We’ve all been there before. No matter where you live, everyone has experienced a traffic jam, and amid fumes of frustration, glanced around to see a horizon of billboards.

This type of “wait marketing,” which capitalizes on moments of immobility or forced attention, maximizes on potential exposure. But unless a motorist has some special connection to an advertiser, it’s very likely that he or she will have forgotten about the ad almost as soon as traffic starts moving again.

In a broad field of contenders vying for the same potential customer, advertisers need to distinguish their product and set their brand above the rest. Guerilla marketing uses unconventional advertising methods to do just that.

Guerilla marketing can take many forms. Some advertisers stage publicity stunts, even going so far as to hire actors to pretend to be customers. Seeing a crowd of “protesters” outside a business, for example, will certainly make passersby look twice. When they read the signs these picketers are carrying—which, in this case, would be favorable comments or reviews about the business—they remember the incident far more vividly than if they had merely passed by a billboard.

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But guerilla marketing does not necessarily need to be so bold and flashy. Even bumper stickers or complimentary promotional gifts fall outside the realm of conventional advertising, if they’re done right. But they need to be fresh, and they need to be memorable. So, what are the basics of guerilla advertising?

Public places: Advertisements need to be seen in order to be effective. This one is pretty basic, but it extends outside of physical places. Putting a video on YouTube, for example, doesn’t necessarily make it an effectively marketed form of media. But using catchy tags, an irresistible name or title and sharing a video until it goes viral can be a wildly successful marketing strategy.

The right places: When marketing your business, whether using conventional or unconventional methods, your advertisements need to be localized to attract maximum business. This is especially true for small businesses. If your business has only one location in California, advertising in Nevada is not necessarily effective. Potential clients do not want to be led on a long walk; they want their goods and services to be reliable and easily available, because even the most dazzling advertisement has a limited shelf life of influence on potential customers.

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Finding the right balance: The key to successful marketing when trying to set your business apart from the rest is striking the right balance between the familiar and the surprising. Too familiar risks being boring and unmemorable, but too shocking can turn people off to your product or service. Similarly, knowing your audience is important. Something suggestive will catch people’s attention and perhaps make them laugh, but being too bold could offend potential customers and make them look elsewhere.

Living up to the hype: Guerilla marketing works best when it creates hype around a product or service.  The folks at Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shops know that our Facebook pages are a huge way into our customers’ hearts and minds, so we spend a lot of time and effort on the corporate page.  It generates interest, and that interest spurs conversation. But if your advertisement or post builds too much hype and your business can’t deliver on the expectations you’ve created, customers will be disappointed. So, rather than making unreasonable claims in your unconventional advertisement, it might be better to rely on attainable promises delivered in a humorous, innovative, or otherwise memorable fashion.

Maximizing reception: Whatever form your advertisement takes, ask yourself—will potential customers be more receptive when they see this, or less receptive? Being stuck in traffic, for example, affords opportunities of attention which can generate exposure. But most drivers are frustrated, glancing at the clock, or shuffling through radio stations to find a traffic report, and are not entirely open to a unique advertising experience. Catching people unaware might be key here. This is why guerilla marketing tactics like flash mobs have been so successful. People walking casually through a shopping mall or sauntering onto a subway platform are caught unaware when they see a large group of coordinated performers, and they immediately stop and take notice.

No matter how excited customers get over the initial advertisement, remember that it’s quality service and attention to detail while they’re in your place of business that will keep them coming back. Guerilla marketing can be tremendously successful at bringing traffic through the door, but it’s no substitute for your business dazzling them once they’re in. That’s what makes customers truly happy.

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