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Guerrilla Marketing Revisited

Furniture World Magazine

Volume 146 NO.2 March/April

Marketing is not an event, but a process... It has a beginning, middle, but never an end... You improve it, perfect it, change it, even pause it, but you never stop it completely.” -Jay Conrad Levinson

The late Jay Conrad Levinson was one of the most brilliant and celebrated marketing experts of all time. His studies in psychology led him to top advertising agencies and a decade long teaching stint at UC Berkeley where he taught the secrets of Guerrilla Marketing, one of the best known brands in marketing history. Guerrilla Marketing is the use of unconventional marketing tools applied in cases when financial or other resources are limited or non-existent. Guerrilla Marketing was named by Time Magazine as one of the top 25 best business books of all time. Over 21 million have been sold, and Jay’s concepts have influenced marketing so much that his books appear in 41 languages and are required reading in MBA programs worldwide.

Few independent furniture entrepreneurs follow the processes of Guerrilla Marketing recommended by Jay Conrad Levinson, yet these processes represent ideal and affordable marketing solutions for independent furniture stores. Levinson’s concepts embrace the Home Town Advantage (HTA). This is a plus that Big Box franchises have rarely been given the latitude by their corporations to exploit.
Big Boxes overwhelm smaller furniture dealers with huge advertising budgets and tsunamis of promotional material. Even so, their advertising material is generally impersonal, repetitive and dull. Flyers are often hastily mass produced by professionals who have never studied the evidence-based principles that make advertising work. Franchise websites are equally dry and lacking in personal home town color and appeal. If smaller independent dealers exploited their own Home Town Advantage they would, without increased expense, take the lead and increase their local market share.

Dispelling the Myth of the Effectiveness of Big Budgets

People simply are not paying much attention these days to intrusive advertising appeals. Like the most recent crop of presidential hopefuls, corporate Big Boxes with the fattest bankrolls can no longer count on their flood of messages resonating due to their sheer quantity. And here lies the opportunity for every independent furniture store owner to disrupt the status quo and change the game. The trick is to clearly define a small, attractive hometown niche in which they can be the key player. Nothing is better at helping you do this than Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing strategies.

So, what is Guerrilla Marketing? Jay defines Guerrilla Marketing as a strategy of utilizing unconventional secrets and tactics for achieving conventional goals–big profits–for your small business. Understand that marketing itself is each contact with ANY part of your business with ANY segment of the general public. Your marketing must be a circular process resulting in large numbers of REPEAT and REFERRAL customers.

Just before his death Levinson updated and summarized his Guerrilla Marketing strategies in one small (124 page) volume, titled Guerrilla Marketing for the New Millennium. The book is brimming with fresh ideas, most of which cost nothing to apply. If you want to turbo-charge your business in 2016, make use of the limited sample of the Guerrilla Marketing philosophy offered in this article to develop an effective blueprint to reinvent your business.


The Seven Sentence Marketing Strategy

NOTE: Suggested responses for guidance and clarity have been added. Fill yours in and you will have a great Guerrilla Marketing Strategy!

1. The purpose of my store’s marketing is:

Your Possible Response- The purpose of my marketing is to improve the lives of my customers by offering honest values in home furnishings, providing outstanding service, employing serious follow through, and being a source of helpful information.

2. I will accomplish this purpose by:

Your Possible Response- Applying the principle that marketing itself is each contact with ANY part of my business with ANY segment of the general public. I will make sure these contacts are the most gracious and comfortable possible and every element of the shopping experience is pleasant and rewarding.

3. The target audiences for these appeals are:

This answer will depend upon your demographic profile.

4. The marketing weapons I intend to employ are:

Your Possible Response- Guerrilla Marketing strategies and tactics, selected from Jay Levinson’s top 100.

5. The marketing nichesfor my store are: 

Again, your demographics will dictate this.

6.My store’s identity will be:

Your Possible Response- We are the primary hometown store for our market niche, and the most trusted source for products, information and advice.

7. The goal for my advertising budgets will be:

Your Possible Response- Programs that produce record sales and profits for less than five percent of gross sales in promotion costs. 

100 Guerrilla Marketing Weapons

I don’t have space for all 100 of Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing “weapons.” Suffice to say that advertising alone is not marketing. “Don’t think for a minute that if you are advertising, you are marketing,” he directs. Advertising is just one of 100 weapons of marketing. There are 99 others. There is a tie for first place. If you are advertising you are doing only 1% of what you can do. Here are a few other contenders for first place:

  • Your marketing plan
  • Your niche positioning
  • Your logo
  • Phone demeanor
  • Your silent salespeople (indoor and outdoor signs–handouts– business cards)
  • Hours of operation–days of operation (your convenience or your clients’?)
  • Community involvement
  • Dress code
  • Guarantee
  • Referral program
  • Follow-up
  • Sales training
  • Credit options
  • Benefits you offer
  • How you greet and how you say goodbye
  • Social media
  • And dozens more in the book. Your job as a business owner is to use as many as you can. 

The Eight Power Traits Of Successful Marketers.

Every successful CEO or marketing department manager Jay Levinson studied had eight specific character traits. Measure yourself against the list:

PATIENCE: Jay considers this the most important trait. I suggest you brand yourself as the “value-added hometown store” with slogans like: “Big city selection, hometown prices and personal service,” and “We are your friends and neighbors with nationwide buying power.” You must be persistent in addition to being patient. Make sure the staff memorizes your slogans.

IMAGINATION: Remember the declaration of Émile Coué: “When imagination and will are in conflict, antagonistic, imagination will win every time without exception.” Imagination means vision, and there is no such thing as an effective marketer who lacks vision. Vision is far more important than willpower.

SENSITIVITY: The quality of empathy is of key importance in marketing. First-rate marketers are sensitive to their market, their prospects, the economy, the community, and their competition. “It’s a key personality trait,” says Levinson.

EGO STRENGTH: Jay observes: “The first people who will tire are your co-workers, followed closely by your family and friends. They will counsel you to change because they are bored. Your prospects are not bored because they have barely heard of you. Your customers are not bored because they will forever read your marketing material to justify the fact they still do business with you.”

AGGRESSIVENESS: You will need to be bold and confident and willing to try new things. With Guerrilla Marketing you will be able to get better results with the same promotional budgets (or less).

CONSTANT LEARNING: Successful Guerrilla Marketers are constant learners.

GENEROSITY: Guerrilla Marketers want most of all to improve the lives of their clients. They are generous with their time and their information.

ACTIVE AGENTS: Jay notes: “Many furniture entrepreneurs read books, articles, and take courses. But they keep the information inside of them. Guerrillas learn in much the same way, but they take action on what they learn. They know that action is the power behind Guerrilla Marketing. There are eight and only eight traits that great marketing experts have in common. Make sure these traits apply to you!”


Think And Act Big Without Spending Big

Modern technology gives small business a blatantly unfair advantage over the big boxes because it allows them to think and act big without having to spend big.

Levinson: “The greatest boon to Guerrilla Marketing has been the affordable, powerful, easy-to-use technology of today. I hate to use the word ‘empower,’ but technology definitely empowers small businesses. Technology is the game-changer that is revolutionizing small businesses. Now small business owners can dream extravagant new dreams and attain them in surprisingly brief time periods.” If you are a tech-shy independent you are needlessly throwing away your Home Town Advantage. (H.T.A.]

Your most powerful secret weapon against the Big Boxes is technology. Most corporate chains with nervous IT department fiefdoms will not allow franchises to host their own websites, or handle local social media accounts. This is the prevailing policy, even though these same IT departments are constantly overwhelmed with other priorities and cannot help individual franchises. As a result, local franchises are helpless while savvy independents grin as they use today’s simple technology to press their overwhelming H.T.A. Levinson points out that modern technology is so inexpensive that you can invest for a low four-figure sum what in 1982 amounted to a medium six figure sum.

Modern technology has removed the ceiling and opened up a whole new world of opportunity for smaller businesses. “Now you can connect with allies everywhere, ‘being connected’ has never been so low cost and yet so high in value. Guerrillas can now be online, with the power of instant email, and the enormous supremacy of the World Wide Web.”

It all begins with your own website of course. You will need tech help, but also don’t try to design a website unless you have the assistance of a black belt marketer. He or she will help you design the most powerful website and you can immediately begin to promote it offline. The process of promoting your website offline should never stop. Every flyer, handout, insert, ROP ad, cable TV spot, business card, etc., should feature your website address. Technology offers the opportunity for smaller furniture stores to gain local credibility, speed and power in an age when local “credibility is crucial, speed is revered, and power comes from being part of a networking team. Speed comes from cellular, pager, fax, email and voicemail technology.” Levinson adds: “If you are Guerrilla Marketing with technology you are headed in the right direction. If you are Guerrilla Marketing without technology you are not Guerrilla Marketing at all.”

Your Action Ticket

“All the other tickets are worthless without your action ticket. Guerrilla Marketing is about action, constant action. Your mission is to capitalize on your momentum and to go soaring into the new millennium without missing a beat.” It’s not your father’s millennium. It’s a whole new ballgame and your tickets to the old ballgame won’t get you very good seats.

Jay suggests five tickets to the new ballgame:

1.The Technology Ticket, of course. You must banish all traces of technophobia. We discussed the benefits of technology, but never let technology overwhelm your message. Glitzy and costly websites and flyers cannot take the place of Evidence Based Advertising that is rich with benefits and content.

2.Your Identity Ticket. Your connection with your customers is precious. You must “follow up or fail.” You are to establish your identity as a trusted and reliable advisor, someone they would not hesitate to recommend to their friends, family and neighbors.

3.Your Humanity Ticket. Our society is becoming more and more impersonal, in spite of technology. The human touch, the hometown touch, is vital. So your marketing messages to your clients must be warm and human. They should be empathetic to the details of their lives, “caring of their progress, helpful and informative.”

4.Your History Ticket. Unlike the new Big Boxes, you have a tradition of service, a legacy, a hometown advantage. Tell your story and use it.

5.Your Action Ticket. “All the other tickets are worthless without your action ticket. Guerrilla Marketing is about action, constant action. Your mission is to capitalize on your momentum and to go soaring into the new millennium without missing a beat.”  

Permission Marketing vs. Intrusive Marketing

Jay Levinson recommends the book: Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers by Seth Godin.

Jay writes: “It changed my entire outlook about marketing and can change the beauty of your bottom line.” The Big Boxes are practitioners of old fashioned intrusive advertising such as TV, radio, traditional print, etc. But such intrusive marketing is not working anywhere near as well as it used to.

Permission marketing is the game- changer you need. The trick is for you to gain permission to market to your hometown niche. Learn this trick and watch your bottom line explode.

Briefly, you offer a client an enticement to accept your advertising messages. The enticement could be in the form of free information on decorating, or care for leather furnishings, or perhaps membership in a special club. All you ask for in return is permission to market your goods to these people. Nothing else. Permission marketing is so important it really needs its own article, and I will cover it in Part Two.

This has been a long article, but I have barely scratched the surface of the Guerrilla Marketing philosophy. It is a concept that fits smaller furniture stores with hometown histories like a glove. The one thing you can never do too much of is learn. An hour a day of learning adds up to nine 40-hour weeks of learning a year. Such a program would make you unstoppable.

Larry Mullins is a contributing editor for Furniture World and has 30+ years of experience on the front lines of furniture marketing. Larry’s mainstream executive experience, his creative work with promotion specialists, and mastery of advertising principles have established him as one of the foremost experts in furniture marketing. His affordable High-Impact programs produce legendary results for everything from cash raising events to profitable exit strategies. His newest books, THE METAVALUES BREAKTHROUGH and IMMATURE PEOPLE WITH POWER… How to Handle Them have recently been released by Morgan James Publishing. Joe Girard, “The World’s Greatest Salesman” said of this book: “If I had read Larry Mullins’ book when I started out, I would have reached the top much sooner than I did.” Larry is founder and CEO of UltraSales, Inc. and can be reached directly at 904.794.9212 or at Larrym@furninfo.com. See more articles by Larry at www.furninfo.com or www.ultrasales.com.
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