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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.

By Jay Conrad Levinson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following was excerpted from Surviving and Thrivingin Today's Economy, a small-business resource bookletpublished by BellSouth. To download the complete booklet, visitwww.surviveandthrive.net.

Tough times don't have to be as tough as you think. In everydown economy, some businesses lose money while others seeminglycoin money. The plain fact is that guerrillas have an advantageduring tough times. They are able to work in relatively shortertime frames. Their penchant for information enables them to reactmore quickly and creatively to market needs.

Guerrilla marketing is quite different from traditionalmarketing. Guerrilla marketing means going after the conventionalgoals of profits, sales and growth but doing it by usingunconventional means, such as expanding offerings during gloomyeconomic days to inspire customers to increase the size of eachpurchase.

Guerrilla marketers are aware that their prospects are morelikely to recall marketing messages delivered consistently during afragile economy, even if they are smaller and less frequentlydelivered. So, their companies market even when the economicsituations is in its darkest days, with messages that convey theyunderstand the market and the goods and services are pricedaccordingly.

Instead of asking that you invest money, guerrilla marketingsuggests you invest time, energy, imagination and knowledgeinstead. It puts profits, not sales, as the main yardstick. Iturges that you grow geometrically by enlarging the size of eachtransaction, 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 weaponsaround-the telephone.

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

The guerrilla lives by different rules during tough times thanduring boom times. The guerrilla attacks when the competitionretreats, and the attack is concentrated where the guerilla offersspecific product or service advantages. Retreating companies leavevoids in the market, ideal niches for guerrilla companies.

All guerrillas realize that the process of marketing is verymuch akin to the process of agriculture. Their marketing plans arethe seeds they plant. Their marketing activities are thenourishment they give to each plant. Their profits are the harvestthey reap. They know those profits don't come in a short time.But come they do if you start with a plan and commit toit-the real secret of successful marketing during ruggedeconomic times.

Guerrillas know that many companies have scrubbed or reducedtheir marketing budgets to combat tough times and that I will costthose firms three dollars for every dollar formerly spent to reachthe same level of consumer recognition and share of mind theypreviously enjoyed.

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

Guerrillas know that they must seek profits from their currentcustomers. They worship at the shrine of customer follow-up. Theyare world-class experts at getting their customers to expand thesize of their purchases. Because the cost of selling to a brand-newcustomer 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 thecustomer relationship. To guerrillas, follow-up means marketing tosome of the most cherished citizens of planet Earth-theircustomers.

When your customers are confronted with their daily blizzard ofjunk mail and unwanted e-mail, your mailing piece won't bescrapped with the others, and your e-mail won't be instantlydeleted. After all, these folks know you, identify with you, trustyou. So they'll be delighted to purchase-or at leastcheck out-that new product or service you're offering.They'll always be inclined to buy from a company they'vepatronized.

In an ugly economy, the telephone is a remarkably effectivefollow-up weapon. Don't use the phone to follow up all of yourmailings to customers, but research proved that it will alwaysboost your sales and profits. Sure, telephone follow-up is a toughtask. But it works. Anyhow, no one ever said that guerrillamarketing is a piece of cake.

E-mail ranks up there with the telephone, possibly even outoutranking it. It's inexpensive. It's fast. It lets youprove that you really care. It helps strengthen yourrelationship.

Lean upon your website as well. Instead of telling your wholestory with other marketing, use that other marketing to directpeople to your site. Then, use the site to give a lot ofinformation and advance the sale to consummation. A key to onlinesuccess is creating a brief and enticing e-mail that directsreaders to a website that give enough information for a person tomake an intelligent purchase decision.

Guerrillas are able to think of additional products and servicesthat can establish new sources of profits to them. In any kind ofeconomy, they are on the alert for strategic alliances-fusingmarketing efforts with others. This kind of cooperative marketingmakes sense at all times, but makes the most sense during toughtimes, when companies must market aggressively while reducing theirmarketing investment.

In gloomy economic days, when everything else seems to beshrinking, think in terms of expanding your offerings. Doabsolutely everything you can to motivate customers to expand thesize of their purchase. Prove that buying right now is a shrewdmove because of the tough times.

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

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

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

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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