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Guerrilla Marketing:

Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business

One of the most notable and desirable traits of the inbound methodology is its cost efficiency. This is also one of the fundamental characteristics of what has become known as guerrilla marketing.

Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business was originally published in 1983, long before digital marketing consumed the landscape as we know it.

Since then, “guerrilla marketing” has become a well-known methodology and author, Jay Conrad Levinson has published four updated versions of his best-selling book, the most recent in 2007.  

Although many of the concepts in Guerrilla Marketing may be easy to take for granted now, Levinson’s work has had a major impact on the world of marketing and this book is widely considered mandatory reading for entrepreneurs and business professionals starting their careers.

In addition to it, Levinson has published 27 other books related to business, and taught his renowned marketing ideology for a decade at the University of California, Berkeley.

Even if you didn’t 100% know what it meant, chances are you’ve heard the term “guerrilla marketing” used during a business meeting or even in casual conversation. This book summary will explain the idea in layman’s terms and share three key insights from Levinson’s book that you can use to grow your business.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

In his own words Levinson says:

“....The soul and essence of guerrilla marketing...remain as always — achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money.

Simply put, it is using low-cost, creative, and often unexpected methods to promote your business/initiative and achieve your goals.

There are several factors that led to the need for an approach like guerrilla marketing, including a shift in the economic landscape.

There are more small businesses competing in the market than ever before. A lot of this has to do with big businesses downsizing and government regulations becoming less strict, lowering barriers to entry.

Another factor, however, is cultural. Even in today’s fast-paced, digital age, people are looking for more niche, customer-oriented, experiential businesses a contradiction to what most large conglomerates provide.

Despite this shift, small businesses unfortunately are also failing at a historic rate. This increased competition has shone a bright light on one of the glaring weaknesses of many small businesses and you guessed it, it’s marketing.

In the past, companies could get away with bland, average marketing techniques because their potential customers didn’t have other options. Now, your business can’t even survive, much less thrive, without exceptional marketing.

Guerrilla Marketing vs Inbound Marketing

Guerrilla marketing, much like inbound marketing, gives small businesses a competitive advantage by leveraging low-cost mediums and their creative strengths.

These alternatives help organizations build brand awareness, win over customers with originality, and overall compete in a high-priced, uncertain economy.

Time and time again, the principles of both inbound and guerrilla marketing have proven to be successful for small businesses in all industries, but they differ in two major areas -- time and execution.

For the most part, guerrilla marketing tactics are “larger than life.” They are generally executed publicly or in-person in attempt to generate word-of-mouth marketing, media coverage, and lead to immediate awareness or sales. Many initiatives may even be controversial.

Some examples of guerrilla marketing tactics may include:

  • Flier posting and distribution
  • Graffiti
  • Flash mobs
  • Stickers
  • Product placement
  • Rallies or parties
  • “Pop-up” events or facilities (i.e. the setup of a temporary store, setting, museum, etc.)

Inbound marketing tactics, on the other hand, are primarily digital, and take some time to ramp up and see results. (More on that here). Common tactics include:

  • Social media
  • Blogging
  • SEO
  • Content creation
  • Landing pages
  • Email marketing

3 Reminders for Successful Guerrilla Marketing

Now, Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing covers a lot of ground, discussing strategies that affect everything from saving money on your marketing campaigns, how to use various forms of media to promote your business, as well as the fundamentals of online marketing.

The following are three of the most crucial take-home concepts that all business owners and marketers need to understand if they want their business to thrive with guerrilla marketing.

1. Find What Sets You Apart from the Competition

Every business that wants to earn market share needs a competitive advantage.

This doesn’t mean a massive budget, friends in high places, or being the first brand name in a particular niche although those things would be helpful.

It means simply finding what sets your business apart from others in your field. It’s how you are positioned in the market; how you differentiate yourself.

To find your competitive advantage(s), make a list of all the different reasons that people in your market should do business with your company. These can be anything from your price and quality of product to your customer service, the qualifications required to be an employee at your company, your brand story, or even the experience you offer.

You should also survey your customers to find out why they bought from/work with you and not one of your competitors. Afterwards, look at your top three to five competitors and make a similar list of all the reasons why people would buy from them instead of you. Dig deep and look for their strengths that you may not have noticed before.

All of the common reasons between you and your competitors can be scratched off the list. The remaining reasons to buy from your business are your competitive advantages.

You don’t have to have the best price or biggest name in the industry to stand out, you simply need something that the market can remember you by.

2. People Purchase With Emotion

One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is trying to appeal to the logic of their customers to convince them to buy. If humans were rational beings, this would be a great strategy, but most of us are just big saps.

Most humans make decisions with emotion first, then try to justify those decisions with logic. With that in mind, all of your selling points need to lead with the emotional ROI your customer will enjoy (i.e the easing of a major pain point, happiness, entertainment, an overall improvement in quality of life). Then you simply back-up your emotional benefits with logical reasons, such as financial ROI.

For example, let’s say your accounting software removes the frustration of balancing spreadsheets, and also helps your clients’ businesses save money on taxes, freeing up more to be passed down to employees.

All accounting software will claim to save you time and effort, but if your marketing focuses on the personal values of reducing frustration and being able to better compensate your team, your product will more likely stand out.

3. Identity Beats Image

Companies often try to portray a certain image that they think will help them get more customers. Levinson argues, however, that people are smart enough to see through a false image, and brands should focus on creating an identity instead.

Unlike an image that’s defined by the messages your brand puts out, your company’s brand identity is defined more by the actions you take.

For example trying to hide the fact that you delivered a bad experience to a customer is something you do to protect your image, whereas taking actions to correct the mistake for that customer is something you do to protect your identity.

Creating the right image might work in the short-run, but brands that stand the test of time do so by creating a brand identity that their customers love and respect.

Key Takeaway

Finding your competitive advantage, identifying the emotional benefits of your offer(s), and creating an identity are all things that cost nothing to accomplish while adding tremendous value to your business. With these three reminders framing and guiding not only your guerrilla marketing, but your marketing initiatives in general, you will be set up for branding and organizational success.

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