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What Is Guerrilla Marketing Anyway?

Go straight to the source of the guerrilla marketing craze to learn about its key elements.

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First there's marketing. Then you have direct marketing, consumer marketing, B2B marketing, buzz marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, online marketing . . . really, the list is endless. But one form often left out is guerrilla marketing.

The term "guerrilla marketing" was first used by Jay Conrad Levinson in his popular 1984 book, Guerrilla Marketing. In it, he describes this method of marketing as nontraditional, low-cost or no-cost ways of marketing, promoting, advertising, publicizing, etc. Some have called it unconventional marketing; some have called it extreme marketing; still others have even used the term stealth marketing. And all of these apply in the sense that the tactics are nontraditional and low- or no-cost.

Guerrilla marketing has a major profit orientation and emphasis. Since guerrilla marketers don't have unlimited funds, they must employ smarter rather than harder ways to work. This is done through the full use of time, energy, information, knowledge and, most of all, imagination. The guerrilla marketer must use all of his or her contacts to network, find creative publicity stories, angles and outlets, and generate ideas that'll get noticed and talked about.

This type of marketing is primarily designed for small businesses and independent professionals. Other organizations such as nonprofits have also found it beneficial. It's great for small business because it's important for a guerrilla marketer to be flexible and agile to react to marketplace environments and influences-- without layers of bureaucracy to go through, small businesses can change course as needed.

My co-author of Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days, Jay Conrad Levinson, has laid out some other key principles to help explain the essence of guerrilla marketing:

  • Guerrilla marketing is based on human psychology and the way people think and react vs. judgment and guesswork.
  • With guerrilla marketing, there's an emphasis on profits, not just sales.
  • A good measure of guerrilla marketing is the number of relationships you build over a particular period of time.
  • Guerrilla marketing employs a focus on markets and target audiences vs. trying to be all things to mass markets.
  • There's a concentration on three specific ways to increase business: new referrals, more transactions from existing customers and larger transactions from existing customers.
  • Instead of out-and-out competition, guerrilla marketing supports cooperation with other businesses.
  • Guerrilla marketing is made up of many elements all working together and supporting each component of the program.
  • Technology is the guerrilla marketer's friend. Use it. Leverage it. Profit from it.

Here are some guerrilla marketing examples that you might have noticed, or maybe noticed but didn't realize they were marketing of the guerrilla type:

  • Chipotle's offer of a free burrito to anyone dressed up like one of their football-size burritos on Halloween
  • A business owner associating himself current event as an expert so he can get quoted in the media
  • An entrepreneur nominating herself for an award and promoting her nomination and receipt of the award (if she gets it)
  • Sonic DriveIn Restaurant's magnetic cups that adhere to the trunk of a car as it drives off, making it appear as if the driver forgot to remove his drink from its temporary resting place. This marketing stunt really got talked about, and word-of-mouth marketing took over and helped spread the word about this restaurant.

Many of these guerrilla marketing ideas, principles and practices appear to be simply common sense. However, in reality, they're not common practice. These examples are only a few of the many that businesses have used successfully. Your options are only limited by your imagination.


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