Have you ever heard of grassroots marketing?
To me, it’s been one of those buzzphrases that people tend to throw around in the midst of a heated marketing discussion to try to lend themselves some added credibility.
Nowadays, it seems to be as commonly whipped around as “guerrilla marketing.” It’s also just as commonly surrounded in mist and vague references, which can have you–and especially your business–wondering, “What the heck is grassroots marketing anyway?”
Grassroots Marketing Defined:
Demystifying the Buzzphrase
Grassroots marketing is the strategy of communicating with and developing enthusiastic advocates of your business or product that spread the message through personal recommendations and word-of-mouth buzz.
Although most grassroots marketing efforts start in your business’ local community initially, the same concepts can be applied to help you break into a new target market.
The Barefoot Example
Barefoot Wine is a great case study of how grassroots marketing can positively affect awareness initiatives of small businesses.
They knew they had a great product to sell. Instead of implementing expensive advertising campaigns, they focused efforts on directly exposing their wine to the local community around them. Grassroots efforts included strategic event placements that provided free wine for community events, especially fundraisers they were passionate about. Through this, they had opportunities to communicate and develop enthusiastic advocates who shared the same community passions.
Soon enough, word began to spread about the delicious and inexpensive wine of Barefoot. It worked well enough that it’s now a countrywide phenomenon.
Even after becoming a well-known product, they continue grassroots marketing with the same approach on a much larger scale. In 2012, the company’s goal was to partner with charities and pour 500,000 glasses of wine to charity participants. In Canada alone, they attended 650 charity events, putting the California company on the map of another target audience.
What I respect most about this grassroots effort is that they don’t just do this to get exposure–they partner with so many charities because they have a genuine heart for giving back.
A Sobering Example
I point to Fred Cook—CEO of Golin—for a lot for examples on this blog, and there’s a good reason for that. He has so many experiences we can learn from.
Before rising through the ranks of one of the largest PR firms in the world, Cook had a news-making company by the name of Sober Chauffeur. This service was simple–if you were too drunk to drive home, you’d call the Sober Chauffeur and someone would come pick you up and drive you home in your own car.
Although the business wasn’t a success, we can learn a lot from Cook’s grassroots strategy. He specifically targeted bars, went in and would tell the bartenders about his service. With a quick conversation and some leave-behind materials, he converted bartenders into personal referrers who could refer the Sober Chauffeur to intoxicated patrons.
How to Maximize Grassroots Marketing:
Yes, this is a way to build your business, but make sure that you’re sincere about what you have to offer.
Barefoot partners with organizations that share its heart for giving back. Cook knew that Sober Chauffeur sincerely had a needed service to offer to bar patrons.
When you lack sincerity, everyone knows it. There’s nothing that will ruin your grassroots marketing efforts faster than suspicion.
Know Your Audience
- Who are we trying to reach?
- How can we reach them?
Cook knew that he was trying to reach drunks who shouldn’t drive home with Sober Chauffeur. He also realized that the best way to reach them was to go straight to the source–the bartenders at the local bars.
Supplement with Other Tactics
As your building your following and word-of-mouth buzz, be sure to invest in other mediums that will help you further unite your audience and keep the conversation going.
This means you should put some serious thought into your social media marketing methods. With social media, you have the ability to further your audience’s love by sharing relevant branded content, utilizing contests to reciprocate engagement and to keep your dialogue going.
Also know when it’s appropriate to pitch the media your story. Barefoot has a great story to tell with a unique angle–pouring wine at charity events and leading a few of its own. They can discuss philosophy, giving back to the community and how using Barefoot wine can help them do that.
Are you using grassroots marketing? What are your best practices?