This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Guerrilla Marketing" by Jay Conrad Levinson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Looking for an overview of Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson? What is the author’s key advice, according to the book?
In Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson argues that traditional approaches to marketing campaigns don’t work for everyone, especially if you own a small business. Levinson’s book offers more affordable, more impactful ways to market your business, even if you have limited resources.
Keep reading for an overview of Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing, including the key takeaways.
Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing
In Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson argues that, with the right marketing strategy, even the smallest of businesses can make a significant impact. Levinson provides timeless advice for creating a profitable marketing strategy that any business can use to establish its place in the market.
Many businesses assume they must rely on expensive mass-media marketing campaigns to build customer awareness and generate sales. However, this assumption doesn’t bode well for small businesses with limited resources.
For creating a profitable marketing strategy, Jay Conrad Levinson’s advice from Guerrilla Marketing can be distilled into a five-step process:
- Step #1: Define Your Target Market
- Step #2: Research Your Target Market
- Step #3: Outline How You’ll Appeal to Your Target Market
- Step #4: Choose Your Marketing Methods
- Step #5: Test Each Marketing Method
Define & Research Your Target Market
To create a profitable marketing strategy, you first need to define your target market. Levinson argues that many businesses waste time and resources trying to get attention from customers who have no interest in what they have to offer. Knowing specifically who you’re selling to helps focus your marketing efforts on interested customers—thus contributing to increased sales and profits.
In Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson suggests answering two questions to define your target market:
- What are you selling? Describe your product or service and the benefits it provides. For example, you sell ergonomically designed office chairs that offer maximum comfort.
- Who are you selling to? Define your target market by considering who wants the specific benefits your product or service provides. Narrow down to make this group as specific as possible. For example, customers in your target market work from home, suffer from back pain, and shop online.
(Shortform note: Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (Business Model Generation) suggest an alternative approach to defining your target market: Define the customers you intend to target before you develop your product or service. This way, instead of developing something and hoping you’ll find interested customers, you can design your offer around customers with specific needs and simultaneously develop your marketing and sales strategies to effectively target them.)
Once you’ve defined your target market, conduct market research to understand this customer group’s specific interests and priorities. According to Levinson, the more you understand your target market, the easier you’ll find it to appeal to these customers and influence their purchasing decisions.
Choose Your Marketing Channels
Once you’ve outlined how you’ll appeal to your target market, choose the marketing channels you’ll use to reach your target market.
Large businesses commonly rely on expensive marketing channels such as television and radio commercials, newspaper and magazine advertisements, direct mail, and billboards to reach as many potential customers as possible. Jay Conrad Levinson’s argument in Guerrilla Marketing claims that, while this approach does allow businesses to reach a large audience, their approach is untargeted—meaning that they attempt to appeal to customers who have no interest in purchasing what they’re offering.
And since marketing to uninterested customers doesn’t generate sales, this approach is ineffective and often results in financial loss.
(Shortform note: Psychologists offer a contrasting opinion: Advertising to uninterested people can generate sales. This is due to the mere exposure effect—the premise that the more often you’re exposed to something, the more you like it. Research suggests that regular exposure makes a product easier to interpret and reduces the uncertainty you feel about it—thus increasing your confidence in it. And your increased confidence influences you to purchase this item. However, the mere exposure effect doesn’t work for things you initially dislike—it tends to only work if your initial reaction to something is neutral or positive. For example, if you dislike Cheerios, regular exposure is unlikely to convert you into a paying customer.)
Test Each Marketing Method
Now that you’ve decided how to reach your target market, test each method to determine the most profitable marketing strategy for your business.
Many businesses determine the effectiveness of marketing methods by measuring how much customer interest they generate. Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing claims that this approach creates misleading results because increased customer interest doesn’t automatically translate to increased profits. Therefore, he argues that the only way to determine the effectiveness of different marketing methods is to measure how much profit they generate.
(Shortform note: Research clarifies why increased customer interest doesn’t guarantee increased sales and profits: People prefer to keep their options open instead of completing transactions. Browsing for products online or window shopping involves anticipating what it would be like to have all of these different things in your life. This process releases dopamine (the hormone that makes you feel good) into your bloodstream and increases your desire to seek out even more things that make you feel good. However, this dopamine hit stops the moment you stop imagining multiple possibilities and commit to one possibility. In other words, it feels more pleasurable to think about buying things than to actually buy them.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Guerrilla Marketing summary:
- Why you don't need expensive mass-media marketing campaigns
- How to create a profitable marketing message and strategy
- How to define your target market and keep costs low