According to Jay Conrad Levinson, the man who coined the term, “guerilla marketing” is a system of promotions that relies on “time, energy and imagination,” rather than a giant marketing budget. In other words, it’s a system that’s organically linked to small businesses. Here are some of the best (read: low-budget) guerilla marketing techniques for small businesses and start-ups.
Use the Power of Freebies
Give away “free hugs.”
You know what’s so genius about the Free Hugs phenom? That it’s is so innocuous and so non-business. Small businesses have a much greater ability than big businesses to really connect with their customers on a one-to-one level. So, connect! Giving away your time, energy, knowledge and expertise is a great way to market your business without seeming like your marketing. It’s the business equivalent of a free hug. Hold a free class on the weekends; give a free evaluation, consultation or demonstration….or simply a free hug! Or a free dance, or a free high-five, or a free fist-bump, or a free pat on the back. The list is endless. You’re sure to get a positive buzz going.
Start a crazy contest.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous contests for restaurants are eating contests. An air guitar contest could do wonders for virtually any business. Online businesses could come up with any type of contest (wacky or normal) and hype it on their website, blog and press releases. The prize you come up with could be anything from a cash prize to bragging rights. You could even hand out a relatively boring Customer of the Month award, which people still really love (it makes them feel like a supa-star).
Pander to kids.
There are a lot of parents out there who find it a hassle to take kids out of the house. Make it easy for parents to have a fun night out without worrying about having to keep the kids entertained. Direct mail bibs or toys with your business info on it, encouraging parents to bring the kids along. This tactic could also work on pet owners and their pets. The key is to get them out the door with the promise of more to come.
Pander to college kids.
College kids are really good viral marketers and most of them don’t even know it. They simply like free stuff. So, give it to them. Give students discounts, or offer to host fundraising events or mixers. Invite them to become fans on Facebook and spread the word. You’ll be surprised what a kid will do for a free t-shirt.
Use the Element of Surprise
Sneak into the library, book store or grocery store.
Sneak into your local book store and hide business cards, coupons and flyers in between book or magazine pages. Find books or products that are related to your business. You could get creative with your printed ads and turn them into treasure or scavenger hunts. Lead your customers on an exciting chase with a reward at the end, or have them solve a puzzle to win a prize.
Flash mobs can be weird and creepy and intrusive….but they can also be fun and unexpected. The flash mob phenom works because an entire group of people are into it. However, be wary of offending people, and remember to be fun and amusing, instead of annoying and awkward. See this example of a successful flash mob setup: Sound of Music | Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)
Use local landmarks.
Put up funny/ironic ads and signs near local landmarks to attract customers. You could also use high-traffic areas to stage your flash mob scene or freebie giveaway. Just make sure that you have a permit to solicit in whatever area you’re targeting.
Above All, Use Humor!
Star in your own reality show.
According to ChooseWhat’s own Nick Middleton, “People wanna see real people online—not stock photos and robots.”
It’s true…too many businesses take themselves way too seriously in attempting to project professionalism and quality of service. You can be professional, but you don’t have to be dry. (Take the popular email marketing service MailChimp, for instance. They’ve done away with cheesy stock photos of people on computers and instead feature an amusing talking monkey.) There are a lot of ways to convey realness. Some people post pictures of their employees or offices on their website or blog. Other people make virtual tour-type videos that take you into the heart of a testing lab, kitchen or customer support center. If you’re feeling creative, hire a couple of film-major interns to create your very own Jersey Shore –like series of webisodes.
Make YouTube videos.
YouTube is a great medium for generating a buzz around your business. Consider this video by e-retailer of men’s shaving razors, DollarShaveClub.com. His video got over 10 million and almost 74,000 likes.
Make your own videos, and initiate your own contests. You can do similar things on your website or blog. It’s a cheap, easy and hilarious way to market.
Got a successful small biz marketing tactic? Share it with us!