Key Point 6: Grassroots Marketing is Vital – I have been involved in basketball for the last 16 years. I was a college student/athlete, a head coach, assistant athletic director, recruiter for a JUCO, camp coordinator, basketball website developer, point of contact for college coaches seeking players, and finally as an NBA/NCAA blogger. All of these things are basically considered a part of Grassroots basketball. Grassroots is a term that has been around for a very long time. In regard to basketball, it typically refers to a marketing strategy by a shoe company looking to promote their brand by developing relationships with athletes by selling or giving them gear that will create brand awareness.
Grassroots marketing, in this key point, refers to a small company, or a big company, utilizing various tactics that are not considered mainstream or commercial. Grassroots marketing is word of mouth, street teams, handing out business cards in the grocery store, talking with someone about your business at church, at the club, anywhere someone will listen. Grassroots marketing is vital to the new entrepreneur because of this one factor; you will never be able to outspend Nike. I use Nike as a reference because I have a small athletic shoe company. In my business I realize that the brands that have recognition are Nike, Adidas, Reebok, New Balance and Puma. However there are other brands in the running shoe market that you may not have heard of: Newton, Zoot, and Pearl Izumi to name a few. These new brands don’t have as much brand recognition as the aforementioned companies, but they are million dollar companies. My company ARCH is tiny in comparison and because I have chosen to fund with cash instead of pursuing venture capital or loans, I have to grow slowly. This also means that I have a marketing budget of zero.
Grassroots marketing for me involves using a number of aspects that are low cost and in most cases free. Since I operate my own website, I know how to create small amounts of buzz for when I do make my shoes. My technique has been to pay for small marketing campaigns using my Facebook Fan page. This allows me to move outside of my friends list. Why is this important? Often, the people who are your friends on Facebook will not support you. This is a generalization, maybe 10-20% of the people on Facebook who are already your friends will support you, so you have to find more people interested in your market. I use a targeted marketing approach and use keywords that fall in line with running. Facebook marketing is inexpensive and has generated results. I also use e-mail and my websites to promote my own sales. Adbrite is also an option for advertising with small budgets. Twitter creates my complete network for Grassroots marketing. My goal is to generate as much attention through social media as possible since it’s free. This does not always work, but in the end, you can dump as much money as you want into marketing, but if people don’t buy you, you won’t sell anything.