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Business survival: Be a big fish in a small pond

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there will be no hope for it.
—Albert Einstein

Phillip Chichoni

While watching Italy’s games at the Soccer World Cup, some people must have thought Mario Balotelli had gone completely bonkers. He was wearing a pair of mismatched soccer boots, one shoe pink, the other one blue.

Later, when Ivory Coast played, Yaya Toure was wearing a similar pair of mismatched boots. Puma, the sports kit maker, was making a statement without making a statement. Advertising is big business at the World Cup. Each of Fifa’s six partners pays US$75 million for their names to appear at the grounds and on television during the matches.

Two of the biggest sports kit manufacturers, Nike and Adidas, can afford to pump out that much money for advertising, as their sales, at US$25 and US$19 billion respectively, support the expenditure.

Puma, on the other hand, with annual sales of about US$4 billion, knows that spending such big sums can make them broke. So instead, they employ the guerilla marketing strategy. Without paying a cent for advertising, their new boots have caused a stir.

Seeing popular stars donning them is a validation before the boots are even available in shops. Just imagine the stampedes when the soccer tournament ends and kids put pressure on their dads to buy them the new style boots ahead of their peers.

The image portrayed by Puma is “to be different”. This is something that appeals to people who do not want to be seen as “ordinary”. This is a niche market that Puma is targeting but the big firms will not because it is not big enough in size.

Guerilla marketing is the strategy that works for small and medium sized businesses that do not have big marketing budgets. In our current environment, that is true for most businesses. The reason the strategy works is because one uses creativity, rather than money, to cause a stir and draw attention to one’s product.

For guerilla marketing to be effective, the small business will have to reduce the field of play.

Instead of targeting the mass market served by big companies, the guerilla marketer targets a small niche. In other works, it tries to become a big fish in a small pond. You can become a guerilla marketer by targeting a small area in terms of geography.

This could be a certain suburb of a city or certain types of customers across the country.

Rolls Royce and Ferrari are examples of guerilla marketers. In terms of numbers, they sell far fewer motor vehicles than say, Toyota and Ford. But because they target a well-defined niche market, that is people who can afford US$150 000 handmade cars, or very fast sports cars in terms of Ferrari, they are leaders in their market segments.

After identifying your specific target market, you then need to use creativity to create a stir. Your goal is to attract the attention of the media and customers so that your story spreads without necessarily advertising. Here are the main principles of guerilla marketing:

a) Presence: you have to find ways to make yourself known by your target market at all times. These may include email; forums; discussion boards; radio; magazines; websites; social media; blogs; yellow pages.

b) Activity: you should always be on the lookout for opportunities to make your products known at all times and work on them.
c) Energy: you must be marketing all the time, “360 degree” marketing! Your creativity and hard work is what will produce positive results.

d) Networks: you must always be looking to make contacts and develop networks. Relationships are very important in guerilla marketing.

e) Smart: your marketing activities must be smart; do not offend customers or turn them off; e.g. by sending spam emails or irritating text messages, or being overly pushy.

Once you have established your position as the leader in your niche market, you have to keep your customers thoroughly satisfied so that they will not be tempted by offers from competitors. You have to keep in touch with customers, listen to their feedback and concerns and continuously improve your products to meet their changing needs.

Always remember that you have to remain superior to any potential competitor in order to remain the leader in your market segment. Any slackening on your product delivery, service and marketing will open the doors to competitors who are always lurking on the sideways waiting for you to slip up so they can grab some of your customers.

Please share your tips on marketing on a small budget by sending me an email at the address below.

You will find more resources on entrepreneurship on my website http://smebusineslink.com.

Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email, chichonip@smebusinesslink.com. You can also visit: http://smebusinesslink.com

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