SEO, social media, email, advertising, comparison engines—these are the usual suspects when we talk about marketing.
But marketing is about sifting through a world of possibilities and unearthing opportunities to get in front of your customers.
Anything can become a potential marketing channel.
That belief is at the heart of guerrilla marketing—a scrappy, unorthodox, and aggressive approach to getting your brand in front of could-be customers by establishing your presence in the physical world around you.
What is guerrilla marketing?
Guerrilla marketing is about getting exposure for your brand or products by hopping into the trenches and finding creative ways to capture attention in specific locations offline.
At its best, guerrilla marketing is the perfect bridge to bring customers online to offline. It nets you direct offline exposure via foot traffic that can be as targeted as the location you choose, as well as word of mouth buzz through people talking about and sharing your marketing on Instagram, Snapchat, blogs, etc. online.
There’s also potential to generate press coverage if your idea is interesting enough or even go viral if you're in the right place at the right time for the right person.
Unlike most online marketing strategies, it can be hard to apply the granular “do, measure, improve” approach to offline guerrilla marketing. Instead, your guerrilla marketing ideas will succeed or fail on the merit of their creativity and execution. There's also a little luck involved.
Here are some of the things you should generally keep in mind when taking this approach:
- Location, location, location: Consider foot traffic, type of traffic and where you can get not just maximum exposure, but exposure to the right people.
- Hit or miss: Guerrilla marketing can be easy for consumers to ignore unless your creativity gives people a reason to pause. The better your idea, the more thought-out your strategy for getting a reaction, the more likely your marketing is to work.
- Your creative should align with your goals: Even if you capture attention, the real challenge is coming up with creative assets that get your brand or your message across.
- Consider unforeseen variables: City laws, weather, noise, theft, etc. can get in the way of executing an effective campaign.
- Don’t annoy people or break laws: Since it’s aggressive, these tactics can annoy consumers if done wrong and actually harm your brand. As a rule, do things that delight people.
- Use it to complement your online marketing and vice versa: People should be able to connect the dots between your offline marketing and your brand online. It's best if they at least have the name of your brand, so they know what to google.
Guerrilla Marketing might be limited, but it makes up for it by being LOUD.
Like I said, there’s a world of possibilities when it comes to marketing. Here are just a few guerrilla marketing tactics and examples you can learn from.
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Open a pop up shop: Bring the point of sale to customers
Chances are you’ve experienced a pop up shop as a consumer. These are temporary stores that are easy to set up and take down.
With a pop-up shop, you’re effectively bringing the point of sale to your customers by setting up a temporary physical store. With a POS system, you can even process different payment methods on the spot.
As with many guerrilla tactics, the location of your pop-up shop is key.
You can set up your pop-up shop in an office, on a street corner, at a fair, or even inside another store.
You can also try to negotiate for space to get it for free, such as in the case of The Good South, which held its pop up shop inside another boutique.
Done right, a pop-up shop can even become part of a tactical PR stunt. That's what happened with JM&Sons, a company that builds and sells modern furniture crafted from reclaimed wood.
JM&Sons turned a shipping container into a showroom that not only let them emulate the brick and mortar experience of shopping for furniture, but also got them featured in local newspapers and blogs as a result.
They also sold smaller, less expensive items such as wallets to give customers something to walk away with—a clever way to still sell to, and leave an impression with, the majority of consumers who just weren’t ready to buy a piece of furniture on the spot.
Give away samples: “Free” is everyone’s favorite word
Samples are a surefire way of getting your products into the hands of consumers.
I once had a part time gig promoting products in local grocery stores. I’d give away samples of yogurt, coffee, chocolate bars, whatever I was assigned.
One product could be turned into several samples and, on good days, I could sell out the entire stock of product. It was a lot easier to sell to people once they tried it out. Plus the products I used were written off as a marketing expense.
This reinforced two things:
- People love free stuff.
- People, after being given something, might feel obligated to give you something back—like a few minutes of their time to be educated about your product.
You can apply a similar approach on a larger or smaller scale, giving away samples at events or fairs where the right people will be in attendance—or finding a handful of influencers to endorse your product if they like it. You can even establish co-marketing partnerships to distribute your samples alongside another brand's products.
Make sure your samples incorporate enough information for consumers to potentially find you online later. And use any opportunities while you're on the ground selling to educate as many people as you can.
Sticker marketing: Make it stick
Stickers are an inexpensive way to get your brand out there. Some people even use their laptop, video game consoles, and other possessions as a canvas for showing off the brands they love.
You can give stickers away along with other swag or at events, and arm your audience with the ability to put your brand in all kinds of places.
It’s always interesting to see stickers that you’ve circulated stuck onto the most random of places, like the roof of a bus or the side of a table at a bar.
You can also use stickers to strategically advertise a message in a specific location, like sticking your logo somewhere visible to attract more followers. But again, be careful not to annoy people in the process as this will damage your brand.
Services like StickerYou and StickerMule offer decent options and prices for a wide range of sticker types and sizes.
Geo-fencing: Own a location on Snapchat and Instagram
Geo-fencing is a relatively young technology that uses your smartphone's GPS to offer exclusive content or experiences if you're in the target location.
Snapchat’s On-Demand Custom Geofilters is a common example, and has opened up a new form of location-based marketing on the platform. The cost to upload your own is also relatively low—under $10 in some cases.
These custom filters give you a chance to make impressions on users in a specific area or at an event as they swipe through filters when creating a snap. They might even apply those filters and share them with their followers if they're fun or relevant enough.
A great example comes from Taco Bell, which promoted the launch of their Quesalupa with an On-Demand Custom Geofilter that could be used by visitors and influencers at specific locations attending the launch party, effectively letting them share the offline experience with their followers.
Instagram has taken a similar approach recently with the ability to submit Stories under Hashtags and Locations that anyone can check in on. These location tags can get super specific, and are definitely worth exploring if you're promoting a local business or event.
Geo-fencing with social media is one of the best examples of the blurring line between online and offline marketing, encouraging people to share local offline moments for online consumption.
Graffiti, posters, and more: The world is your canvas
Renting space for advertising can be expensive. But there are other ways to get it.
You can use your own property or borrow someone else's to establish a physical presence through posters, graffiti art, window clings, you name it.
Putting up a clever poster on a community message board, for example, can be a good way to target foot traffic. Be sure to follow the city's rules though.
You can even get permission to use a wall for branded graffiti art, as in the case of this campaign to promote the launch of Justin Bieber's album.
Walls were tagged in this manner in cities around the world. And despite the lack of explicit branding, fans found out and flocked to these areas to take selfies next to these pieces of art.
Ask for permission to do these things first, and do the kind of things that get people to stop and stare and think and share.
Do things that don’t scale
While guerrilla marketing has a limited, local reach, it has the potential to pick up speed with the right idea and strategy in place, and expand its reach as the experience is brought online.
If you've got plenty of ideas to make up for a lack of money to invest in marketing, guerrilla tactics are a cost-effective way to get exposure.
It might be hard to track the ROI and these tactics don't scale, but that's kind of the point.
It conjures an image of the classic lemonade stand: Getting out there and hustling to grow your business by putting your brand and your product in front of whoever you can.