What Is Guerilla Marketing?
Are you familiar with guerilla marketing? If you’re not, you should be. Entrepreneur defines guerilla marketing as an unconventional way of performing marketing activities on a very low budget. It can be a great business strategy for salons, especially new ones! In this post, I’m going to tell you how I used guerilla marketing to grow my business, and provide you with five simple steps to help you start a guerilla marketing program for your own salon.
First things first – why try guerilla marketing? One good reason is that it can be done on a shoe-string budget. Money can be tight for many new salon owners, and guerilla marketing (if done right) can be efficient and cost-effective. And due to the nature of guerilla marketing, it’s a great way to build brand awareness in your community AND build local partnerships, which can be another powerful tool.
So, with those benefits in mind, I decided to try it out for my own salon! When I started Be Inspired Salon no one in my community knew about us. So, my team and I started to go around to neighboring businesses and talk to members of the community. We gave away brochures and gift cards, NOT discounts (you all know how I feel about discounts). It was a risk to give away gift cards, but we knew that if we could get them in the door it would be a game changer.
That tactic worked, but we needed to step it up a notch. We decided to attend local networking events with the goal of building relationships, not selling services. But here’s the thing, we got a little bold with our new strategy. We attended these events dressed like cocktail waitresses. We had on nice Be Inspired Salon branded shirts and professional name tags, and we carried around trays with free product samples and whiskey glasses to collect business cards. (I said we were bold!)
We definitely drew attention, but in a good way! And don’t worry, we didn’t get in trouble. The hosts of the events thought it was a very clever idea. Anyways, it was a great way to start conversations and get to know the people in our community. We would tell them about the salon, offer a product and ask them to enter their business card for a chance to win a prize. We would alter the prize based on the audience, but usually it switched between a free hair cut or a product bundle.
Take a guess as to who won? Everyone! That’s right. When I first started guerilla marketing, I made everyone a winner. We were new, and we had plenty of openings. And it turned out to be a great success! We started getting new, paying clientele in the door.
Five Steps to Guerilla Marketing
But there’s a little more detail to how I made it happen. Here are the five simple steps you can follow to repeat what I did for your business.
1. Find events. I’m very lucky to live in a professionally driven community. There are always networking events going on. But if you are looking for ideas, check your local business chamber or search for local organizations on LinkedIn. It’s also a good idea to check out Business Networking International (BNI) – they have chapters across the US.
2. Set a strategy. Networking can be intimidating, so it’s a good idea to have a plan before you go to events. First, set a goal of how many people you want to meet and/or cards you want to collect at each event. I started out with 10. Then, decide what you are giving away, and like I mentioned before, personalize it to the crowd. Finally, brand the heck out of everything you give away! I had little stickers made that included my salon logo, address, and website and put them on everything my team gave away. It’s a simple and affordable way to grow brand awareness.
3. Follow-up. This is the most important step to make your program successful. How many times have you had a conversation that ended with, “We should meet up sometime!” Only to never have that happen? The same goes with business networking. After my events, I like to find them on social channels, usually LinkedIn, and I send them a quick note. Something like, “Hey! It was nice to meet you last night. I want to connect.” And if you don’t feel comfortable using a social platform, email is another great option.
4. Set a schedule. Frequency is another key to success. When I first started, my team and I were going once a week. And if you’re thinking I’m crazy, you’re not wrong. It was a lot, but it did lead to results. But I know that everyone doesn’t have that kind of time, so at a minimum, I would suggest going once a month.
Once business picked up, I thought I didn’t need guerilla marketing anymore. I was wrong. I rode the first great wave of new business, and after about six months of no networking, business slowed down. I couldn’t figure out why. I talked to my business coach, and he pointed out that the only thing I stopped doing was guerilla marketing. So, the lesson here is that even when business picks up, you can’t stop networking. You need to keep a consistent frequency, even if it’s once a month.
5. Get your team involved. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. I recruited my Stylists to help for several reasons. First, it can be scary to go to an event by yourself, so the buddy system is never a bad way to go! Second, I wanted them to be more invested in the business. I started to notice that if I met someone at an event, and they came to my salon, they expected to see or work with me. As I got busier, that wasn’t possible, so it was important to have my Stylists at events as well.
We have an event sign-up at the salon with the expectation that at least two people have to go to ONE event per month. This way you don’t have to go every month, but your salon is still being represented in the community.
If done well and done consistently, guerilla marketing can help you grow your salon business! If you’re looking for more detail on how to get your program started, check out “Episode #74 - Have You Been Guerilla Marketing?” on the Beyond The Technique podcast!