turn offer to serve slices at your tasting and distribute coupons for the pizza. If you own a nursery, work with your favorite landscaping firm. You could offer to hand out free-consultation coupons for the landscaper, while the landscaper could promote a Beginner’s Garden workshop to its clients.
Do the Locals Know You?
Even in good times, it is tough to compete with big-box stores. But given the dramatic nature of this downturn, people are looking for community and ways to support each other. Capitalize on this instinct. If you own a hardware store, now is the time to start a Kids-on-the-Block (of Wood) workshop. Get the parents over to your store, kids in tow, on a Saturday morning and teach the kids how to work with tools. Ditto for the parents. Host fixer-upper seminars for novices who have never picked up a hammer. Make it fun and give out a certificate of completion to each attendee. You’ll create relationships with local customers who will come back to you when they have questions; this in turn, will gain their trust, which will translate to sales.