Guerrilla Marketing, The Battle OUTSIDE the Box

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the Hunt for the Cure paintball game to benefit the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. It was my first time in a large-scale, 8-hour paintball game and we all had a great time.
As I thought about the game I realized it illustrated a marketing lesson I could share with fellow auctioneers and marketers. During the game, the 300 players were split into two teams. Each team was given missions to accomplish throughout the day to earn points and win the battle. As I went into the event I had no idea how much organization and planning had taken place so that we could all play this high-energy game. Once our team was assembled, our general started to give commands and send us out into the field. We had small teams who were sent to retrieve items and larger teams sent to secure outposts. If you are shot during the game you had to run back to the home base and tag to get back in the game. Sometimes when trying to accomplish an objective you are met with an overwhelming force and as a group of people come back to base, the general had to rethink priorities or reassign assets. Sometimes we were sent out to bother the other team and keep them from accomplishing their objectives. It was a small taste of guerrilla warfare. The experience got me thinking about guerrilla marketing.
In his book, Guerrilla Marketing, author Jay Conrad Levinson first coined the term ‘guerrilla marketing.’ The basic approach is to have a high impact, low cost unconventional marketing solution. In my opinion, the auction industry is ideal for this type of marketing. We already use an unconventional, extremely successful sales method. The next step is to look at our marketing and see if there is a way we can think outside the box. We all probably have the equivalent of a boring household auction from time to time, but that is not where we should apply off the wall marketing. However, when you come upon an interesting collection, high-end home, or even simple business liquidation, aggressive marketing may be your answer. The keys to an effective guerrilla campaign are often as simple as time, energy, and imagination instead of a large marketing budget.
A common example of this type of marketing is when a video goes “viral” on YouTube. A viral video is best described like a disease that spreads throughout the internet. It doesn’t cost the producer any money, but soon millions of people have viewed your content and many people have become famous for this. One example is a young boy who acts out the Herb Brooks speech from the movie, “Miracle.” He is now making appearances throughout the country giving that same speech at many sporting events and speaking engagements.

Extra, Extra, Real All About It!

Originally published in the MSAA Supplement, Issue 01, October, 2008

In a recent article I wrote, I focused on the benefits of using the internet and trying to get the most out of your company’s website. In hindsight, the real focus of my article was the concept of touch points. In our business we have many chances to keep our name in the press through advertising upcoming sales. Each time a person sees one of your ads or signs it is considered a touch point. Obviously, the more touch points the more likely a prospective client will think of your company and its services first. This is a concept that can be very apparent during winter months when the auction fever dies down a bit. To keep in contact with your clients a newsletter can be a great solution.

Newsletters have a long utilitarian history. As a graphic designer even the mention of them invokes thoughts of 1 color word documents with clip art for images. While I do apologize if that is your current version of a newsletter, know that there are many more affordable solutions for your business. It’s time to dig into this topic and hopefully help you build a quality attractive system for touch points all-year.

A great question to ask when starting any project is, “who will be my target audience?” Are you looking for prospective bidders? Are you looking for possible sellers? These are important to the direction of your articles, the images you use, and the distribution method. For the purpose of this example, let’s assume that we have a mailing list of bidders from our auctions, and as we learned long ago, a bidder can be our next seller, so now we have our target audience.

The answer to this question is quite simple. We are building a company newsletter. Obviously, there are many ways to distribute information. Building a website or a Blog is another system that can accomplish many of the same tasks as a newsletter.

This is an important question since we are all professionals and time is short. Is it possible to put out a quarterly company newsletter? How about two updates in the winter (your slower time) and one in the summer? Since the winter is often a slow time, it is a good idea to have many touch points during that quiet time so bidders (and possible sellers) won’t forget about your services.

This is an interesting question. Where do I put my newsletter? Since we are operating under the assumption that we have a mailing list, the where will be in our current bidder’s hands. However, in some areas you might have a large account in a small bank or frequent a vendor so often that they are willing to put your newsletter out for their clients to see. They might even be willing to put an ad in your newsletter. (Selling ad space is a complete article in itself, so we may have to return to that at a different time.)

I covered the why in the introduction, but you may also find a variety of other reasons as well. Consider the fact that if you do a newsletter often enough you could actually place ads for your own sales in it, or at least have an Upcoming Auctions feature. The options are endless.

This is the point where the rubber hits the road. How do you want to get your newsletter out to your
clients? You could mail it. However, with the cost of mailing getting higher, it really isn’t nearly as affordable as it once was. Consider a webzine (web-based magazine). This is not a new concept, however the convenience of creating one is closer than you might think. You are currently reading a PDF, which stands for Portable Document Format. PDFs are able to be read by almost every computer and are quickly becoming a viable format for all documents. Many programs will allow you to take a file and “Save As” a PDF or allow you to “Print To” a PDF. Either way, you are then able to email it or post it to your website for all to read.

One example of a newsletter I would recommend you take a look at is produced by the Reinhart Auction Service of Palisade, Minnesota. Currently they produce a newsletter that is actually more like a newspaper for their mailing list. This publication is one of the best around for showcasing upcoming events and auctions for their clients and possible prospects. I had a chance to speak with Carol Reinhart and she told me they are now producing 28,000 copies of each issue. This is exactly the type of publication that will help your clients remember your name.

In conclusion, there are many ways a newsletter and help your company stay in contact with your clients. Take the time to explore some options and see what you can accomplish.

What are we Selling?

I have recently made it a point to expand my marketing knowledge by subscribing to some new magazines. While I valued my education and know I learned many time tested marketing techniques, a fresh perspective is often a great way to analyze current business marketing practices. I was thumbing through the September 2009 issue of Inc. magazine when I came upon an article by Joel Spolsky. His story is one that is familiar to many small business owners. In Spolsky’s case, he had a start up software company about 8 years ago. After releasing what he felt was a great product he tried to bolster profits in many ways. He tried “strategic partnerships” which is basically a commission based sales force, they also tried to work with a publishing giant. After the extensive expense of a lawyer to work up a viable contract the actual revenue was minuscule. Because he had a very limited budget he even wrote a column in for a mail-order catalog in trade for a half-page ad each month. Finally, after 2 years they tried something new…he made his software better. As you can imagine this had an outstanding effect, and their sales shot through the roof. Spolsky concludes his article by saying, “When in doubt, make your product more compelling. All of Fog Creek’s affiliate marketing ideas, coupons, discounts, direct-mail pieces, catalog ads, and everything else we spent time on—none of this was as good a use of our time as simply doing what we loved best anyway: creating useful software.” When Good Problems Solving Goes Bad by Joel Spolsky, Inc. Magazine, September, 2009, pg 43.

often do we do the same? Do we spend time and money advertising when we really should be looking at how we do business? I fall for this trap all the time as a professional marketer. It is much easier to blame a tough economy or a competitor’s sales pitch than turn the magnifying glass on your own business. Take some time to not only review your marketing efforts, but the product you are delivering with each sales pitch. Now may be the time to take the next step towards a revolutionary new product or service.