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Guerrilla Marketing in a Tough Economy

To succeed during an economic rough patch, you have to think--and act--like a successful guerrilla marketer.

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The following was excerpted from Surviving and Thriving in Today's Economy, a small-business resource booklet published by BellSouth. To download the complete booklet, visit

Tough times don't have to be as tough as you think. In every down economy, some businesses lose money while others seemingly coin money. The plain fact is that guerrillas have an advantage during tough times. They are able to work in relatively shorter time frames. Their penchant for information enables them to react more quickly and creatively to market needs.

Guerrilla marketing is quite different from traditional marketing. Guerrilla marketing means going after the conventional goals of profits, sales and growth but doing it by using unconventional means, such as expanding offerings during gloomy economic days to inspire customers to increase the size of each purchase.

Guerrilla marketers are aware that their prospects are more likely to recall marketing messages delivered consistently during a fragile economy, even if they are smaller and less frequently delivered. So, their companies market even when the economic situations is in its darkest days, with messages that convey they understand the market and the goods and services are priced accordingly.

Instead of asking that you invest money, guerrilla marketing suggests you invest time, energy, imagination and knowledge instead. It puts profits, not sales, as the main yardstick. It urges that you grow geometrically by enlarging the size of each transaction, having more transactions per year with each customer, and tapping the enormous referral power of current customers. And, it does it through one of the most powerful marketing weapons around-the telephone.

It preaches fervent follow-up, cooperation instead of competition, "you" marketing rather than "me" marketing, dialogues instead of monologues, counting relationships instead of counting sales, and aiming at individuals instead of groups.

The guerrilla lives by different rules during tough times than during boom times. The guerrilla attacks when the competition retreats, and the attack is concentrated where the guerilla offers specific product or service advantages. Retreating companies leave voids in the market, ideal niches for guerrilla companies.

All guerrillas realize that the process of marketing is very much akin to the process of agriculture. Their marketing plans are the seeds they plant. Their marketing activities are the nourishment they give to each plant. Their profits are the harvest they reap. They know those profits don't come in a short time. But come they do if you start with a plan and commit to it-the real secret of successful marketing during rugged economic times.

Guerrillas know that many companies have scrubbed or reduced their marketing budgets to combat tough times and that I will cost those firms three dollars for every dollar formerly spent to reach the same level of consumer recognition and share of mind they previously enjoyed.

"In a dog-eat-dog economy, the Doberman is boss," said Edward Abbey, the author and naturalist. In this regard, the Doberman and the guerrilla have a lot in common.

Guerrillas know that they must seek profits from their current customers. They worship at the shrine of customer follow-up. They are world-class experts at getting their customers to expand the size of their purchases. Because the cost of selling to a brand-new customer is six times higher than selling to an existing customer, guerrilla marketers turn their gaze from strangers to friends.

This reduces the cost of marketing while reinforcing the customer relationship. To guerrillas, follow-up means marketing to some of the most cherished citizens of planet Earth-their customers.

When your customers are confronted with their daily blizzard of junk mail and unwanted e-mail, your mailing piece won't be scrapped with the others, and your e-mail won't be instantly deleted. After all, these folks know you, identify with you, trust you. So they'll be delighted to purchase-or at least check out-that new product or service you're offering. They'll always be inclined to buy from a company they've patronized.

In an ugly economy, the telephone is a remarkably effective follow-up weapon. Don't use the phone to follow up all of your mailings to customers, but research proved that it will always boost your sales and profits. Sure, telephone follow-up is a tough task. But it works. Anyhow, no one ever said that guerrilla marketing is a piece of cake.

E-mail ranks up there with the telephone, possibly even out outranking it. It's inexpensive. It's fast. It lets you prove that you really care. It helps strengthen your relationship.

Lean upon your website as well. Instead of telling your whole story with other marketing, use that other marketing to direct people to your site. Then, use the site to give a lot of information and advance the sale to consummation. A key to online success is creating a brief and enticing e-mail that directs readers to a website that give enough information for a person to make an intelligent purchase decision.

Guerrillas are able to think of additional products and services that can establish new sources of profits to them. In any kind of economy, they are on the alert for strategic alliances-fusing marketing efforts with others. This kind of cooperative marketing makes sense at all times, but makes the most sense during tough times, when companies must market aggressively while reducing their marketing investment.

In gloomy economic days, when everything else seems to be shrinking, think in terms of expanding your offerings. Do absolutely everything you can to motivate customers to expand the size of their purchase. Prove that buying right now is a shrewd move because of the tough times.

In marketing to customers and to non-customers, show that you are fully aware of the economic situation and that you have priced your goods and services accordingly. Even though your marketing is always truthful, exert even more of an effort during bad times to make it sound truthful. Candid language is a powerful weapon. Admit that times are tough; admit that people must be extra careful when buying things; explain that you're fully aware of the economy and are taking special steps because of it.

The Internet and your bookstore are teeming with a treasure trove of marketing tactics that can help you weather the toughest of times. But learning about them is only half the battle. When you begin putting them into practice, you'll assure that the real tough times are those faces by your competition.

Jay Conrad Levinson is the author of the Guerrilla Marketing series of books, now in 39 languages. His latest venture is his online text and video report, Guerrilla Marketing Bombshells.

Written By

The late Jay Conrad Levinson is the Father of Guerrilla Marketing. His books have sold more than 21 million copies worldwide, appear in 62 languages, and have become the most powerful brand in the history of marketing. He was the chairman of Guerrilla Marketing International. Learn more at