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Are You A Guerrilla Marketer?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Are You A Guerrilla Marketer?(GIFTBEAT)If you're always on the lookout for ways to promote your business – especially those that keep you ahead of the competition and can be done on the cheap – it's likely you're a fan of Jay Conrad Levinson, the" father of guerrilla marketing." This month, Levinson talked to contributing editor Sharon Bopp about marketing mistakes retailers will want to avoid, today's latest marketing strategies, and ways to put a new spin on some age-old marketing tools. His suggestions are also featured in his recently-released book, "Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business" [2007].

Q. What are the biggest marketing mistakes you currently see being made by small retailers and other business owners?

A. By far, the #1 mistake is a failure to start with a marketing plan. It's like entering into battle under a commander who says, "Ready. Fire. Aim." You can't run a business by firing before you aim.

Mistake #2: Probably over 90% of retailers, especially new retailers, think that instant gratification is part of marketing—and it's not. If they don't get spectacular results in three months, they think maybe something is wrong and question everything they do. The reality is that what they're doing is right, but marketing doesn't work instantly. The most successful marketers I've met around the world have this in common: They are patient people with a strong sense of reality.

Mistake #3: Using the word "me" too much. Websites have links that say "About my store" or "Our history." Guerrilla marketers are big about using the word "you" when marketing [because they understand that] customers don't care about "us" or "me." They care about themselves.

Mistake #4: Retailers think that the quality of what they're selling has to do with the work they've done to find gifts. But that's a major mistake. Quality has everything to do with the buyer, or what the customer gets out of the product or service.

Mistake #5: Not creating a store website. If a store owner advertises, does public relations and has a website, all three will support each other and work. You can get a free three-page website from AOL.

Q. How can "combination marketing" help retailers succeed?

A. For 2007 and beyond, advertising doesn't work, public relations doesn't work and having a website doesn't work. The only thing that works is having all three marketing combinations help each other. You have to decide what combination is best for you.

For example, there's a small mom-and-pop mattress store in Berkeley, California, that sells $3,000 to $5,000 mattresses. They'd been using newspaper and radio ads. Their children convinced them that they needed to have a website. But they didn't want to have to ship their mattresses. So, the children suggested they just mention the store's website in the ads. Now, customers visit the website and go to the showroom to buy their beds. Since starting this strategy in January 2006, they have brought in over $1 million per month in retail sales. People drive from all over California to get to their Berkeley store! They learned that the combination that wins for them is the use of standard media and the Internet. They limit their space in radio and newspaper ads. But on their website they have all the space they need. The website has good information about the mattresses—and a sensible explanation of why someone would pay $3,000 to $5,000 for one.

Q. In your opinion, is it a mistake for small retailers to pass up low-cost marketing opportunities like blogs?

A. Never before have marketers had such a galaxy of weapons. Mainly, all it takes [to use them] is writing ability and the investments of time, energy and imagination. The people who are making most of the money in America right now are taking advantage of these weapons. They are the smart ones because they are some of the only [businesses] in town using them. It's important to be one of the first ones because [other businesses] will catch on.

My wife and I just bought a house in Florida that we're furnishing from scratch. We would have given anything to have found a web blog from [a retailer] here who would have helped us learn about local stores that have the items we want! We are among those 8% of people who are always interested in buying at any given time. So, aim your [blog] marketing at this minority.

If you have a web blog and commit to it, it will work. If you have what it takes to write an entry in your blog three to four times a week, love to write, have the time and what you write about is interesting and attracts other interested parties, it makes all the sense in the world. You should only blog if you have stories to tell [for example, about your products], not just present the facts themselves. You must have information that is fun for you to write about. Other bloggers respond back to you, there's give and take, and you develop relationships.

If you have to force yourself to find subject matter, are terrified of writing, or want to make a few entries and sit back and wait for responses, skip blogs. Blogs are not difficult and are low cost. Google [blog] and you'll see how to get started. Then, use other marketing materials to encourage customers to visit your website and read your blog.

Q. Our retailers are ready for the holiday sales rush. Can you offer them some low-cost, 11th-hour marketing ideas?

A. You'll want to have a marketing message that talks about the last-minute holiday rush. Your customers know that the holiday season is just around the corner. That's what's on their minds, so they'll listen to everything [on this topic].

If you've wondered if you can ever ask a question in the headline of your ad, the answer is "Yes, now!" Ask "Are you looking for last- minute gift ideas?" And then answer the question. Reprint the ad and put it in your store window. This message creates a sense of urgency and lets people know that holiday gift-giving time is close. [With signage,] there's a good chance they'll go through your door and see what you have to offer.

Q. Direct mail remains an important marketing tool for Giftbeat readers. What direct mail technique might work well at the holidays?

A. There will be more direct mail now than at any other time of the year. If you study direct mail at any university, you know you should expect a 2% response rate. But if you want to break through all the clutter, get people to open the envelope and get a 10% to 20% response rate, physically place 14 stamps totaling 41 cents on the envelope. [For example, seven 2-cent stamps and nine 3-cent stamps.] All these stamps will be impossible to ignore and will get the envelope opened. You must also know your audience and have a creative approach and good offer.

Note: For more about Guerrilla Marketing, go to Log on to to purchase Levinson's book "Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business" [2007].

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