Guerilla Marketing Tactics for Small Businesses


In this digital age, the realm of marketing is no longer reserved to professionals in the field. Today, anyone can market their business—regardless of funds or experience. Guerilla marketing embodies the idea of the “everyday marketer,” and provides unique techniques to achieve maximum results with the lowest barriers. Guerilla marketing tactics are low-cost and high-yield, making these campaigns ideal for small businesses.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

The definition of guerilla marketing is difficult to pinpoint. Several adjectives can be attributed to the term. Guerilla marketing is unconventional, unexpected, sometimes controversial. Perhaps the best way of describing it is “disruptive” or “sticky.” Guerilla marketing is something audiences don’t expect but something they will certainly remember. Think flash mobs dancing in a train station—that’s guerilla marketing!

To successfully utilize guerilla marketing as small business, it’s essential to think outside of the box. To go guerilla, you need to change your state of mind. As a small business, you have something larger corporations don’t: flexibility. To move up the food chain and get your name out there, you have to take the high dive.

That said, guerilla marketing isn’t for all businesses. You need to consider the industry you’re working in. Small businesses in highly regulated industries, finance and insurance, for example, could get into serious trouble for launching guerilla marketing campaigns. These types of industries would do best sticking to a conventional marketing plan. The best guerilla marketing inevitably ruffles some feathers. If this is a risky proposition for your business, small business guerilla marketing may not be a good option for you.

Guerilla Marketing Campaigns

Guerilla marketing campaigns begin with unique ideas. As mentioned above, you need to think outside the box. Before you embark on any action, sit down for a brainstorming session. Maybe your guerilla marketing campaign will be handing out temporary tattoos at a college homecoming, installing giant statues in your town, or planting thousands of flowers in an open field, but whatever it is, make sure it stands out.

Brainstorming Guerilla Marketing Ideas

Ask yourself this important question: What is your essence? What is the core message you are trying to send, and how would you phase it in 5 seconds or less? Identify what is you want your message to convey. Is it simply an advertisement for your business, or is it a call to action? Do you want viewers to buy your product, visit your website, or like your Facebook page?

A call to action is essential to gauging results. You need something trackable, something that can determine whether your campaign was successful. Guerilla marketing might not be for you, but there are plenty of other marketing strategies for small businesses to choose from.

Guerilla Marketing Techniques

Guerilla marketing techniques can be incredibly effective, but only if used properly. A guerilla marketing campaign carried out using incorrect tactics can spell disaster for your business.

When running a guerilla marketing campaign, there are a few things you should never do:

  • Don’t scare the crowd away. You shouldn’t provoke, upset, or scare people in a substantially negative way. Positive campaigns do far better. You want something people will laugh at, embrace, have fun with, and share with family and friends. Remember that you’re marketing to your own target audience.
  • Don’t be something you aren’t. Your company has a voice; use it. If you don’t have one yet, find it, and stick with it.
  • Don’t annoy. Try to stay on the right side of the law, and keep your guerilla marketing tactics, in so far as possible, to things that won’t pester or annoy your audience or others who can get you into trouble.

Guerilla Marketing Examples

Many companies have embarked on guerilla marketing campaigns, some have done it to great success, while others received negative results. Follow the below positive examples and avoid the negative ones!

Successful guerilla marketing campaigns:

  • Red Bull Pit Stop: Red Bull paused traffic in Times Square in New York City by setting up a Redbull themed NASCAR-style pit stop. It turned out to be just the thing to grab busy New Yorkers’ attention, and was a huge success.
  • The Goodyear Blimp: The Goodyear blimp is a classic example of long-term guerilla marketing. The blimp began in 1952 when Goodyear built its first airship. Today, Goodyear’s airships fly over 400,000 miles per year, visiting towns across the globe. The blimp has become an instantly recognizable symbol for the company.
  • Taco Liberty Bell: In the mid 1990s, Taco Bell pulled a great marketing stunts that had newspapers buzzing worldwide. In newspaper ads, Taco Bell announced that it had purchased the Liberty Bell and that it had re-named it the Taco Liberty Bell. The massive joke was a great success and garnered Taco Bell lots of public clamor.

Guerilla marketing campaigns gone wrong:

  • Vodafone Streakers: In 2002, Vodafone hired two men to streak across the field during a huge Australian rugby match. The men were completely naked, save for the Vodafone logo painted on their backs. The match was being sponsored by Vodafone’s competitor: Telestra. The campaign totally backfired. The streakers themselves were detained and fined, and fans were furious that their match was interrupted. While the stunt did pull Vodafone lots of media coverage, sometimes not all press is good press.
  • Pozzle stickers: The founder of event management application, Rich Tu, was riding high on success in November 2012, and decided to plaster New York City with 1000 stickers with his company’s logo. Tu and Pozzle co-founded Charles Jamerlan had plastered more than half the stickers in the city by 2AM, but hit a road block when they suddenly were arrested by an unseen cop. Tu spent the next 24 hours citing in a cell in New York City’s central booking. Upon release, he was ordered to do 21 hours of community service. The ill-fated sticker campaign didn’t do much to boost his sales, though it did make a laughable headline.

Get started! Brainstorm, plan, execute!

A successful guerilla marketing campaign is well within any company’s reach. However, it takes creativity, dedication, and very careful planning. Sit down with your team and analyze what resources and funds you can put towards a campaign and what you want to accomplish with one. You’ll find the ideas for the campaign itself will start rolling in in no time! Lastly, push your hesitations aside. Guerilla marketing is gutsy, and a bit risky. There’s only one thing to do at the end of the day: take a deep breath and take the plunge.

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