A long time ago I lived in Burlington, Vermont. Where Ben & Jerry started their small business in a converted gas station. They completed a correspondence course on how to make the ice cream and had the genius idea to make theirs even more fatty than competitors. In time they would go on to take on the big boys. Like Häagen-Dazs. The nerve. But how did they go from gas station to international block buster? With gusto, smarts, some luck and guerrilla marketing. Their approach was relatively inexpensive. Instead of doing big budget marketing (which they could not afford) they focused on a brand image that was highly engaging and hit a nerve. The used customer insights to understand their customers, who craved authenticity in the brands they bought. And they used these insights to develop a unique positioning that became a titan in the industry.
Most of us are familiar with this story. The question is, can a smaller business use similar tactics to achieve strong growth. Or more simply put, what does a company with a modest marketing budget do to achieve great results? The good news is that it has never been easier to generate strong sales with target marketing.
Spending Like a Pauper and Acting Like a Prince
In the past, many brands were launched using extensive research to develop insights so that they could effectively position the brand. A long time ago I worked in Moscow. I was approached by a Russian businessman who wanted to launch an international brand of vodka. We worked with him to develop the name (Russian Standard), packaging, messaging and marketing plan. He spent a lot of money on this launch and was quickly very successful. He was not a small business or even a medium size business. So why should this story matter to a smaller company?
Fast forward to the Spring of 2019. Another Russian heard that we worked on Russian Standard and contacted us to see if we could help him. Like Russian Standard, he needed to develop the packaging, name, brand image and messaging. His problem. He had almost no budget for this. Solution? Guerilla research and marketing.
Times have changed since I helped to create and launch Russian Standard. Market Research is much cheaper (the work we did with him cost under $10K). And this led to very effective target marketing that will put the brand in front of consumers. The name of this alcohol and packaging are magnificent. The marketing messaging is clear and distinctive. And the marketing plan is very smart. He has not yet launched, but we believe that this brand will be highly successful. And instead of spending millions to achieve this goal, they are doing it on a shoe string. He may never achieve Ben & Jerry status, but we are confident that the brand will be a success.
Can you achieve similar results, no matter what industry you work in? Sure you can. A couple of tips. Be very careful about the agencies that you work with. For market research, get multiple bids. From both small and big agencies. Same goes for advertising and marketing agencies. Once upon a time, you got the best service from the name brand agencies. That time is over. These days it is likely that you will get much more attention and great work from the small agencies (like ours) that have to hustle. Ask hard questions. Do they put skin in the game and what can you expect from the work? If they cannot or will not answer those questions, steer clear. A good guerrilla needs a partner who is willing to work just as hard as they do.