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How to plan an effective guerrilla marketing campaign

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 22 May, 2017
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3 Tips to Ensure the Success of Your Guerrilla Marketing Efforts

Guerrilla marking can be defined as “an innovative, unconventional, and low-cost marketing technique aimed at obtaining maximum exposure for a product.”

Lower cost and increased exposure — that’s the dream, right?

To illustrate with a modern, classic example, in 2012, Dollar Shave Club nailed guerrilla marketing with its viral YouTube video. For just $4,500, the company created a surprising and funny commercial that went viral in 72 hours. Although consumers see more than 2,900 media messages every day, the sad truth is they will only remember four of them. DSC managed to remain one of those memorable four for a long time, all thanks to a relatively inexpensive video.

If that kind of return is possible, why even bother with marketing initiatives that yield lower returns?

Guerrilla Tactics Expand Your Reach

Most marketing — traditional and digital — is about scalability and input/output; it costs more the bigger you get. Think of traditional marketing tactics like blue chip stocks: You know you’re going to make a return on them, but they’re also consistent and scalable.

Think of marketing techniques in terms of investing. Like any investment portfolio, traditional “blue chip stock” tactics yield predictable returns at a slow and steady pace. On the other hand, a guerrilla marketing campaign (GMC) is more akin to investing in a risky startup — unique, exciting, and potentially a windfall, but also a big gamble.

You want these tactics to comprise a minor part of your overall portfolio, of course, because the returns could be enormous (or abysmal).

Planning an Effective GMC

When it comes to guerrilla marketing, you can do lots of crazy stunts that sometimes work beautifully and sometimes flop completely. How do you ensure you make the biggest impact on the smallest budget?

Just like investing in a startup, launching a GMC is part art, part science, and part timing. When we’re devising our company’s guerrilla marketing tactics, I ask the following questions to integrate our best ideas into a solid, potentially successful framework:

  1. Does it grab attention? Try to determine whether your GMC will make people stop and say, “Oh, now that’s surprising.”

Typically, three pillars support attention-grabbing GMCs:

  • A strong hook
  • A clear focus on an idea, not a product
  • An offer of something tangible

A hook connects people with your product or service in unexpected ways. During the month of March, for example, my company hosted a temporary co-retail space called The Nest. The idea was to bring 10 cool e-commerce brands into a brick-and-mortar space, giving them (and us) a level of exposure they wouldn’t normally enjoy. Co-retail isn’t an area where you would expect an agency to play, and that’s exactly why it worked so well for us.

Attention-grabbing campaigns also focus on an idea rather than a product. People don’t care about a product until they understand how it will make them feel. The Salesforce “No Software” campaign, for example, championed the idea of using inexpensive, cloud-based services rather than clunky, expensive software. Salesforce didn’t need to outline features, just the emotions it would evoke.

Finally, you need something tangible to hold consumers’ attention. Creating an object or event around your idea makes the potential feel more real. To highlight it’s Threshold Home Decor collection, for instance, Target installed a two-story dollhouse in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Visitors could walk through rooms stuffed with Target products, and the company (brilliantly) put QR codes on everything, making it easy for people to scan and buy items instantly.

Once you have an attention-grabbing idea, it’s time to move on to the next step — and it’s one that might surprise you.

  1. How can we utilize paid search? Paid search might seem like a boring tactic, but it can be a major springboard to getting your GMC noticed. First, do your research: Find a low cost-per-click keyword or phrase with minimal competition among advertisers, and then get the word out to boost the search volume. How you do this will vary based on your company.

Newer companies, for example, can boost search by creating a promotion that can be described in a single word or short phrase. For these purposes, excluding your brand name will actually increase interest. Saturate your region with posters, stickers, and even street art, asking people to search on the term. When people search for it, boom! There’s your ad.

A more mature company that wants to boost sales could do it a little differently. In this case, you could create a promotion with a five-day campaign. Each day, a new ad is a clue to when the next ad will appear, and they all contain numbers that make up the actual date and time the promotion kicks off. This kind of puzzle capitalizes on the popularity of gaming and people’s natural curiosity.

A well-established brand with a loyal following can go a step further. Try using social media to announce clues to be “dropped” across the city — a word painted onto a sidewalk, for example. All of the clues combined to create a sentence that can be searched. Once a follower searches the exact phrasing, your ad will appear, and the follower will relish finishing the scavenger hunt.

So you have an attention-grabbing idea, and you’re planning to strategically utilize paid search. How do you close the deal? There’s one more pillar to fortify.

  1. How can we measure the success of this GMC? How many times have you been at an event and received some free giveaway with a company’s logo on it? And how many times has that made you want to do business with that company? I’m going to guess the answer is “never.” That’s because handing out free stuff without a call to action is a waste. With a clear CTA, you can measure the effects of your GMC.

A CTA should support your current efforts, but you won’t use it to measure clicks or impressions. Results like traffic and revenue are more important metrics to track the ROI of a GMC. Some effective examples of CTAs for guerrilla campaigns include:

  • “Buy Now”
  • “Sign Up”
  • “Win”
  • “Click Here”

These quick, concise messages make the desired actions instantly clear. Hold a contest, and use “Win” as your CTA if your goal is to collect emails. The immediacy and potential value of such an offer often prompt consumers to give up their contact information.

Alternatively, offering a coupon or discount that must be used within a specific period of time will drive revenue and allow you to measure any rise in sales the campaign provides.

Guerrilla marketing is a gamble, but this framework will help you plan, execute, and measure your efforts. If you do create a winner, do your best to discern how you can disperse it across other channels (think Dollar Shave Club and its use of videos for Facebook ads, television ads, and more). This viral piece of content was truly an enduring asset for the brand, not just a one-hit wonder.

High-risk, high-reward tactics such as guerrilla marketing are, by nature, unpredictable. Remember to think of a GMC like your investment portfolio. You may be wasting energy and time, but if it’s a small piece of your overall mix, it’s not as big of a deal. You don’t want to throw everything you have at it, but the risk is worth it because a guerrilla marketing campaign can help you win big.

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