Segueway to Success

Listen at – “Tipping the Marketing Guerilla

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By: Brent Hamachek and Tom Kuchan

Our “Segueway to Success” show, talking about our blog, airs each Wednesday at 15:00 CST.  Find this week’s show and the archives on our web site:


A number of years ago, we were engaged by a company in the sports nutrition industry to serve as their interim president.  The company had a milk-based, sports energy & recovery protein shake that had been sold into universities for a number of years and they were looking to take the product into various retail and institutional classes of trade.

The company had a small staff and upon arriving we were introduced to the newly hired head of marketing and business development for the company, Phil Joffray.  Phil, around 40 at the time, had an impressive catalog of achievements in the world of brand building having been a key player in the rise to prominence of such brands as Centrum Vitamins, Jose Cuervo tequila and Sam Adams beer.  We felt as though we had just been given the opportunity to go to graduate school in marketing and brand development while being paid to attend.

The company was operating on a shoe string budget and every marketing and business development strategy had to take into account the financial constraints; there were to be no TV ad campaigns.  After six months at the company, we had a board meeting and Phil came in to present where he stood in terms of penetrating the 11 different classes of trade that had been identified.

To start his presentation, Phil put on a pair of loafers, lit a cigar and pulled out a small mirror.  He then started to do a simple dance and blew a puff of smoke into the mirror.  The mimed metaphor was an attention grabber.  He informed the board that what he was about to report, which was extraordinary, had been accomplished with smoke, mirrors and a little soft shoe routine.

Phil’s efforts had placed the company in a position to capture opportunities in virtually every class of trade.  What was even more impressive is that none of those opportunities had been “bought.”  They had been developed through creativity and what is now referred to as guerilla marketing tactics.

One aspect of what had been done involved getting the product placed on grocery store shelves to test its appeal with the public.  Grocery store shelf space is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the entire world of business; it comes at a premium and the better the spot, the higher the premium.  The company got a small, independent Chicago-area grocery chain to let them have shelf space, demo their product in-store, and see if they could prove it would turn.  The experiment went well.

One of the reasons it went well is that the company used local people to visit the health clubs near the stores.  Using the principles so well illustrated by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point” (simply one of the greatest marketing and general insight books ever written), representatives sought out at each health club the members in those clubs considered to be “mavens” (looked to by others as experts regarding health and training supplements) and those considered to be “salespeople” (people who need to persuade everyone to use something they are using if they like it).  Once those people were identified, they were given free samples of the product and information about its nutritional and utility advantages over other products.  Then we waited to see what would happen.

Sales in the stores near those health clubs increased.  The guerilla tactic worked.  The right people in the right environment were influencing the decisions of others and a buzz started.  The increased sales turns at the local store provided valuable evidence to the company that its product really could sell in that class of trade.

In today’s challenging economic climate spending on marketing dollars has become more and more tenuous.  Companies are concerned about budgets and are very uncertain as to how to maximize the bang for their buck.  While every industry is different, one unifying theme and question is “I want to maximize the awareness and exposure of my product or service to the right potential buyers.  How do I do that without spending a fortune?”

Join us on Segueway to Success this coming Wednesday when our guest will be Larry Rosenthal, founder and owner of Unique Carpet, Upholstery & Rug Cleaning.  Larry is a fixture in the North Shore business world of Chicago and has established an amazing brand presence.  He has done so by both spending big ad dollars and now by using the kind of guerilla tactics that can create Gladwell’s Tipping Point.  He will share his experience and ideas that will be valuable to any business person in any industry who wants to think about how to increase market awareness without spending a fortune.


Segueway Solutions –

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Brent E. Hamachek spent the first 15 years of his professional life in banking, working in 6 different sectors including audit, credit and 9 years as a commercial banker.

After commercial banking, Brent formed Segueway Solutions in 2000 in order to assist privately held companies in transition. To date, he has worked in 40 different industries and has served in the capacity of CEO, CFO & EVP Sales for clients. Brent is a sought after consultant, speaker and trainer offering national and foreign expertise to clients.

Tom Kuchan is a proven leader in global business expansion and effectiveness, risk management, finance and operations with experience in both Fortune 50 and entrepreneurial environments. He has a proven record of defining strategic objectives, translating them into operational tasks, and leading their implementation in diverse geographies and cultures across the globe.

Tom has lived overseas for over twenty years, including Switzerland, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, and has worked extensively across Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

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