The Nestle Corporation in Geneva, Switzerland, asked Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago, Illinois, where creativity came from. The answer was revealed by asking the same question to artists, dancers, writers, musicians, poets, engineers, and architects. All gave the same answer to the question. They said that creativity comes from knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the more creative you can be. Applying creativity to the arts listed above has the purpose of human enjoyment. Applying creativity to your business has the primary purpose of generating profits. If it doesn't generate profits, it's not creative.
Don't ever go down the garden path of beauty and creative expression in marketing. Sure, it's a plus if your audio and visual materials look and sound great. But that's not their job. Generating profits is their job. Get your artistic kicks in the concert hall. There's no place for them in the boardroom.
The Knowledge You Need
Direct your creativity towards the accumulation of knowledge you need. The path to that knowledge is illuminated by research, the start-up point for the start-up guerrilla. That training as well as your own adventures as a guerrilla marketer starts with information you've really got to have. Much of it is published on the internet. Lots of it is yours for free at your local chamber of commerce. Bookstores and libraries are bulging with just the information you need, and professional associations and groups will share it with you. Our favorite is the University of Google.
There's only one thing that accessible information lacks--specific information about your customers. It's laden with data about groups, but as a guerrilla, you're more interested in data about individuals.
Research Your Consumer
The best way to get that data is to get it yourself. Do your own research. Prepare customer and prospect questionnaires (a different one for each group) that ask a lot of questions. Have a notation at the top of the questionnaire that you're sorry to ask so many questions, but the more you know about them, the better service you can be to them.
Ask Specific Questions
Ask questions with answers that open new doors, such as what is your favorite sport? Favorite rock group? Favorite baseball team? Do you have a hobby? Do you have any pets? The answers to these questions can help you add immense power to your e-mail and website. There is an old proverb: "It is better to know something specific about your spouse than know everything about marriage." The same holds true for buyer-seller relationships. The "something specific" is what you get with research and the way to switch a start-up marketing campaign into a higher gear.
If you want a place to exercise your creativity, it's in your customer questionnaire. Most business owners know most of the right answers. Guerrilla business owners also know most of the right questions. Knowing the right questions to ask and then asking them is one of the arts of the start-up guerrilla marketing campaign.
Examine the Answers
Processing what you learn is what it's all about because that's where the action begins taking place. You notice a great number of customers in three zip codes. That spurs a mailing to those codes. You must be doing or saying something right. What can it be?
Naturally, a guerrilla's view of research begins with research into his own customers. Important as they are, there are still many other areas deserving of further exploration. First on that list are your prospects, those people who for some silly reason haven't yet purchased from you. Hey! Hold on a second. Maybe it wasn't a silly reason. Maybe it was you doing a silly thing or missing an important detail in customer service. Always look at it like this: If your prospects aren't your customers, there's got to be a reason. Find out what that reason it and then correct it. Be relentless. Be pig-headed and single-purposed, but do everything you can do to transform all of your prospects into customers. That may not happen exactly. But your efforts won't go unrewarded. My boss and idol Leo Burnett said, "When you reach for the stars, you might not get one, but you're not likely to come up with a handful of mud either."
The best marketing builds confidence and invites a purchase. Best and most unique of all, the best marketing gets through to people. That's why knowing a lot about your prospects will help you stand apart from your competitors and shine in the minds of your prospects and customers.
Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of Guerrilla Marketing, the bestselling marketing series in history, selling more than 14 million copies worldwide. He is chairman of Guerrilla Marketing International. His latest books include Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days, 2nd. Edition with Al Lautenslager, Guerrilla Marketing on the Internet with Mitch Meyerson and Mary Eule Scarborough, and Startup Guide to Guerrilla Marketing with Jeannie Levinson.