Marketing need not be expensive to be effective – in fact some of the best marketing tools are free. But your marketing must be both consistent and persistent, according to serial entrepreneur Michael Tasner.
Prospective customers need to hear from you an average of nine times before they’ll be ready to buy from you, said Tasner, who is chief marketing officer for Guerrilla Marketing International and a trainer in guerrilla marketing.
Tasner, 26, launched his first business at age 15. He earned hundreds of thousands of dollars while still a teenager by designing websites from the basement of his childhood home. Today he is proprietor of Taz Solutions, an online marketing firm, and College Butler Inc.
But what Tasner loves most is speaking to small business owners about how to grow their businesses quickly. “I’m trying to tip the needle in people’s favor,” he said, noting the high failure rate among small businesses.
Travel Marketing Report asked Tasner to share his guerrilla marketing advice for travel agents.
Guerrilla Marketing 101
The concept. Guerrilla marketing is about using tools other than money to grow your business. “Time, energy, imagination and outside the box thinking or ideas” are the building blocks of guerrilla marketing, Tasner said.
The tools. There are 200 guerrilla marketing weapons, and more than half of them are free, Tasner said. “An example can be as simple as a business card or as complex as free public talks.”
Best free tool. Tasner’s preferred guerrilla marketing tool is giving free public talks. “People love free information. It builds you and brands you as the expert. If you’re a travel agent, you could go to the local chamber and speak on the top five destinations for corporate retreats, for example. If you give a free presentation, you’re going to generate business,” he said.
The palms-up method. Giving free public talks is an example of what Tasner called “palms-up marketing,” which is built around your being there “to serve people.”
Networking, another guerrilla marketing weapon, is best practiced in this way, he said. In “palms-up networking, you walk in saying, ‘How can I service you? How can I support you?’” This contrasts with a palms-down approach in which you’re “kind of clawing at people,” collecting business cards, asking everyone you meet if they need a travel agent.
Guerrilla marketing in 7 steps
#1. Paint a picture. The first step in effective marketing is to create a picture of where you’re headed in the year ahead. “I want ultra-specifics,” Tasner said. For example: “You’re going to have 10 employees by the end of 2011, hit $1 million in revenue, have an office in downtown Austin.” It’s not strategic planning; it’s setting a direction, he said.
#2. Reverse engineer it. If, for example, your goal is to double your commissions this year, then you need to map out a step-by-step plan detailing the actions you’ll take every month, week and day to achieve your goal. This will include specific actions such as making five phone calls daily, attending two networking events monthly, etc.
#3. Stay the course. “Marketing takes repetition,” Tasner emphasized. “People need, on average, to hear from you nine times before they’re going to be in a buying-readiness state. The biggest mistake marketers make is they abandon their plans too soon.”
#4. Suggest one action only. Figure out the first thing you want prospects to do – perhaps it’s calling an 800-number or visiting your website – then indicate that clearly in all your marketing, ads and online materials, including your business cards, Tasner said.
“You’ve got to nail down the first physical action you want your prospects to take. Everything has to focus on that. In my opinion, that has made the biggest impact in my clients’ life. You can’t do effective marketing unless you know what you want your prospects to do.”
#5. Stay on-message. Tasner prepares a 12-month marketing calendar with a different message or focus for each month. For instance, for travel agents, spring break might be the focus for one month, honeymoons for another. “Most marketing messages are confusing,” he said. If you know your focus and are clear about the action you want prospects to take, you can avoid that.
#6. Blog to build web traffic. Every travel agent should have his or her own blog. “Google still loves blogs. They are one of the best ways to get ranked on search engines,” said Tasner.
The strength of blogs is in building relationships. It’s fine to promote deals on your blog, but more than half your blogposts should be personal in nature. Boost your blog’s visibility by tailoring it to keywords and phrases, said Tasner, who recommended using Google’s free tools for identifying effective keywords.
#7. Go offline too. The web isn’t everything. “I’m finding that now is a better time to do offline marketing because most businesses are pulling their offline marketing. Ad rates are dropping 90%.” Couple offline with online, he suggested.