From the April 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

Guerrillas are well aware that the highest form of public relations is human relations. They are able to blend warm relationships with sizzling profits.

No matter how good your marketing is, it rarely brings customers back for more if they were disappointed in their first go-round with you. Marketing cannot generate profits if your word-of-mouth marketing works against it. It can only get prospects to buy from you once. The rest is up to you--and up to your sense of humanity in marketing. The more humanity customers experience from your company, the more involved they'll be with you--and they'll prove it with repeat business.

One guerrilla truism is that people like to buy from friends. Another is that it is crucial to make the human bond before you can make a lasting business bond.

To avoid the depersonalization that has been an unpleasant side effect of the digital age and endemic within the business community, several guerrilla marketing weapons may be employed to add more humanity to your marketing and more profits to your till.

On the retail level, it means using the weapons--and don't underestimate their importance just because they're free--of a warm, sincere smile; clear eye contact; and, whenever possible, using the person's name. This feels human. It feels comfy. And that makes the person feel good. When the customer feels good, the customer connects you with that good feeling. That's why good feelings lead to good business.

Humanity should be your modus operandi during trade shows, whether you're an exhibitor or a browser. Parties on trade show evenings for key customers and prospects are wise investments for companies that want to intensify their human bonds. Guerrillas do not hesitate for a moment to play favorites.

The personality of your company, as heard on the telephone, can turn your customers on--or off. A warm, friendly person answering the phone can lead to a warm, friendly friendship with your company. A cold, unfriendly person on the phone can make the caller feel intrusive, like an interruption of work rather than the reason your company exists.

If you absolutely must put callers on hold, let them benefit from your on-hold marketing by listening to music and fascinating news about your company, particularly about special offers and new products and services. Instead of resenting you, callers will appreciate you.

All contact time with customers should be oriented to the customer's needs and devoted to saving time for the customer. Even with your respect for the customer's time, there is still ample opportunity to strengthen the human bond by making the purchasing process as simple as possible. The idea is to be personable, streamlined and easy to do business with.

Accept all credit cards. Provide partial payment plans. Offer overnight delivery. Encourage telephone ordering. Hold sales training that includes pointers about human behavior and the immense power of a smile. Offer salespeople memory training so they can connect names with faces. Be certain your reps--anyone who will be in contact with your customers--are pleasant, warm and reflect your company identity.

Your prospects have to buy you and your reps before they buy what you and your reps are selling. Humanity that is sincerely added to a cold business situation warms up the transaction. It motivates the customer to be a source of repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.

Add humanity by asking questions, listening attentively to the answers, being of maximum service to the customer, and providing free data such as brochures, newsletters, videos, an online service that responds instantly--the full gamut of marketing weapons.

Most of the marketing weapons I've mentioned cost very little money. They are attitudes that serve to warm up your marketing plan. They make doing business with you a pleasure, not a chore. When your customers feel your caring, feel a sense of well-being because they're your customers, you have succeeded at one-on-one public relations. Who would ever think that a hallmark of the guerrilla is love? I hope you think
it now.

Jay Conrad Levinson is author of the internationally acclaimed Guerrilla Marketing series of books and co-founder of Guerrilla Marketing International. For information on the Guerrilla Marketing Newsletter and other products and services, write to P.O. Box 1336, Mill Valley, CA 94942; call (800) 748-6444; or visit the Web site at (http://www.gmarketing.com).