CHICAGO — In 2001, when Boeing was looking to relocate its headquarters from Seattle, Al Lautenslager’s suburban Chicago printing company offered to print free business cards for Boeing’s employees if the aircraft maker would set up shop in the Windy City.
If Boeing chose to move to Chicago, it would need new stationery, brochures, etc., all services for which the huge corporation would presumably turn to a local printer. Lautenslager issued a press release announcing the unorthodox offer.
“We wanted to get Boeing’s attention,” he says. “We wanted to market to Boeing. We wanted to create awareness, we wanted to get our foot in the door, and we wanted to beat our competition.”
A suburban newspaper printed a brief mention, while the Chicago Sun-Times’ much broader yet critical coverage characterized the offer as a bribe.
“I’m going to tell you that any PR is good PR, unless it’s an obituary,” Lautenslager says.
Four months later, Boeing decided to relocate to Chicago. Lautenslager issued a second press release: “Was it the $78 million in state tax incentives or the free business cards that got Boeing to come to Chicago?”
Nine newspapers, two radio stations and one TV station aired stories about it. One newspaper featured it on the front page.
“We generated tens of thousands of dollars of PR, of marketing and awareness, just by using a little bit of time, a little bit of energy, and a whole lot of imagination with that second press release headline.”
Lautenslager is a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach who believes the No. 1 reason that customers leave a business is because the business in question doesn’t pay them enough attention.
Making efforts to reach customers and prospects was at the heart of his message at a Drycleaning & Laundry Institute-sponsored educational session during the last Clean Show.
Everyone a Marketer
So what is guerrilla marketing? Jay Conrad Levinson coined the term in his 1983 book, Guerrilla Marketing, when discussing unconventional marketing methods that rely on effort and imagination rather than spending a large budget. Lautenslager co-wrote Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days with Levinson in the 1980s, and a second edition was published in 2009.
“How do I know they’re proven?” Lautenslager says of the marketing strategy ideas he was about to present. “I proved a lot of them. I was a small-business owner for 15 years. I had to market. I had to create the awareness. I had to get new customers to stay in business.”
Based on Lautenslager’s theory, you’re not just a self-service laundry owner, store manager or store attendant. “You’re all marketers of the business you’re associated with,” he says.
And so it is that he offered a series of suggestions from his book, what he called “a step-by-step blueprint for how to put one foot in front of the other, from a marketing standpoint.”
Monday: The blueprint...