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Reality Check

Have you heard the news? It's time for your business to get real.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the October 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Marketing is a waste of time and money-if you're not tuned in to reality. That's because reality is not necessarily what you want it to be; it's simply what really is. To many marketers, that's a major problem because they don't want to face reality. But to guerrilla marketers, it's an inviting opportunity to stand apart from the competition.

To guerrillas, reality means realizing that their prospects are constantly being bombarded with enticing offers, cut-rate and cutthroat prices, and innovative products and services. Guerrillas know they're not marketing in a vacuum but rather in a world where many factors, other than their own hopes and dreams, are influencing the way their prospects act.

Guerrillas are also aware of the precious nature of time in their prospects' lives, so they do all they can not to waste that time. They're aware, most of all, of their prospects' priorities.

To guerrillas, reality means taking eight important factors into account:

1. The state of the economy. Guerrillas must consider the current economic picture because it dictates which marketing tactics will work best. For example, in a weak economy, guerrillas adjust their marketing by targeting existing customers more than prospects and by working like demons to gain referrals and follow-up business.

2. The competitive scene. Businesses have more information about competitors than ever before, and they use it to fuel their marketing efforts. You can't afford to ignore competitors who are out to win the hearts and minds of your customers.

3. The latest technology. The importance of keeping up with technology can't be overstated. It enables guerrillas to produce more marketing tools, expose their message to more people, and reduce their marketing costs once they learn the ropes about desktop publishing, the Internet and other affordable new media.

4. The news of the day. Your prospects keep up with the news and react accordingly. Unless you do the same, you'll fall behind.

5. Your marketing budget. Reality includes your budget because you must work within it and make it stretch to its fullest extent. Now more than ever, that budget enables guerrillas to market actively-not expensively.

6. The inevitable clutter of other marketing materials. The reality is that customers and prospects receive a blizzard of direct mail every day and your competitors are using increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques.

7. Knowing the difference between a clever marketing message and a motivating marketing message. Many marketers don't have a clue as to the difference and often mistake the two. If your message makes prospects laugh but doesn't get them to act, your marketing efforts have failed.

8. The value of committing to a plan. You need to have patience and restraint when making changes to a program. Reality is knowing that marketing is not an event but a process that takes time. If you're not willing to invest your time, money and energy, then you're living in a fantasy world.

Jay Conrad Levinson's Guerrilla Marketing books are printed in 37 languages and are required reading in many MBA programs worldwide. His Web address is His AOL site is at keyword "guerrilla"; and his toll-free number is (800) 748-6444.

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