Learn to Market More Creatively Knowledge of your industry can bring originality to your business.

By Jay Conrad Levinson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This article has been excerpted from Startup Guide to Guerilla Marketing by Jay and Jeannie Levinson, available from Entrepreneurpress.com.

The Nestle Corporation in Geneva, Switzerland, asked Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago, Illinois, where creativity came from. The answer was revealed by asking the same question to artists, dancers, writers, musicians, poets, engineers, and architects. All gave the same answer to the question. They said that creativity comes from knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the more creative you can be. Applying creativity to the arts listed above has the purpose of human enjoyment. Applying creativity to your business has the primary purpose of generating profits. If it doesn't generate profits, it's not creative.

Don't ever go down the garden path of beauty and creative expression in marketing. Sure, it's a plus if your audio and visual materials look and sound great. But that's not their job. Generating profits is their job. Get your artistic kicks in the concert hall. There's no place for them in the boardroom.

The Knowledge You Need
Direct your creativity towards the accumulation of knowledge you need. The path to that knowledge is illuminated by research, the start-up point for the start-up guerrilla. That training as well as your own adventures as a guerrilla marketer starts with information you've really got to have. Much of it is published on the internet. Lots of it is yours for free at your local chamber of commerce. Bookstores and libraries are bulging with just the information you need, and professional associations and groups will share it with you. Our favorite is the University of Google.

There's only one thing that accessible information lacks--specific information about your customers. It's laden with data about groups, but as a guerrilla, you're more interested in data about individuals.

Research Your Consumer
The best way to get that data is to get it yourself. Do your own research. Prepare customer and prospect questionnaires (a different one for each group) that ask a lot of questions. Have a notation at the top of the questionnaire that you're sorry to ask so many questions, but the more you know about them, the better service you can be to them.

Ask Specific Questions
Ask questions with answers that open new doors, such as what is your favorite sport? Favorite rock group? Favorite baseball team? Do you have a hobby? Do you have any pets? The answers to these questions can help you add immense power to your e-mail and website. There is an old proverb: "It is better to know something specific about your spouse than know everything about marriage." The same holds true for buyer-seller relationships. The "something specific" is what you get with research and the way to switch a start-up marketing campaign into a higher gear.

If you want a place to exercise your creativity, it's in your customer questionnaire. Most business owners know most of the right answers. Guerrilla business owners also know most of the right questions. Knowing the right questions to ask and then asking them is one of the arts of the start-up guerrilla marketing campaign.

Examine the Answers
Processing what you learn is what it's all about because that's where the action begins taking place. You notice a great number of customers in three zip codes. That spurs a mailing to those codes. You must be doing or saying something right. What can it be?

Naturally, a guerrilla's view of research begins with research into his own customers. Important as they are, there are still many other areas deserving of further exploration. First on that list are your prospects, those people who for some silly reason haven't yet purchased from you. Hey! Hold on a second. Maybe it wasn't a silly reason. Maybe it was you doing a silly thing or missing an important detail in customer service. Always look at it like this: If your prospects aren't your customers, there's got to be a reason. Find out what that reason it and then correct it. Be relentless. Be pig-headed and single-purposed, but do everything you can do to transform all of your prospects into customers. That may not happen exactly. But your efforts won't go unrewarded. My boss and idol Leo Burnett said, "When you reach for the stars, you might not get one, but you're not likely to come up with a handful of mud either."

The best marketing builds confidence and invites a purchase. Best and most unique of all, the best marketing gets through to people. That's why knowing a lot about your prospects will help you stand apart from your competitors and shine in the minds of your prospects and customers.

Researching Your Industry

Once you've learned all you can about your customers and your prospects, what's the next area worth researching? A smart place to focus is your own industry. Research that industry--how did the world function before Google?--and get a feel for what the winners are doing, the latest trends, and for signs of any competitors you might have.

Look at Industry Winners
One of the secrets to market domination is knocking yourself off. NOT cloning yourself, but creating a new unique selling proposition in the same market.

That's why Toyota created Lexus. It's why McDonalds started Chipotle. It's not just big companies either; it's just as true with "little" guys on the internet. In some of the most competitive markets imaginable, you see 11 real ads on the first page, and most people don't know that two parent companies might be responsible for five or six of them.
Hey, if you've successfully gained a foothold in one market--and you understand that market deeply--and want to grow your business why go to the trouble of learning a brand-new niche? Do something in the one you're already in. Create a new offer that's so appealing, it takes its place along with the other top dogs: New product, new website, new Google account.

Don't ever forget that on the any search term there's a whole spectrum of tastes and desires that the keyword represents. One website and one ad can only cater to a handful of them. There are still others you're not serving. But you can.

Do Field Research
As lush and fascinating as the internet may be for research, we can't help but point you in the direction of trade shows where you'll not only get a state-of-the-moment feel for your industry but you'll also get a lot of inside information not yet published online. The networking at these shows may be more valuable than anything on the trade show floor.

The product or service you offer also merits abundant research time. The better you know your offering, the better equipped you'll be to talk about it, understand it, market it. Eventually, you'll be called upon to prepare a benefits list, that actual in-writing list of the benefits people gain by buying from you. We urge you to put a lot of effort and creativity into this list because it's what you'll be communicating to your prospects and customers. They'll then make their decision to purchase (or not to purchase) based upon the benefits you do (or don't) convey.

Understand Your Competition
Your next point of research will be your competition, which you'll already know pretty well because of your forays into studying your industry and your product. Learn what they say and where they say it. Maintain vigil here because they'll tip their hand frequently by how they adjust their message and their media. You don't want to copy them but you do want to be aware of what they're up to. You can be sure that they're checking up on you. You might even buy the product of the leader in your industry. Get to see firsthand its sales presentation, display, packaging, follow-up, and product itself. Learning from leaders is a guerrilla strength.

Explore Media Opportunities
Don't fail to research life outside your own industry. Get to know the media, online and offline available to you. Get to know the internet on an intimate basis within your industry. Start-up guerrillas engage in a monthly half hour surf of the internet to catch the best that's online--in and out of their industry. The research you put in looking for media opportunities for your company will pay off every time.

Study the Latest Technology
That research should include researching the latest technology that might empower your business. The move in entrepreneurship is toward automation. Happily, automation is not expensive. Your company can give off the vibes of a huge, lavishly funded corporation with a constantly busy staff, when the truth is it's just little old you pushing the right button on your automated customer profitability center. Technology can help you in the areas of marketing, production, finances, distribution, and a whole lot more. Skip it if you don't need it, but don't miss it if it can contribute to your profitability. It probably can. More people earn money while they sleep than ever before.

Because this is for beginning a guerrilla marketing program, we didn't explore a totally different kind of research, one that we applaud and respect. But assuming you aren't yet a wealthy and thriving company, we nudge you in the direction of free research, which has been outlined above. Later, when you've taken this advice and are a wealthy and thriving company, look into paid research, which takes over the entire research function, from asking the right questions to analyzing the answers. The right question can be the making of a company.

Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of the bestselling Guerrilla Marketing series, and authors 55 other business books. His books have sold more than 14 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 39 languages. He is the chairman of Guerrilla Marketing International.

Jeannie Levinson is the president of Guerrilla Marketing International and co-founder of the Guerrilla Marketing Association. With decades of sales and marketing experience, she is a sought-after consultant, workshop leader and radio guest. For more information, visit gmarketing.com.

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 gmarketing.com.

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