Hard To Get By

Marketing to today's discriminating customers takes a little ingenuity.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

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

Once upon a time, customers were just plain customers. But these days, there's a different breed. Today's customers are wiser, expect superb service, are more sophisticated about making purchases, demand higher quality, are less forgiving of mistakes, are often under pressure, and are frequently in a hurry.

Because today's customers are guerrilla consumers, the best way to satisfy them is with guerrilla marketing. That means meeting-and then exceeding-customer expectations.

There are a number of technologies out there to empower your marketing and bring you closer to your customers. But you will be empowered most when you recognize the huge change in consumers. The ugly truth is they don't trust you as much as they used to. What makes these people so skeptical?

One answer is the amount of advertising they're exposed to. Advertisers in the United States spend twice as much money on advertising than in any other nation, making consumers twice as adept at disregarding it. Another answer is that, having been exposed to it for so many years, people are better educated about marketing. Their marketing radar enables them to identify an incoming message as a marketing one, so they can selectively ignore it.


Jay Conrad Levinson is author of the internationally acclaimed Guerrilla Marketing series of books and co-founder of Guerrilla Marketing International. For information on the Guerrilla Marketing Newsletter and other products and services, write to P.O. Box 1336, Mill Valley, CA 94942; call (800) 748-6444; or visit the Web site at http://www.gmarketing.com

Fighting Back

How do guerrillas combat such smarts? They use common sense and the following tactics:

  • Generate word-of-mouth. It's still the most power-packed method of marketing because people trust their friends. You'll generate word-of-mouth when you follow up, when you let customers know how important it is to you, when you institute a strong referral plan by tapping current customers for the names of prospective customers.
  • Influence people who can influence other people. That's exactly what Nike is doing when it gives free shoes to athletes and coaches.
  • Go for share of mind over share of market. The intensity of a consumer's relationship with a product reflects the real strength of the brand-such as the Harley-Davidson customers who tattoo the brand's logo on their bodies and become walking billboards.
  • Expand your advertising efforts with direct marketing and public relations campaigns. These give you the opportunity to put forth personalized and believable messages. Guerrillas never assume that advertising can do the whole job.
  • Broaden your marketing strategy with brochures and newsletters. These make good door-openers, serve as potent follow-up weapons, and allow you to intensify your customer relationships. And they're no longer expensive to produce.
  • Capitalize on one of the most lethal marketing weapons in history: the Internet. That means using targeted e-mail, becoming active in forums, participating in chat groups, hosting online conferences, publishing online articles, and maintaining a content-rich, fascinating Web site. These days, guerrilla customers are learning to shop online.

If you market the old-fashioned way, you're never going to attract guerrilla customers, and there are too many of them to ignore. To be wise in the way of reaping profits, aim your marketing at today's buyers-the wise and wary ones.

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