Grassroots marketing techniques offer great ways for your startup business to get some marketing traction while you’re trying to get off the ground, because they’re typically cheap – and they can be highly effective.
Actually, grassroots marketing makes tremendous sense for whatever phase your small business is in. Nothing shows off your products, services and brand like being right in the customer’s face.
We’ve assembled five grassroots-marketing techniques used by entrepreneurs who understand how to do them right.
Dress up your own mascot
Your business doesn’t have to be McDonald’s, with Ronald McDonald, or Borden, with Elsie the Cow, to have your own marketing mascot. A little imagination to create a character, and someone to sew a simple costume, will do nicely. Your own mascot can be a big winner, especially if your products or services involve kids.
Omega Farms created a Meg the Cow mascot that appears at stores and community events promoting the dairy’s new product line with omega-3 fish oils. “This has gotten us some really good attention at events,” says Cindy DiFerdinand, staff nutritionist of the Haward, Calif.-based business. “We’re going to do this in each market where we launch over a few weeks.”
Don’t be afraid to do cold-calling
Few people like to drop in on potential customers or phone them without greasing the skids a bit. But Scott Moran, of Murphy-Moran Collision Center in LaCrosse, Wis., is proving that cold-calling is one grassroots-marketing gambit that actually builds business.
The body-shop co-owner stops by to see local insurance adjusters, without warning, to tell them about his shop and ask for their business. “Some tell me that they know it must be slow if we’re coming around,” Moran says. “But others don’t mind our stopping in and seeing what their needs are. Anything you can do to make an agent’s life easier is going to help you out in the long run.”
Ride someone’s marketing coattails
You might be surprised how cooperative other business owners will be if you want to use their “coattails” to do some marketing for your own new business. There are lots of ways you can create a distinct, and yet discreet, marketing presence for your startup on the premises of another company.
Pine Tree Lighting, a store in Lake Orion, Mich., has allowed Susan Sohn to place a portfolio of her work on a main counter in the store. Sohn also has left a stack of business cards for her nearby company, Decorative Painting, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. It’s a great spot because many consumers buying light fixtures to decorate their homes obviously are interested in other sorts of upgrading.
Come up with a creative approach to product sampling
Most entrepreneurs believe that if they could just get consumers to try their product or service, they’d be hooked. The most effective grassroots marketing creates opportunities for customers to sample what you do – and greatly increases the chances of a sale.
Sometimes, effective sampling requires a creative twist. Water Treatment Services, a water-softening-equipment dealer in Washington Township, Mich., leaves tiny plastic bottles in mailboxes of local residents along with a flyer that offers them free testing of a sample of their tap water to determine its quality. A few days later, the company delivers the test results – which, typically, provide great ammunition for selling water-treatment systems.
Turn roadblocks into “on” ramps
Local retailers and restaurateurs need to keep a steady finger on the pulse of their community so they’re not taken aback by surprises in the neighborhood – and to use such developments to their advantage.
That’s exactly what Scott Gross did when construction crews began to tear up the road in front of his café in Kerrville, Texas. He went to Home Depot, bought construction clothes and dressed his staff in them for several days. “When people came in they saw my staff and asked if we were trying out for the Village People,” Gross jokes. “But it also drew their attention to the ‘Construction Specials’ we ran until the road was done.”
Our Bottom Line
For startups, grassroots marketing is where the action is. Using effective techniques like these can help get your new business off the ground so fast that you may never need to shell out money for local advertising.