While it can certainly be beneficial to invest money in promoting your business, not all effective marketing strategies have to be expensive. When you are willing to invest time and energy into promoting your business, but not a lot of money, a guerilla marketing approach is what you need. Jay Conrad Levinson, who first introduced the concept back in 1984, writes that guerilla marketing is about "achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money."
Eight Effective Guerilla Strategies
Guerilla marketing can provide an excellent way to promote your business without spending a lot of money, and the most creative guerilla approaches have the potential to go viral, resulting in greatly expanded reach and longevity. This approach to marketing is not limited to businesses that don't have a lot of money to spend. Guerilla strategies can be so effective that major companies with huge advertising budgets often use this approach. Strategies to consider include:
1. Flyer Distribution
Pass out or hang up flyers at various locations about your business, being certain to get permission before doing so on private property. This can be done in businesses, on community bulletin boards, even on light poles or street signs. Automobile manufacturer Kia earned a spot on Rasmussen College's list of the all-time best guerilla marketing campaigns using this strategy. Kia posted flyers in select cities featuring the company's "Spend Less" slogan and an image of one of its cars at the top, with tear-off strips with its URL along the bottom.
2. Coupon Exchange
Consider exchanging coupons with a non-competing merchant who does business with the same target market as you. Share the merchant's coupons with your customers and ask him or her to do the same for you. If you have ever picked up a restaurant coupon at your favorite nail salon or dry cleaner, you have seen this strategy at work. Coupons can also be shared door-to-door, in packages, on company websites, via social media and more.
Working cooperatively with a business that offers different products or services to a similar customer base as yours in this way is called fusion marketing, an approach NBC News describes as "one of the most underused, inexpensive and effective methods of guerrilla marketing."
It will take some time to cultivate relationships with other merchants and to distribute coupons to them, but the impact can be very positive. Entreprenuer.com recommends tracking "where the user found the coupons" is a good way to determine which exchanges work the best.
Start a blog with information that appeals to your prospective customers or write guest blog posts to submit for publication on other people's blogs and websites. Share tips, information, and advice that members of your target audience are likely to search for online. Include links to your company's website and your contact information.
Writing blog posts and maintaining your own business blog or looking for places to submit guests posts is time consuming, but the results can be very beneficial and it doesn't have to cost anything. According to HubSpot, "Nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes. Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors." Blogger LinkUp is a great tool for finding places to submit guest posts, as well as for getting submitted content to publish on your own blog.
4. Public Speaking
Seeking opportunities to speak at civic and professional organizations and associations throughout your community and other areas within your target market is a great guerilla marketing strategy. To do this, you'll need to put together a few educational presentations relevant to your business that members of these types of organizations are likely to be interested in and pitch them to groups with members who are potential customers for your business. If you are blogging, you can use blog post content as a starting point. For example, if your company offers resume writing services, you could offer presentations on what employers look for when screening resumes or effective interviewing skills.
On MarketingToday.com, De Jay Conrad Levinson points out the benefits of public speaking as a guerilla marketing strategy. He states, "A speech demonstrates what you and your business can do. It also lets your audience see first hand how you think and work."
In an article on guerilla marketing on the Gaebler Ventures blog, Richard San Juan points out, "If you can master public speaking, your small business has the possibility to gain much publicity, both for the company and the product line." Beyond speaking at group meetings, San Juan also suggests hosting your own free educational seminars. You can also record your presentations and share them via YouTube.
Finding ways to get your company covered in the news media is a great way to draw attention to your business. On TweakYourBiz.com, Neil Sisson emphasizes the benefits of publicity as a guerilla marketing strategy, stating "it's all about spinning your activity to make it a human interest story." Creative GuerillaMarketing.com suggests leveraging seasonal tie-ins, anniversaries and trends to generate publicity as part of your public relations plan.
You'll need to put together and maintain a thorough media list that includes both online and traditional media sources. Write and distribute press releases about interesting and newsworthy occurrences relevant to your company or industry. Sisson also suggests, "Pick up the phone and give local journalists what they need most; great news content."
6. Building Displays
If you have a bricks and mortar business, use it (within the confines of your lease and local business ordinances) to spread the word about your business. Sisson suggests using your building "like a billboard," suggesting using techniques like painting a mural with a creative marketing message on the outside of the building.
For example, according to Complex.com, actor James Franco participated in painting murals to promote the movie This Is the End. Alternatives include creating an interesting window display that will attract attention or hanging up a giant banner.
You could also display signs in your building's landscaping, and might even be able to use the sidewalk area in front of your building. MCNG Marketing discusses "reverse graffiti" as a "green" guerilla strategy for business located in urban areas where the sidewalks are grimy. Since cleaning the sidewalk in front of your business isn't illegal, some companies (including Domino's pizza) have gotten the idea to wash away grime in such a way that they leave behind the shape of their company's logo in the sidewalk.
7. Social Networking
Social media provides a powerful - and free - way to build your professional brand, as well as to get the word out about your business to potential customers. It's important to build your own professional profile on LinkedIn, as well as to create - and use - social networking profiles for your business on popular social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube. If your business is one that attracts walk-in customers, Foursquare should also be included in your strategy. Businesses that can be promoted through visuals can also benefit from Instagram.
Social media marketing is guerilla by its very nature, because it doesn't cost anything but time and energy. Create an appropriate social media content plan and follow it to build relationships with customers, prospects and referral sources.
There are a number of social media-specific guerilla tactics you can try. For example, once you build up a large following on Twitter, you could host a Tweetup event at your place of business. You could also use your social media presence organize a flash mob (which is a great way to generate buzz) to raise awareness for a cause or event relevant to both your business and your followers and other members of your target market. Creating your own memes or infographics to share via social media can also be an effective guerilla strategy with viral appeal.
8. In-Person Networking
Participate in local and industry-specific in-person business networking activities, including business expo events, Chamber of Commerce meetings, and professional organization and association meetings attended by prospective customer groups. This is an excellent way to become visible in your community and to make contacts with prospective customers and word-of-mouth referral sources. However, just joining these groups is not enough - you need to become actively involved to reap the benefits.
Also consider getting involved with a networking group that is focused on sharing referrals, such as Business Network International (BNI) or a local or virtual Master Mind group that, according to The Success Alliance, is "a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skill." In these types of groups, members work closely together to come up with unique and creative ways to promote their own - and each other's - businesses.
Guerilla Marketing Success
Spreading the word about your business doesn't have to cost a lot of money, but there is a trade-off if you choose to utilize guerrilla marketing strategies rather than putting all of your promotional efforts into traditional (and more expensive) marketing techniques. Instead of spending a lot of money on business promotion, you will need to spend time.
Guerrilla marketers have to be directly involved in marketing activities on an ongoing basis to experience success. A great resource to learn more is The Best of Guerrilla Marketing: Guerrilla Marketing Remix by Jay Conrad Levinson and Jeannie Levinson. If you're ready to commit time and energy to promoting your business regularly, you can enjoy the benefits of successful guerrilla marketing.