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Paul Burri: Do Something Different to Market Your Business

Guerrilla marketing is all about coming up with creative ways to bring in new customers

I thought it might be useful to some readers to read about specific examples of guerrilla marketing that worked for my company before I sold it in 2007.

The company makes branding equipment and receives frequent calls from customers asking for brochures or other information. Every time we mailed out a catalog or brochure, we included a 10 percent discount coupon that was valid if the customer responded with an order within two weeks. (The two-week provision is a marketing ploy. We want them to place the order now, before they put the brochure aside and forget about it.)

Now comes the guerrilla marketing part. We bought some off-the-shelf picture postcards of Santa Barbara. On the back, in my wife’s handwriting, I had the cards printed in bright blue ink saying some cute remarks about Santa Barbara and adding, “Hope you can use that 10 percent coupon we sent you.” Then, about one week after we mailed the brochure to the customer, we followed up with the “handwritten” and hand-addressed (by my wife in the same color ink) picture postcard.

The idea behind it was that no one can resist seeing who is sending them a picture postcard from Santa Barbara, a city known around the world. And being “handwritten” and short, we felt reasonably certain that most of the cards got read. They must have been because that simple postcard marketing idea increased our sales by about 50 percent.

Many of our sales came from quotes sent to customers for their specific requirements. We used to convert about one-third of those quotes into sales. Then we tried what we called “our fishy letters.” We bought a bunch of squiggly plastic fish usually used as fishing lures. We put one of these fish into an envelope along with a sheet that had a big picture of a fish on it and read in bold lettering, “Something’s Fishy. We sent you a quote the other day and we never heard from you. We know it’s not because we don’t have the best prices and we know our quality is the best, yatta, yatta, yatta.”

Here’s how that worked. No one could resist opening the envelope after they felt something squishy inside it. Once they opened the envelope, they read our cute letter and apparently got the message because that little marketing trick increased our sales from getting one-third of our quotes to getting 50 percent of them.

Here’s another guerrilla marketing idea I recently heard about. A real estate agent in the San Francisco area drives over the Golden Gate Bridge every day on his way to and from his office. Every time he drives over the bridge, he tries to position his car directly in front of a BMW, a Lexus or an Acura. When he gets to the toll booth, he pays for his toll and then hands the attendant his business card and a second toll, and tells the attendant to give his card to the driver of the luxury car behind him with his compliments.

Of course, the idea is that some day the driver of that expensive car may be in the market to buy some real estate, and that he or she will have his business card. I have no idea how effective it is, but it sure sounds like a heck of an idea to me.

This is what guerrilla marketing is all about. Do something different and clever. It does not have to be expensive; just different enough to attract attention or get a chuckle.

Now think of something clever for your particular business and start increasing your sales.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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