Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of “guerrilla marketing,” passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 80. I didn’t know him personally but his 1983 book Guerrilla Marketing—geared to small business owners and entrepreneurs—was inspirational to me.
Levinson was quite a character. Often dressed in camouflage, he was passionate about his approach to marketing and loved to engage with people through his articles, books, talks and training programs.
Instead of a big marketing budget, Levinson proposed that small business owners could use low-cost and unconventional means to create buzz and promote their products and a services. The essence of guerrilla marketing, according to Levinson, was “achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money.”
“Guerrilla marketing” is now part of the popular lexicon and many of his techniques have become the way to market a business, both small and large alike.
I’ve shared many of his marketing tips with students over the years. Key guerilla marketing principles include:
- Concentrate on how many new relationships are made each month, instead of new customers
- Aim for more referrals and more (and larger) transactions with existing customers
- Forget about the competition and concentrate on cooperating with other businesses
- Use current technology as a tool to build your business
- Aim messages at individuals or small groups (the smaller the better)
- Focus on gaining consent to send more information rather than trying to make a sale
- Measure your business by profits not sales
In an interview from 2011, Levinson said that guerilla marketing is the opposite of what people think it is. “It’s not shocking or ambushing and it does not result in instant anything… it’s oriented to the client. And it does not work instantly because guerrilla marketers realize, ‘I’ve got to build up a sense of confidence, and I can’t do that immediately.’”
Levinson believed that a solid plan, committing to that plan, and patience are key to effective and successful marketing campaigns. “The graveyards of marketing are littered with terrific campaigns that were abandoned too soon. People think ‘This should work in a hurry,’ but marketing doesn’t. And if you think it does, you’re going to be in for a life of grief, frustration and Tums because it doesn’t work instantly; it does, however, work eventually if you commit to it.”
According to Levinson, patience is especially important when using social media as a marketing tool. People “get a Facebook account and become active on Twitter. They think that social media will work for them. It doesn’t work in a hurry. But it’s so uncomplicated if you go about it in the right way, which is not expensive. The key element is patience, because the best-crafted marketing doesn’t work instantly.”
What marketing approach has been most successful with your business?
Here is a video of Jay from a few years back answering the question, “What is Guerrilla Marketing?”