Success and failure of guerrilla marketing techniques for software companies

Using guerrilla marketing for saas company

When you want to boost your brand awareness and make people talk about your company, you are often advised to "think out of the box". Creative solutions in marketing might indeed get appreciated by your prospects and target audience. However, not all creative ideas are destined for success... (we are talking from our experience here)

Guerrilla marketing is a perfect example of the out of the box thinking and creativity in your marketing efforts. It is quite common for companies to deploy this technique to drive publicity. At weave.ly we got inspired by great examples of guerrilla marketing and decided to do something similar too. Judging by the title of this post, you may have realised - we did't particularly succeed. It’s always better to learn from other people’s mistakes, so we decided to share the lessons we took from our failing with you.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

This kind of marketing basically focuses on getting the audience by surprise. At the same time, one of the features of guerrilla marketing is that it's not aggressive unlike traditional advertising. People don't and shouldn't always notice that they're being marketed. The goal is to make your brand and your idea stuck in people's heads (in a good way of course). And here's the tricky bit - being creative to the extent of leaving positive impression.

Guerrilla Marketing is popular among small companies and start-ups due to its canny nature and low cost. Yet, even large corporations use this approach, including MacDonalds, Pepsi, RedBull, Oreo and many others.

Of course, when running an extraordinary campaign, you also slightly put yourself at risk of failure. For example, there is a high chance that people will receive a wrong message, and it will only harm your brand image.

It's worth using guerrilla marketing, but not with any idea you have just come up with.  No matter how genies you think it might be, make sure to have a well-thought-out plan!

A bit of historical background: the term guerrilla marketing was popularised in 1984 by Jay Conrad Levinson. In reality, this marketing strategy is way older and takes it roots from "guerrilla" warfare. By using smaller number of troops, it was designed to surprise the enemy through short attacks and sabotage to achieve a surprise effect. Here you can find more about the origins of guerrilla marketing.

How We Applied Guerrilla Marketing at weave.ly

Throughout the past year we were focusing on the product itself and all its technical aspects, as well as reaching out to various funds and investors. Hence, at some point we felt that we substantially lacked a touch of marketing in our efforts to establish weave.ly as a brand.

Back in last spring, our marketing strategy comprised of sharing posts on social media from time to time and...that's basically it. Our desire to do something special in terms of marketing coincided with Jesper, our intern, joining the team. Jesper was writing his bachelor thesis on the optimisation of marketing strategies. Being familiar with the founding team he chose weave.ly as a company for his research, and that is how we got our marketing attempts thoroughly analysed later.

Why We Thought Guerrilla Techniques Would Suit weave.ly

So we are a prototyping tool, and our solution can make the lives of many UX design teams much easier. But how do we let them know about our existence and the value we can bring to them? You would probably agree, it's a common problem for start-ups.

Instead of constantly reaching out to prospects with cold calls and emails, we decided to go for something more original. To showcase what difference weave.ly can make, we needed to showcase our value within the day-to-day context of our prospects. And that's where guerrilla marketing stepped in.

Our grand idea was simple: step 1, create a prototype of a prospect’s past project. Step 2, send a link of this prototype to the prospect explaining them how easy it was for us to build this. Step 3, be overwhelmed by positive reactions of prospects loving the extra mile we went and being intrigued by how we built such a complex prototype in such little time.

To put our idea to the test we first had to search our prospects’ portfolios for information (screenshots, cases, designs) on past projects. Afterwards, we re-created that design and built a prototype out of it. Obviously, we looked for designs that were simple enough to prototype in a relatively short time.

Nevertheless, on average we spent 6 hours on building each prototype due to the complexity of several prototypes. More realistically, the majority of prototypes took from 1 to maximum 4 hours. In total, we selected 9 companies and built 9 different prototypes. When we say “we”, we mean Jesper … the joys of being an intern!

Doesn't sound like a too bad idea overall, does it? What could go wrong?

Climax of The Story: Reaction of The Prospects

Good news is that the open rate of the prototype reached 89%, which is a great result. However, the response rate to our cold outreach was a whopping 0%...

Only after the second round of follow-up did we finally receive replies from two prospects. A response from one of them was mitigated. Although we didn't get any sale out of it in the end, the prospect told us that when there is time to look into our solution more closely, and once it is needed, they will get back to us.

Yet, a response from the other company that reacted to the follow-up was not as optimistic (to put it lightly). Our attempt to reproduce the design was perceived rather negatively. The prospect accused us of being unprofessional and "stealing" their design! Of course, this is not at all what we expected to hear but it's the risk you take when deploying a guerrilla marketing campaign.

We’re able to track fine-grained interactions on our prototypes using weave.ly’s built-in analytics. However, that’s a subject on its own. In fact, we wrote an entire article dedicated to this.

Another Guerrilla Marketing Attempt

As mentioned previously, our intern Jesper was the driving force behind our guerrilla marketing experiments. We also worked out two other strategies apart from building prototypes out of existing designs of other companies: one which qualifies as guerrilla marketing and one which adopted a more traditional marketing approach, so we will not go much into detail about this last one.

Our second guerrilla marketing campaign involved a live event and a prototype with a call to action.

We were invited to speak at an event on designing digital solutions for healthcare. We decided to again be more creative than “simply” giving a presentation, and built an AI-powered prototype.

This prototype allowed event attendees to scan food, and an integrated AI algorithm recognised what kind of food that was. After scanning, people had to enter the weight of the food, and our platform took care of automatically calculating calories. Our prototype perfectly suited the theme of the event, showing that weave.ly can build complex prototypes that no one else can do. QR-codes spread around the event location in advance enabled attendees to access the prototype. There was quite a surprise effect in it too, as few people expected that building such a prototype without coding was possible.

Unlike in the first experiment, the audience at the live event appreciated such an extraordinary approach to demonstrate functionality of our product.

Our Takeaways from the Guerrilla Marketing Case

The "prototype + email" experiment that we thought would receive some positive feedback and that we expected to be a worthwhile investment of our time, turned out to not bring us neither profit nor brand awareness. On the contrary, it seemed to damage the credibility of our brand.

Would we conclude that guerrilla marketing is not worth the time and money and no one should ever consider launching such a campaign? - Absolutely not!

When you launch a new marketing campaign there’s always a chance that it doesn’t perform as expected. Careful planning and testing allow you to somewhat mitigate this risk. However, in the case of guerrilla marketing we learned that beyond not performing well, your campaign also risks causingWu damage to your business. In the future, we will definitely use this technique again, as for example our second attempt was a success. Prior to launching a large campaign though, we will first test our idea to prevent unpleasant surprises and unnecessary time loss.