The 10 Truths of 'Real' Guerrilla Marketers

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by: Alain Thys

If you look up the definition “Guerrilla Marketing, is an unconventional way of performing promotional activities on a very low budget”.  While this is accurate, I’m not buying.
The great guerilleros like Che or Mao had something more going for them than being “unconventional and cheap”.   Their battles became legend because they were thinking beyond next quarter.That’s why in this post I’m going in search of that “something more”.  As usual, I’m not claiming wisdom, so if you find omissions or flaws in my mini Sun Tzu on the Art of Guerilla Marketing, don’t hesitate to hit me.
And if all this macho talk of warfare is getting a bit too masculine for your taste, just remember that Ms. Wang Cong’er (aka. Mulan only without the happy ending) was one of the fiercest guerilleros of them all.
Here we go …

# 1 Set out to Change the World
In the spirit of Guy Kawasaki: Don’t launch a business unless you’re prepared to change the world.  No one ever freed a nation with features and benefits.  People will only get excited about your initiatives if you clearly articulate how your proposition will liberate your customers in a way none of your competitors can.  That is the true cause and banner of your guerrilla.  And if you can’t come up with it, don’t bother with the rest of this list.

# 2 It’s not about the battle, it’s about the war.
If successfully waged, guerrilla causes “death by a thousand bee-stings”.  Yet all too often, marketing initiatives that claim to be guerrilla in nature, are planned without regard for the 999 stings to come.  This leaves successful campaigns without follow-up or even budget. While in war there may be merit in merely irritating your enemy, in business it’s simply a waste of money.

# 3 Power to the People
No guerrilla or revolution can succeed without popular support.  Guerilla campaigns are a great opportunity to involve your most loyal customers and staff.  Consider community marketing, CGM and co-creation programmes to get them in the loop.  Not to make money, yet to help achieve the change you described in point 1.  People love to improve the world.  Invite them to your cause and treat them well.

# 4 Deploy Mercenaries Wisely
While agencies can be great allies in having extra resources to deploy, they also know that there will be a time that you will abandon them (come one, be honest).  That is why they will serve offer you the same loyalty of any mercenary; as long as the money’s good.  The moment a budgetary glitch reduces budgets or margins, they will leave you to your own devices.  That is why you should involve agencies whenever you need the extra firepower, yet avoid relying on them for the long run.  That, you can only do on your own staff and customers (as long as you treat them well).

# 5 Think Small, but Spectacular
Guerilla campaigns are high on brainpower and low on budget.  They use creativity, speed and adaptability to capitalise on high-profile opportunities.  Foster this attitude by combining tight budgets with high to impossible expectations from your marketing team or agency.    And when they get lost in opportunities, focus their attention on the one thing that will really blow the market’s mind.
# 6 Keep Them Guessing
Guerilla campaigns always capitalise on the element of surprise.  Not once, yet over and over again.  If you have something that works, change it before your competitors can respond.  If you focus on one geographic region in one month, move somewhere completely different (or not ).  If you can create a rhythm of surprise, yet stay true to your cause, your competitors won’t see your next move coming, while your popular support keeps growing.

# 7 Get the Gold and Get Out
Guerilla campaigns are executed with laser precision.  This means they get clear, quantifiable business objectives.  Once these are achieved, you get out.  Prolonging your initiative only leads to wasted resources plus gives your competition time to react.  Similarly, if it looks like a new tactic you try isn’t working, get out fast.  Don’t let your pride get in the way and run to fight another day.

# 8 Lead the Charge
Every cause needs a leader who’s drive cannot be captured in a PowerPoint presentation.  Love it or hate it, but this leader is you.  And if you don’t have the time to be with your troops when they need you, find someone who cares enough about your cause to do it in your place.  Leaders are where the action is, and in your case that’s among your community, customers and staff.

# 9 Don’t forget propaganda
These days it’s probably called word-of-mouth (WOM), yet in the old days whenever the Partizans in Italy blew up another stronghold, the country knew about it in an instant.  If one of your guerrilla marketing campaigns hits a home-run, get yourself a megaphone and shout it off the roofs.  You have taken another step to change the world.  And don’t take the credit yourself, but celebrate your heroes (customers, staff and other) for they will be your biggest source of WOM.

# 10 Don’t get killed by friendly fire
Guerrilla campaigns are by definition unorthodox, daring, visible, accountable and prone to failure.  This means that if you’re in a large organisation, people can get nervous about them. Prepare the ground by selling your bosses on your cause and the path you intend to walk.  Demonstrate the benefits of involving your customer community and focusing your staff on “one goal”.  And if it looks like you really won’t get any air cover, don’t go it alone.  Dead soldiers can’t win wars.

Happy fighting !