30 Seconds with Guerrilla Marketing's Guru
BY Susan Greco
Jay Conrad Levinson answers questions and explains how guerrilla marketing works.
Who hasn't heard of the guerrilla books? From the first, 1984's Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Levinson has provided inspiration to the entrepreneur with more fire in the belly than money in the pocket. The Guerrilla titles, about 10 in all, have been translated into Korean, Romanian, two dialects of Chinese, and 30 other languages, and the recent Guerrilla Marketing Handbook is a must-have compendium. Levinson was anticipating the release of Guerrilla Marketing for the Home-Based Business when Inc. contacted him at his San Rafael, Calif., home office.
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How did the Guerrilla series get its start? "Years ago I was teaching a course at UC Berkeley named 'Alternatives to the 9-to-5 Job,' and the feedback I got from students was, 'We like being entrepreneurs, but what the heck do we do about marketing with no funds?' And when I looked for books, they were written for people with $300,000 a month to spend. So I wrote one on unconventional ways of marketing."
What's a classic example of the genre? "Instead of using a 32¢ stamp on direct mail, putting 11 stamps -- a 6¢ stamp, two 4¢, two 3¢, and six 2¢ stamps -- because I think it's impossible to ignore a letter with 11 stamps. It's pure guerrilla marketing; it doesn't take as much money as it does time, energy, and imagination."
What tactic have you made the most of? "I'm a fervent believer in freebies. Anything you can give away for free opens the door: consultations, seminars, tours, demonstrations, samples, speeches. I write a column for 20 publications, and I get newsletter and book sales from all of those. I used to do free consultations; now I charge $350 an hour."
Is cyberspace ideal for guerrilla marketers, or is it overrated? "It's underrated because too many people don't understand it yet. When people hear that 30 million to 40 million are on-line in 136 countries, instead of being starry-eyed, they should realize this is basically a one-on-one medium. It's one person talking to one person right in your community. People can use this with precision and at very low cost. And I beg them to use good taste and restraint."
What's your best advice to entrepreneurs? "Pick a marketing program and commit to it. Don't expect it to be a miracle worker. Repetition is the ally of the guerrilla. Most people need instant gratification. Too much money gets wasted."