By Eric Brown
|Eric Brown is a founding partner of Urbane Apartments in Royal Oak, Michigan.|
Each month Eric contributes a guest article on guerrilla marketing ideas.
Small business start-ups are looking for distinctive ways to reach customers.
We have stumbled upon a fascinating new revenue model at Urbane Apartments. We think this is classic Guerilla Marketing. IF…… you already have a Brand Presence locally, this technique will work for you too. If you have yet to create Brand Awareness, start with a good tagline first.
To quickly frame this, we have a small boutique apartment management company. We focus extensively on the Customer Experience. To further create customer connections and to also provide an open forum for discussion amongst our residents and between us and the residents we launched a Ning Site, and named it The Urbane Lobby. Ning has created a very easy and simple platform for creating your own Social Network. A new site can be set up and operational in a few hours with minimal skills and it is pretty easy to maintain. Here is the Guerrilla Marketing kicker, ITS FREE, Yep that’s right, Free. Just invest some time next Saturday morning and voilà! You have your own custom Social Network.
Before you start, know that just creating a virtual space for your customers to gather, share photos, share videos, contact one another and chat online, may not be enough to keep them coming back. There all kinds of things pulling at people’s time, HOWEVER, sprinkle in some value, and you have a wining combo. That value-add could be an array of things depending on your business type. For us, we created the Urbane VIP Card. If you are an Urbane Resident, you get the card for free. If you are not an Urbane Resident, but want to be with hip and cool people, you can purchase an Urbane VIP Card. We have set up Urbane Preferred Venders throughout our little town and surrounding area that will offer a product or service discount or priority seating for anyone with an Urbane VIP Card.
We did not set out for this to be a revenue stream. We discovered that the various participating vendors were willing to pay us a monthly fee to participate. The interesting thing about this model is that the more VIP Cards we sell, the more the participating venders benefit. It is early in the entire program, but it appears that by doing this, we have created enough of a revenue stream to fund ALL of our marketing expenses for our apartment management company! So, the point of the story here is this, for a half a day of your time on a Saturday, you can create something where you unite your best customers. You will provide a forum and meeting place to create customer evangelists. And it just might fund your marketing budget.
Is it really that easy? No, there are some other steps. But it isn’t all that hard either. It is the essence of Guerilla Marketing. Let us know your thoughts and what you have experienced with creating an on line community.