Guerrilla marketers: Zigging when others zag

By Jim Kendall

This column originally appeared in the June 8, 2015 Daily Herald

                How well you know your customers – why they shop at your store rather than a big box, for example, or why they visit your dental office rather than another – is crucial to your business’ success. But, says Bob Kaden, “Most small businesses don’t know what their customers want or need.”

That’s a potentially serious shortcoming, but one that can be fixed with a little market research – much of which, Kaden says, you can do yourself.

Kaden, a veteran marketing researcher, is president of The Kaden Company, Lincolnwood, and co-author of “More Guerrilla Marketing Research,” a follow-up to his earlier “Guerrilla Marketing Research.”

A term originally coined to describe irregular groups of soldiers whose unexpected tactics tend to disrupt larger but more rigid armies, “guerrilla” aptly describes Kaden’s do-it-yourself marketers.

“Guerrilla marketers are the ziggers, when the rest of us are zagging. They rewrite the rules, find the overlooked niches, overturn staid thinking and find ways of thinking when others do not,” Kaden wrote in “More.”

Too many business owners “don’t do the research,” Kaden says. “They follow their gut, and they fail – because they don’t get close enough to their customers.”

Finding customer-centric information that will make a difference to your business isn’t that difficult, Kaden said when we talked last month. Neither is the process necessarily expensive, though Kaden suggests “You’ll have to work with someone in the beginning, someone who can say, ‘This is what the data mean.’”

Resources? “Professors who teach marketing research” at the colleges dotting the Chicago and suburban landscape can be a source of help. “One-man shops all over the place,” Kaden says.

Survey Monkey is a “Do-it-yourself research site that is a boon to small businesses,” Kaden says. He adds that “You can go to Google every six months and look at the information that’s available on your industry.”

What you’re looking for are the insights – the customer reactions – that will help you better connect with your marketplace. “Marketing research,” Kaden and co-authors Gerald Linda and Jay Conrad Levinson write early in their book, “is a connection with your customers or prospects that, if used fully, will get you where you want to go faster and more profitably.”

The place to begin is with customers, Kaden says. “Are your customers satisfied? How do (their satisfaction levels) compare to competitors’ customers?” You find out by asking questions.

With answers, the second step in the market research process is to ensure that your branding aligns with what research tells you customers seek. Step three, Kaden says, is to “make sure your advertising-promotional messages are relevant,” built on the message that comes back from your research.

Kaden’s book can help, though you may have to hunt for it; “More Guerrilla Marketing Research” was published in 2009. Next week, though, June 17, Kaden is the keynoter at a SCORE Chicago breakfast forum in Buffalo Grove.


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