Updated: October 1, 2022
By Kathy Jentz
Whenever I go to a networking event with fellow solopreneurs, small business owners, or horticultural professionals, the topic of free and/or cheap marketing ideas comes up, and I ask them if they have read any of the “Guerilla Marketing” line of books. Almost no one has – nor have they even heard of these invaluable books! So, I thought I’d tell you why you need to run out now get at least one of this series of books written by Jay Levinson. I think they will entirely change the way you do business.
The first “Guerilla Marketing” title came out in 1983 and if you grab a copy at a used book store or the library, you will still find much that is relevant today. Sure, the Internet may make some of the tactics easier, but the principles and practices remain the same. Today, there are dozens of “Guerilla Marketing” titles – some targeted at specific niches like the real estate market and others at professions like freelance writers.
The basic theory behind “Guerilla Marketing” is that you are small and nimble and can target customers in ways that the big brands cannot. Guerilla marketers work on lean budgets and they are creative. They surprise the customer by providing outstanding service and delight them with a product or service that goes beyond the ordinary.
Word-of-mouth is the key to “Guerilla Marketing” success. You get people talking about you and sharing your story and keeping your name fresh in their minds. The second part of “Guerilla Marketing” is customer follow-up. This means making sure to keep in touch and check in with past customers even if they have not purchased from you lately.
“Guerilla Marketing” tactics and techniques are the David in the Goliath of the big advertising and marketing world.
How might that look in the garden industry? Here are a few examples:
One farmer planted a roadside field with sunflowers and put up a sign that said, “free flowers – pick your own” and included his name and web site at the bottom. He was contacted by the local press and gained tons of free publicity for this simple act.
An agricultural supplier holds an annual customer appreciation event. He invites past clients to a BBQ and lets them invite 1-2 friends to come with them. This helps your customers get to know you even more than they already do, as well as bringing some new faces into contact with you as potential customers.
One wholesale perennial grower “guerilla gardened” his small town. He planted up all the street boxes and planters on Main Street early one morning and the community woke up to an instant beautification facelift. The town mayor and council were so grateful that they gave the grower a special service award and made them the Grand Marshall of the local Independence Day parade.
Once you start reading the many examples and ideas of successful “Guerilla Marketing” campaigns, I bet you will start getting inspired with a few campaign ideas of your own. A few precautions before you jump in.
First, make sure it is legal. Some guerilla marketers have used tactics like spraying graffiti street art on buildings or throwing thousands of brochures out of a helicopter. Chalk art is fine; littering and destruction of property is not.
Second, don’t be too mysterious. Some guerilla marketers use sneaky hit-and-run events like a flash mob doing a dance in the middle of an industry convention. Everyone may be talking about it, but if no one knows who was behind it, what was the point? Make sure that your brand is represented in the event somehow and that it actually creates buzz for your product or service.
Finally, be honest. Some guerilla marketers use tactics such as “astroturfing” that are misleading and can damage your brand in the end. In this case, astroturfing means to disguise the sponsors of a message to make it appear as though it originates from, and is supported by, grassroots participants or “real life” people. An example would be having your staff writing up fake Yelp reviews for your company.
“Guerilla Marketing” can be fun and extremely effective. A terrific stunt can make you and your business instantly famous and it might be talked about for years after it takes place. Read some of the “Guerilla Marketing” literature and pick a small campaign to start with — I hope to be reading about your viral and buzz-worthy results soon.
Meet the Author
Kathy Jentz is the Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, the publication for Mid-Atlantic home gardeners. She is the former Brand Ambassador for Meadows Farms Nurseries and the Social Media Guru for various organizations.
An earlier version of this article appeared in American Farm Publications Inc.