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Top 10 Guerrilla Marketing Techniques

Venture capitalists won’t give you $20 million for a TV blitz? Can’t do a massive direct mail campaign because you only have e-mail addresses, not mailing addresses? You’re going to have to launch a guerrilla marketing campaign – fast, dirty and cheap. Here are 10 of the best tricks in the business:

Steal this ad. The band Barenaked Ladies got tired of eager teens getting their music on Napster. They also had a new album to promote. The trick: They flooded the Net with MP3 files with the name of their new hot single. Vast numbers were downloaded by eager fans, who discovered the file contained a sales pitch for the album instead of the song. Fans started e-mailing the ad to other fans, generating massive awareness for the new album. Cost: a little studio time.

Entertaining e-mail. Every e-commerce site has some sort of “bargains of the week” e-mail. They are read on occasion, get response on occasion, but they get no loyalty or respect. They are the e-mail equivalent of the inserts in the Sunday paper.

You can do much better. Turn your correspondence into something that is interesting to your customers. Add content. Make it relevant to subscribers. Get them eager to tune in each week. You will find your list starts to grow at no cost to you as readers eagerly forward your content to friends. The Association for Interactive Media sends out a summary of the latest market research and industry gossip. Some weeks, more than 90 percent of new sales come from subscribers to the newsletter. Cost: part-time writer, $250 per week.

Venus flytrap. Here’s how to get meaningful contact – and better sales – from a trade show booth.

Step 1: Lure them. No one goes into a booth because it has a fancy logo or pretty spokesmodels. You need to appeal to greed. Hold a contest to give away the latest electronic toy, such as a wireless Palm Pilot or camcorder. You get much more traffic and a business card from every visitor.

Step 2: Trap them. Do something, anything, to stall them so you can squeeze out a two-minute sales pitch. If you don’t get them now, you may never see them again. My favorite is to use a laminator to turn their business card into a luggage tag. Everyone wants one, and they are stuck with you for a few minutes waiting for the machine to finish. If you’re not done with the pitch, you can always relaminate it. Cost: giveaway item, $500; laminator and supplies, $200.

Tag your prey. Luggage tags have multiple benefits. While you are putting someone’s business card on one side, add your logo and Web address to the other side. After a good trade show, you can have thousands of executives flashing your logo on their computer bags.

Take it one step further. Give every business card you receive to an intern. After putting the cards in a database (essential!), turn those cards into luggage tags with your logo on the back. Mail them to the contact with a nice note. Business associates are happy to be acknowledged. You can get thousands more luggage tags – with your logo – walking around town on the computer bags of important contacts. Cost: the same laminator, luggage tags and stamps, $50 per month.

Send it to a friend. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful, cost-effective marketing technique. People buy and use the things that their friends like to buy and use. A simple trick can exponentially increase the number of surfers that tell their friends about your site.

Add a simple button to every Web page that says, “Tell a friend.” This lets surfers enter their e-mail and their friend’s e-mail, and send a pitch for your page or product to a potential customer. You will be amazed at how many people will happily market to their friends for you. Cost: a few lines of code.

Share the goodies. We all hear stories about the huge deals that get cut because two executives end up on a panel together at some conference. Next time you are invited to sit on a panel, ask the producers whether they need any other speakers. Often they do.

Offer to help find speakers for them, then invite those two or three prospects with whom you would like to get some quiet time. Everyone appreciates being invited to speak, and you get the credit: Cost: none – in fact, you will find that grateful producers put you on the short list to speak at their next event.

Your mama taught you right: Nothing works better than a handwritten thank-you letter. I send them often, especially to people who have taken the time to meet with me. So few people extend this basic courtesy that your letters stand out like a strobe light. A few kind words of thanks take a few seconds to write, but they are remembered for a long, long time. Cost: $10 for stamps, maybe $50 for some nice note cards.

Think links. How many e-mails are sent each month by everyone who works at your company? Thousands for a small firm, hundreds of thousands for a big one. Require every single employee to put a link to the company Web site – or the latest special – on the bottom of every e-mail. This blast of links has a measurable effect on traffic.

Also be sure to permanently embed your link in your logo. There are many times when you can use your logo on an ad or sponsorship, but they won’t let you include a Web address. If the logo and link are the same, you guarantee traffic. Artist Peter Max put his URL in his signature. When he did a cover for Playboy magazine, his Web address got mailed to 15 million fans who didn’t even know he had a Web site. There is no way Playboy would have allowed him to add the URL unless they had no choice. Cost: zero.

Feed me, Seymour. Reporters like food. Take every opportunity to give it to them. Sponsor lunches for reporters, sponsor the snacks in press rooms at conferences, host a VIP lounge for the press. This won’t guarantee coverage, but it will ensure that the press knows who you are. Sharing a meal is always more personal than e-mailing a press release. Cost: less than sending one press release over a wire service.

Cheap sponsorship. Your average two-day executive conference mails 25,000 to 100,000 pieces. A big convention might hit 10 times more. These events advertise heavily in trade magazines and e-mail newsletters. You can get your logo included in all of that exposure for free. Just ask. Often all the conference producer wants is a one-time use of your mailing list. In one year we got 2 million free exposures of our logo to our target audience! We also got free passes to the events. Cost: zilch.

Andy Sernovitz is president of GasPedal Ventures, New York. He is founder of the Association for Interactive Media and teaches Internet entrepreneurship at the Wharton School of Business.

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