I have never been able to resist a bargain.  That is why I love guerrilla marketing – Hey its usually free or almost free, who could say no?  Especially when you can build it into any integrated strategy to such good effect.  I have never understood why so many organisations look down on guerrilla as though it was appropriate only to small businesses.  I was working with an on-line publisher last year and came up with a neat little initiative that demonstrates just what can be done.

Our target was English-speaking businessmen with an interest in Central European markets.  The problem was one of awareness and the need to increase subscriptions.  I’m not a great fan of trade shows normally, partly because the cost of running a stand that is professional enough to give the right impression, more often than not, makes the idea non-viable.  However, if you don’t need a stand …

There was no doubt about it, major Central European trade shows were the most likely places to find the people we were looking for in any numbers, so we identified those with the highest visitor numbers from the most appropriate sectors of industry and called the organisers with a simple proposition – We would run advertising for their event in exchange for a free go-anywhere pass for our group of promoters and the go-ahead to distribute a card promoting a free offer that was bound to enhance the value of the show (In fact we ended up with a whole lot more than that).  The offer was a free limited period subscription to our publication (providing local CE market intelligence), which, if people signed up to it, would give us a great database and the opportunity to up-sell to paid-for subscriptions or just add permanent free subscribers with limited access who would add value to our offer to advertisers and sponsors. The show organisers, to my surprise and delight, nearly snatched our hand off!

Another great thing about initiatives like this is their flexibility.  We had no idea how this would perform so we opted for a two-month test-phase with an extended programme set up and ready to go the first month looked good.  Buoyed by the enthusiasm of trade show organisers, we decided to test a secondary target – employees of international firms that congregate in the large office complexes that you see around major Central European cities – and approached the largest property management companies with an offer similar to that we had made to the trade show organisers – free advertising in exchange for access to the lobbies of their buildings at peak times.  Same result!

That gave us two full months of promoter activity, with the office complex element filling in between the trade shows, which made maximum use of the promoters that we hired and trained for the client specially for the campaign.  Of course, the design of the material that the promoters were handing out and their sensitivity in selecting targets from the thousands of visitors to these shows and offices were critical factors in the efficiency of the first level of the campaign, but from there by funnelling responses through a carefully constructed CRM programme, we could generate revenue from subscriptions, boost readership/site visits and therefore enhance our value to advertisers, as well as sell ongoing advertising  to show organisers and exhibitors.  Every card we handed out carried a unique promotion code designating where and when it was handed out,  respondents entered the code to sign up for their trial, which gave use useful data too and we used that to strengthen our argument to the trade show organisers and exhibitors when we sold them advertising.  We also included all respondents in our new “recommend a friend” promotion, which caused a snowball effect. We did the whole thing for the kind of cost you could cover from petty cash – literally and the payback was way beyond anything that marketers would expect from a traditional campaign.

Guerrilla marketing definitely isn’t the reserve of small businesses and I’ve used all forms in many different ways over the years.  Taken seriously and partnered with the capability in other areas that large organisations always have, the effect of any investment can be magnified many times over.  Elements such as those that we used on this initiative have such a high pay-back level anyway, that they can’t help but improve the average ROI of any marketing strategy.

Michael Weaver
May 1, 2009

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