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That's Outrageous! Got more chutzpah than cash? These gutsy marketing moves will put your business on the map.

By Jennifer Haupt

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When it comes to starting a business, it's a jungle outthere. Even if you have some start-up capital, and especially ifyour funds are slim, guerrilla warfare may be just the ticket towinning the spoils of the marketing wars: the quick namerecognition and long-term customer loyalty that translate intoprofits.

Yo Mama

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Maria Carilao, founder of Yo-Bonic Yo-Yos in Seattle, makes upfor a limited marketing budget with energy, vision and raw nerve.Shortly after starting her business in 1997, the 27-year-old gainedthe attention of premier specialty toy retailer FAO Schwarz bytying her "yo-yos with an attitude" to the doors of itsNew York City store along with dozens of her business cards."I wanted the top-notch stores to sell my product, so I didwhatever it took to get their attention," explains Carilao,whose yo-yos are now featured at FAO Schwarz and have also beensold at Nordstrom and other retail outlets.

Carilao has become a master of attention-getting. She drives apsych-"Yo"-delic Volvo station wagon covered withhundreds of colorful yo-yos; dresses as "Yo-Yo Girl" forstore appearances; and peppers her conversation with "Yospeak," a hip play on words. (For example, she calls herselfthe world's first CEyO.)

"I didn't have money for a marketing campaign when Istarted, so I had to be really `out there' and in buyers'faces to get attention," says Carilao. Not all the attentionhas been positive, though. Her limited-edition Presidential Blo-Yo,sold briefly last fall, featured caricatures of President BillClinton and Monica Lewinsky in packaging that played off of"Zippergate."

"Not everyone thought the Blo-Yo was in good taste,"says Carilao, "but sometimes you have to take a chance and bein the public's face in a bold way in order to beseen."

What makes her marketing madness work is that it's more thanjust hype. Says Carilao, "I know I have a solid product toback up my aggressiveness."

Jay Conrad Levinson, who coined the term guerrilla marketing andhas written a series of books on the subject, defines theexpression as going after conventional goals by usingunconventional methods. "It's a way for small businessesto achieve high profits without a major outlay of money," heexplains.

Don't let the term guerrilla mislead you: "Guerrillamarketing is the diametric opposite of in-your-faceobnoxious," says Levinson. "It means earning long-termrelationships by using personal attention, sincere caring,attention to detail, generosity, time, energy andimagination--rather than the brute force of a huge budget. Insteadof in-your-face, it encourages marketers to bein-your-mind."

Of course, sometimes in-your-face is the best way to getnoticed--and many experts contend no marketing technique is toooutrageous, since there's no such thing as bad publicity."You'd have to be pretty `out there' to beobnoxious," says John Kremer, co-author of High-ImpactMarketing on a Low-Impact Budget: 101 Strategies to Turbo-ChargeYour Business Today! (Prima Publishing). "[Even if]something is too offbeat [and doesn't] work the way youintended, at least it puts your name out there, and the next timeyou do something, people will remember who you are."

Whether you take a low-key or high-energy approach to marketing,keep the three basic stages of the guerrilla method in mind:

1. Create a low-cost, high-impact game plan. Levinsonsays your marketing plan should be clear and concise--sevensentences max. "Plan an approach you can stay with for thenext decade, if possible," says Levinson. "If you get itright the first time, you won't have to waste money developingnew strategies."

Lead with a sentence explaining the purpose of your marketingplan, followed by one listing the benefits of your product orservice you'll stress to attract customers. The next threesentences state your target audience, your niche in the marketplaceand the specific marketing weapons you'll use in your attack.(The key to a successful guerrilla marketing plan is to stock yourarsenal with as much free ammunition as possible; publicity andcustomer service should be at the top of the list.)

The last sentence expresses your marketing budget as apercentage of projected gross sales. Although the average U.S.business invested 4 percent of its gross sales in marketing during1998, Levinson recommends doubling that figure.

Does even 4 percent sound too steep? Not a problem, says Kremer,who says you shouldn't even bother to budget for marketing."Most start-ups have no money for marketing. Instead, focus onwhat you have time to do," says Kremer, who recommendscreating a publicity plan that lists the top 50 media outlets inyour area and stories you can feed to them once a month."Offer something for free, create a contest, write pressreleases about great ways customers have used your product orservice--there are lots of ways to get publicity for virtually nomoney down," he says.

Once the cash starts flowing, publicity can supplement yourprint and radio ads. (Except for local cable stations, TVadvertising is usually too expensive for start-ups.) Localtelevision and radio stations sometimes allow businesses to tapepublic service announcements in exchange for helping to sponsor acharity event.

2. Launch your attack. Prioritizing and timing are keysto successful guerrilla marketing. "You don't have to useall your weapons at once," says Levinson. "Prioritize andlaunch them one at a time, in order of importance, over a longperiod of time--as many as 18 months." Write down all themarketing tools that are available to you--such as networking withbusiness associates and local merchants, advertising, publicity,introductory offers and special events to attract customers.Levinson says it will be easy to prioritize based on time, budgetand potential effectiveness.

"Although there's really no way to judge how effectivea marketing tactic is before you try it, talking with otherbusinesses in your neighborhood or [industry] to see what workedfor them can be a good sounding board," says Kremer. Manycities have entrepreneurial workshops or business associations;Kremer suggests creating your own local marketing association andmeeting periodically to brainstorm and compare notes.

You need both a short-term marketing plan to gain quick namerecognition and a long-term plan to continue building yourbusiness. This is where a marketing calendar or timeline comes intoplay, as you prioritize which tactics to use on a month-by-monthbasis.

Kremer suggests using a matrix, or grid, of boxes with the namesof five potential audiences for your product or business in eachbox going across, and five ways to reach these audiences in boxesgoing down. "Some start-ups just place an ad in the newspaperor Yellow Pages and see what happens," says Kremer. "Abetter approach is to first identify who you want to reach, thenfigure out the best way to reach them."

Use your matrix to prioritize your marketing arsenal. Determinefive affordable projects that will produce the best results now,and five for the future. Re-evaluate your marketing matrix everysix months.

3. Maintain your attack by knowing your competition andcustomers. According to Levinson, this is the toughest step."Unless you maintain what you've started, all thatplanning has been done in vain," he says.

"Small-business owners rarely understand that they haveaccess to the same research about their customers and competitorsas large corporations do," says Philip Nulman, author ofStart-Up Marketing: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Launching,Advertising, Marketing & Promoting Your Business (CareerPress).

According to Nulman, local media can be among your best researchresources. "If the sales manager at a radio station thinks hecan sell you ad space, he'll gladly put together a tape ofcompetitors' commercial clips for you and send a media kit thatdetails the station's listener demographics," he says."These free tools will help give you a good profile of thelocal market's supply and demand for your service orproduct." Are you interested in other information sources?Search the Internet for other companies in your market niche, andcall competitors to request information in the public domain, suchas their brochure or annual report.

Maintenance also means monitoring your marketing strategy'sresults by surveying customers to find out what works and whatdoesn't. This can be done on a low budget via phone or e-mailwith a few brief questions or by forming a grass-roots focus groupof friends, relatives and acquaintances to brainstorm about yourbusiness.

Customer service is a powerful guerrilla marketing tool;it's low-cost and, when done right, highly effective."Consumers are getting angry and refusing to do business withcompanies that don't meet their standards," says Nulman.By monitoring how customers feel about your company, you can makethem allies in the guerrilla marketing game.

Smart Starts

The following associations can provide the information you needto develop an advertising campaign:

  • American Advertising Federation, 1101 Vermont Ave. N.W., #500,Washington, DC 20005-6306, (202) 898-0089, http://www.aaf.org
  • American Marketing Association, 250 S. Wacker Dr., #200,Chicago, IL 60606, (312) 648-0536, http://www.ama.org
  • Direct Marketing Association, 1120 Ave. of the Americas, 13thFl., New York, NY 10036, (212) 768-7277, http://www.the-dma.org

For market research on competitors and consumers, checkout:

  • Marketing Research Association, 1344 Silas Deane Hwy., #306,Rocky Hill, CT 06067, (860) 257-4008, http://www.mra-net.org
  • Encyclopedia of Associations (Gale Research Publishers),available at most libraries, lists industry associations thatfrequently provide market data.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau has statistics on businesses andconsumers by region. Take a trip to your local library, call(301) 457-4100 or visit http://www.census.gov

For marketing ideas, check out these titles:

  • Guerrilla Marketing: Secrets For Making Big Profits FromYour Small Business, Third Edition, by Jay Conrad Levinson(Houghton Mifflin, $13, 800-225-3362)
  • High-Impact Marketing on a Low-Impact Budget, by JohnKremer and J. Daniel McComas (Prima Publishing, $16,800-632-8676)
  • Knockout Marketing: Powerful Strategies to Punch UpSales (Entrepreneur Media, $19.95, available in June athttp://www.amazon.com)
  • Start-Up Marketing: An Entrepreneur's Guide toLaunching, Advertising, Marketing & Promoting YourBusiness, by Philip Nulman (Career Press, $16.95,800-CAREER1)

For help writing a marketing plan:

Check out one of the many CD-ROMs available on the subject,complete with easy-to-use templates, such as Adams Streetwise SmallBusiness Start-Up ($39.95 street, Adams Media, http://www.adamsmedia.com/software/sbs/)

Spam It Up

Perhaps the most obnoxious online guerrilla marketing techniqueis spamming. So why are thousands of people actually signing up toreceive e-mail advertisements at the BonusMail Web site (http://www.bonusmail.com)?

"[With] BonusMail, consumers turn the tables on directmarketers, controlling the volume and type of e-mail offers theyreceive," says 27-year-old Steve Markowitz, CEO and co-founderof Intellipost Corp., the company behind BonusMail. In return forreading e-mail ads, BonusMail users receive points good forfrequent flier miles and free products.

Strategic partnering is a big part of Markowitz's guerrillamarketing attack. Its board of advisors includes three of theworld's largest direct marketing agencies. This year, he'llteam with ISPs and free e-mail providers. The result? Intelliposthas nearly 2 million users and has raised millions of dollars inventure capital.

Most Likely To Succeed?

Nicholas Hall, 28, is on the cover of Fortune and GQ, and on thefront page of The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.So why haven't you heard of him? Maybe because these prominentprofiles detailing his Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the YearAward (in 2008), his record as a Senior PGA player (in 2020) andhis election to the United States Senate (later that year) can befound only in Hall's "future scrapbook."

"The scrapbook keeps me on track with my personal andprofessional goals, and it also shows prospective clients what myvision is," says the Castro Valley, California, businessconsultant and broker.

Hall's low-budget, unconventional tactics helped him makeconnections with clients last year after he moved from Cincinnati,where he had founded a successful consulting/brokerage company, toCalifornia, where he knew no one. "When we meet someone, wetend to tell them about our past accomplishments, which are oftenrather limited when you're a young entrepreneur," explainsHall, whose company, Venture Awareness, introduces promising younghigh-tech companies in the Midwest to investors in Silicon Valley."I want to let people know what I'm capable of and what Iplan to accomplish in the future. Many times, customers andbusinesspeople want to help me reach those goals because they seehow motivated I am."

That's not to say Hall doesn't have pastaccomplishments. He explains, "I come off as ambitious andvisionary instead of an obnoxious braggart because I can showpotential business partners I really do have something to offerthem--it's not just wishful thinking."

Chair Tactics

When Kimberley Barreda was refused an audition for a beercommercial because she was in a wheelchair, she decided becoming aguerrilla marketer for the disabled was the best revenge. "Thecasting director told me, `I don't have to audition youpeople,' but if the beer company knew how many of `uspeople' drink beer, that director would probably be out of ajob," says Barreda, 33.

That experience was the genesis of CRIPmedia, which providesmarketing and advertising services to companies that targetdisabled consumers. Founded in early 1997, the Whitefish, Montana,business provides information about what products disabledconsumers use and serves as a talent agency for actors withdisabilities.

Cripworld.com, the primary source of income for Barreda'sfledgling empire, is an online resource and information network fordisabled consumers and advertisers. "Cripworld.com gave usquick name recognition, partly because the name is somewhatcontroversial," says Barreda. " `Crip' has a negativeconnotation for some people, but to most well-adjusted disabledpeople, it's a blunt, honest term that describes who they aremuch better than `disabled.' "

Equally controversial is "The Adventures of Beverlee"(http://www.cripworld.com/beverlee/beverlee.htm),a comic strip with a disabled heroine (below) that gets more than250 hits per day.

By the end of 1999, Barreda's second full year in operation,she expects sales to hit nearly $150,000.

Contact Sources

CRIPmedia, http://www.cripworld.com

Intellipost Corp., http://www.intellipost.com

Venture Awareness, info@ventureawareness.net,http://www.ventureawareness.net

Yo-Bonic Yo-Yos, (888) YO-BONIC, http://www.yobonic.com

Jennifer Haupt (jenhaupt@aol.com) has written forsuch publications as Nation's Business, Bloomberg BusinessNews and Washington CEO.

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