From my recent trip to Dallas, Texas I realize that guerrilla marketing is not for the timid. It takes guts and confidence to put yourself out there and do something bold. Some of the most epic guerilla marketing heists involved a young company trying to pave their way and get noticed by the big guys. At Hubba we compete against the big enterprise software players in the space, i.e. Oracle, SAP, IBM and Informatica. We offer a great product but, as a startup, much of what resonates with companies to start, is that we are simply not the big guys. We try to reinforce that because it is a point that they can’t compete with us on. 

With that in mind, we decided to go down to Dallas where a big master data management conference was being held and trying something a little different. We could have gone the classic marketing route ie sponsorship or buying conference tickets and schmoozing and networking, but if we did that we would be doing the same thing as everyone else. What we did instead was just was just enough for people to say, “Who are these guys”? That is all we needed. We just wanted them to wake up and take notice that there is a new way to do things in our industry. Sometimes in order to gain visibility  you have to think outside the box. When it comes to planing and executing your marketing campaigns it doesn’t hurt to bend the rules a little bit.

Below is the article that was written on Forbes about how we stretched our thinking and went up against the big guys.

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“Forget Word-Of-Mouth Marketing And Get Your Customers Talking Mouth-To-Mouth”

(Written by John Greathouse) 

The CEO of Expertcity (creator of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting, acquired by Citrix) was born in Germany and grew up in South Africa. Although his English was impeccable, he was occasionally tripped up by colloquialisms. One which he especially struggled with was “word-of-mouth marketing”, which he consistently referred to as “mouth-to-mouth marketing.” We adopted his phrasing and made it our mission to devise creative, mouth-to-mouth marketing initiatives.

Startups must economically counteract the pervasive drone of large incumbents’ messaging. One way to do so is to ensure that when your customers share their experiences with your products and solutions, they do so with the passion and intensity of a soulful kiss. Such mouth-to-mouth communications have sufficient intensity to cut through the confusion of the noisiest markets.

Over the years, I have documented a number of clever mouth-to-mouth stunts, from DoubleClick to TestFlight. These articles have inspired readers to experiment with their own mouth-to-mouth campaigns, including the one described below by Hubba’s Emma Nemtin.

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John,

After stumbling across your article on trade show guerrilla marketing, it inspired me to take a leap. A leap that got me on a flight from Toronto to Dallas to execute a serious 24-hour mission. I now realize why guerrilla marketing is not for the timid. Sometimes it takes a bold move to get noticed.

I work for Hubba, a Toronto startup that has built a sharing platform that takes a unique “big data” approach to data management for brands and retailers. We decided to shake things up and take a risk at the biggest data management summit, attended by multi-billion dollar corporations, including IBM, Oracle, and Informatica. We did not purchase tickets for the event. 

Our goal was to have the conference participants wake up in their suites to a flyer stealthily placed under their doors in the middle of the night. The flyer said “We wanted to be the first to welcome you to Data Management 2004“. At the bottom in small print it said “(if you would like to see your data could be managed in 2013, please visit us at blog.hubba.com/TheNewWay)“. 

This seemed like an easy task to pull off, but when I arrived at the hotel I was in awe. The hotel had over 1,400 rooms and, after chatting with the front desk, I realized that the attendees were scattered all over the hotel. I had no idea how I was going to slip the flyers under the doors of conference attendees. I was beginning to feel that this brilliant idea of ours was going to be next to impossible to pull off.

Regardless, I settled in nicely to my grandiose Texan hotel and woke up at a cool 4:45am to begin my mission. I figured my best bet was just to sporadically place flyers under every 10th door and hope that an attendee would see it. But, when I opened my door I realized that the guerrilla angels were shining down on me.

A conference bag had been hung on my door handle, and every other attendee’s door handle as well. This white swag bag was my beacon of light. It was as if the conference organizers had placed a massive arrow saying, “Hey Emma, place it here.” I now knew exactly where to put the flyers and starting ninja-ing my way down the dark halls, only to be met right off the bat by a hotel manager who greeted me with a weary, “Good Morning Miss.”

My palms were sweating. I jumped down to the next floor where I ran into the same hotel manager (still holding a giant stack of flyers) who looked at me and said, “We just keep running into each other don’t we?” Yes. we sure do. I thought one more encounter and I’m definitely getting reported as the sketchy guest who snuck into the conference to distribute bootleg marketing materials. I booked it down the stairs and ran to another wing of the hotel to complete my mission. 

Next I went into the conference and placed the rest of the flyers in opportune locations around the keynote rooms. I acted calm, as if I belonged there. I poured myself some coffee, and did a lot of pretending to be on the phone, dig through my purse, while silently slipping a few flyers onto any surface I could find that was surrounded by attendees. I even went into the ladies washroom (which happened to be empty, thank goodness) and propped up a flyer on each bathroom stall. Hey, you never know.

Needless to say, the flyers caused quite a stir, as its message was a direct shot at the lack of innovation from the industry’s big vendors. Before lunch, we had received inbound inquiries from analysts, potential partners and prospects. Based on the hits to our website, our competitors took notice too.

We became a big part of the conversation at the conference at the cost of less than a tenth of one single registration ticket. Sometimes you knock on the door and sometimes you kick it down. 

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The efficacy of a guerilla marketing campaign should be measured by the concrete results it generates. Buzz that does not ultimately generate sales is worth little. In Hubba’s case, the company was well rewarded for its boldness.