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Guerrilla Marketing for Your Retail Business

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Guerrilla marketing has been in the news lately. Perhaps you've heard about Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force promotion that drew out bomb squads in Boston and made front-page news across the country. Some say the attempt went awry; some say any press is good press. Whatever the case, it was guerrilla marketing.

Just to refresh your memory, guerrilla marketing is about gaining the maximum exposure for a company, event, product, service or person with the minimum amount of cash. Instead of a big budget, marketers rely on time, energy, information and knowledge to draw a crowd. Does low- or no-cost sound like a welcome relief to your budget? Let's review some easy-to-implement guerrilla marketing tactics for your retail business.

Many retail entrepreneurs are in a great position to use holidays for promoting their businesses. Every month has a holiday except August. And if you don't find one that fits, make one up: National Haircut Day, Treat-a-Dog Day or Buy Roses for No Reason Day, for instance. These types of themed days can even get you extra media coverage, so be sure to let the media know about your made-up holiday and promotion.

Another way to get press is writing special-interest articles on relevant topics, such as "The History of Valentine's Day" or "How the Poinsettia Became So Popular." Feeding the news community with this information positions your business not only as a resource for information related to holidays, but also as the place to shop for holiday-related gifts.

Other guerrilla ideas for retailers are events or contests. The event could be an open house, or a meet the expert, meet the mayor or meet the press. Contests can be simple, such as guessing the number of roses in a car for a florist or predicting the day a certain milestone will be reached--the thousandth guest or millionth sale, for instance. These suggestions may sound corny, but hopefully they'll get your creativity going.

The most powerful guerrilla suggestion for retailers is to keep track of your customers and prospects. Prospects have already expressed interest in you, so marketing to them should produce sales. Use a guest book in your business or hold a drawing and collect names and contact information from the entries. This pool of prospects will prove more valuable than any mass advertising. And remember, when you get contact information, put it in a database and be sure to get permission from your prospects before e-mailing them.

Guerrilla marketing can--and often will--push boundaries. It's OK to be on the edge, to test extremes, to get attention and to take calculated risks. Sending seasonal greeting cards falls into this calculated risk category. Imagine getting a greeting card from your favorite retailer wishing you a happy July 17. No special day, really, just an arbitrary greeting--maybe including a promotional offer. People love getting greetings at unexpected times, and you'll get attention for your gesture.

Another easy way to get noticed is putting candy in with each item you sell, which will also help you gain attention and stand out from others. Brainstorm marketing ideas with co-workers and suppliers. Try a few. Repeat what works. Fix what doesn't. You may surprise yourself with how well your marketing takes off with your budget still intact.

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