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Marketing the up-close-and-personal way

/ 05:12 AM November 03, 2017

Micro and small enterprises have likely been using grassroots marketing techniques although they might be unaware that they have.

Grassroots marketing simply refers to activities which allow your products to meet your customers where they are, where they live and work or pass through—as contrasted with advertising which uses mass media to reach them.

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Grassroots advertising techniques are usually unconventional and creative strategies… not the kind that will likely be learned in the classrooms or read about in business management books.

Grassroots marketing is what you can do when you are a struggling new businessman operating on a shoestring budget and employing a handful of workers but have a vast reservoir of creativity to draw from.

Leche flan language

Many small entrepreneurs have found that such unconventional marketing practices click precisely because they are on-your-face, up close and personal.

Norma’s Leche Flan, which many years ago used to be located in Rosario, Pasig City, might not even heard of the term “grassroots marketing” but its owner was certainly putting it to good use.

Along Ortigas Avenue Extension, just before one reached the Rosario bridge coming from Edsa, a passerby or commuter would espy an attractive street sign saying “Leche Flan Ahead” festooned with balloons. This was followed, further down the street, with another sign reading “Leche Flan Slowdown,” and finally a third sign “Leche Flan Stop” just in front of “Norma’s Leche Flan” shop, a small store whose main attraction on its facade was a mountain of multicolored leche flan tins layered artfully.

How can anyone passing here miss this store?—I had wondered then. And that is how I became a suki of Norma’s leche flan which could be bought, if you had a party, “buy three, take one.”

I don’t get to see this store nowadays; it might have been displaced when that part of Ortigas Avenue Extension went through a series of renovation and road widening. Wherever it has transferred, if it is still in business, I am sure it still vibrates with the owner’s creative ideas.

Donuts on tricycles

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When he was just starting his donuts bakeshop, Marvin Mapote of Cauayan, Isabela would go around town in a tricycle dressed in a clown’s costume in order to attract buyers, especially young children. That way, the donuts sold better than, well… hotcakes. Soon, he was being asked to grace children’s parties with his tricycle, his clown persona and, of course, his donuts.

Mobile billboards

For their part Angelo and Lorelyn Dimaano of Lucena City at first had problems promoting their tarpaulin printing business. Then Angelo hit upon an inspired idea: He printed tarpaulins with the name and address of his shop printed on them and distributed these to pedicab drivers plying the streets in the community. The tarpaulins served to protect the cab’s passengers from rain and the sun. More importantly for Angelo and Lorelyn, the tarpaulins became mobile billboards which made their business widely known around the vicinity where their target customers live.

Collect business cards

I personally experienced a grassroots promotion by Tita Paring’s Suman Latik, a native delicacy I was nuts about. I would go out of my way to go to its outlet in Shoppesville, Greenhills and in one of those trips, the sales lady asked me if I wanted to join a raffle. I answered by asking what the prize was. “A dozen suman latik” was the reply. I found that hard to resist and I asked for a raffle coupon. As it turned out, they had no raffle coupons; instead I was asked to leave my business card in a glass bowl already half-full with cards.

After a week, I got a phone call announcing I won the raffle and would I please collect my prize. It took me a while to realize it was the management’s way of compiling a directory of its customers and get in touch with them. Neat, isn’t it?

Other grassroots strategies that worked

Elsewhere, in California, Joni and Bob Hilton took every opportunity they could to demonstrate the uses of their nontoxic Holy Cow cleaning products. In the aisles of Ace Hardware stores nationwide, and in other supermarkets, drugstores and retail outlets, they had demonstrators cleaning messy tiles, carpets and rugs. The practice proved to be an ingenuous way of showing the market how effective the product is right in front of consumers’ eyes.

And what about putting your business name, logo and contact numbers on every trinket and piece of cloth you can think of and distributing them like crazy?

Liz Ryan of Boulder Colorado gave out duffel bags with the Worldwit logo (the name of her company) on them. People who got them carry them around to the gym, in the park, in church and in the mall where they would sometimes meet people who stop them and say, what’s Worldwit?

Logos can also be stamped on mugs, little boxes of mints, match boxes, notepads, stick-ons and other items.

Your turn

By now, you’d have caught a drift of what grassroots marketing is about. Sit down a moment and think. Wait for that little bulb to flash: What grassroots technique can you use for your own business?—CONTRIBUTED

Note: Visit the Small Enterprises Research and Development Foundation (Serdef) website (www.serdef.org) for more stories on small business entrepreneurship. The site also archives how-to articles on starting and growing a business, success stories of small entrepreneurs, and national, regional and metropolitan news affecting small business. It also features a small business clinic where troubled entrepreneurs may write in to ask for information and advice.

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TAGS: Business, marketing pulse, marketing techniques, micro-, small enterprises
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