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For best results, market to your best customers.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

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

Guerrillas know the enormous difference between their prospects and their prime prospects. They are aware of the gigantic chasm separating their customers from their best customers. This perspective enables them to narrow their aim to the best prospects marketing money can buy and the finest customers ever to grace their customer lists.

While others see their goal in business as increasing sales, guerrillas see theirs as building long-term relationships. They are aware that it doesn't take much more work to sell a one-year subscription to a magazine than to sell a single issue.

Once they have a customer, guerrillas do all they can to nurture the relationship, and they don't treat all customers and prospects the same way. Consider the menswear chain with a database of 47,000 names. Mailings are never sent to more than 3,000 customers at a time. Who receives the mail? Says the owner, "Only the people appropriate to mail to." When the owner received a shipment of trousers of a specific style, he mailed only to those customers he was certain they'd appeal to-and enjoyed a 30 percent response rate.

The cost of the company's mailing was a tiny fraction of the size of the profits it generated. There's not a chance of reveling in a healthy response like that unless you target your mailing with absolute precision. It's something you're going to have to do in a world where postal rates and paper prices are both slated to increase. Unless you're hitting the bull's-eye, you're wasting your marketing dollars.

A racetrack with a database of 100,000 names selected the 50,000 most desirable and mailed them an invitation to the track on a specified Sunday with 49,999 enclosed coupons guaranteed to be worth at least $2 upon redemption-and one guaranteed to be worth $10,000. The 17,000 fans who showed up that day contributed to one of the most profitable days-in terms of admission-in the track's history. Was it the promotion or the selective targeting? It was both.

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

Getting Personal

Futurists predict that the distinction between identity advertising and retail advertising will erode, then disappear-as every ad, every editorial and every sign is tied into a transaction. Science fiction? Nope. Science fact. Soon to come is a combination barcode-scanner/smart card-reader that can be hidden in a TV remote control. When viewers see a commercial that piques their interest in a product or service, they can point the remote at the screen, click a button, read an offer embedded in the commercial, then download a coupon into a smart card, which can be used the next time they go shopping. They'll also be able to place an order by remote control.

This will force all marketers to marshal their resources, spending only as much on a marketing weapon as their returns can justify. That means zeroing in on your best prospects and staying with them once they've been identified as prime targets. Will it take three tries to win them over, or will it take three years? Both options will win out over mailing to less-than-prime customers only once.

The key is to get personal. Recall the story of the nonprofit organization that increased its response rate 668 percent by treating its big donors well-sending mass mailings in an envelope addressed by hand and adding a handwritten 25-word note at the end of the letter.

The goal of today's guerrilla is to compile a select customer list, a targeted prospect list, growing numbers of trusting relationships, new information to help prospects and customers, sales generated through service and referrals, and a honeymoon that never ends.

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